The coronavirus pandemic has created great panic throughout the world over the past weeks, due to the sudden negative changes, worries and uncertainties that came with it. There is no doubts that it had affected a large majority of us on a great scale. The constant news related to the pandemic has been excessive and unfortunately it may lead to a strong impact in our mental health and even stronger for the ones who already have the tendencies to experience anxiety and OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder).
Now let’s take a look at the Mental Health aspect of things.
Among many different conditions that I have been working with over the years, Anxiety is to a great extent the most experienced condition by a large majority of people. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has been perceived as the 'Golden therapy' as it is the most effective and widely-used treatment approach for anxiety related disorders.
What is anxiety in a nutshell? Anxiety is an emotion that we tend to experience when our minds or bodies perceive a threat or danger. It is mainly connected to our belief system, unhealthy thoughts that create unhealthy emotions and therefore it directly reflects in our behaviour. It is very important to understand that – because our mind/body perceives it as a threat by no means it means that it is accurate.
Rule number 1: Do not blindly believe in everything that you think nor feel. We are not our thoughts. Thoughts are random, thoughts can be helpful, rational, irrational, unhelpful, non-sense, and our mind loves to play with thoughts. Our duty is to be fully aware of those thoughts and before believing them and responding to them – test them.
This is what I call: Being the Master of your own mind. Not a slave. Understanding and Training our minds is one of the most important tasks we shall invest time and effort into. Our Minds have the power of being our best-friend and equal power to be our worst enemy. The choice is ours.
Some of the characteristics of Anxiety are:
(1) To overestimate negative features
(2) Underestimates someone’s ability to cope with the threat
(3) Creates an even more negative threat in one’s mind
(4) Has more task irrelevant thoughts and therefore behaviours
(5) Constantly seeking reassurance.
As a Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapist (REBT), my aim is usually to move you from anxiety to concern.
Some of the characteristics of concern are:
(1) To view the threat realistically
(2) Realistic appraisal of our ability to cope with the threat
(3) Does not create an even more negative threat in one’s mind
(4) Has more task relevant thoughts than anxiety
(5) To face up to the threat as well as deal with it constructively.
If you observe the differences between Anxiety and Concern you may conclude that experiencing concern is also a negative emotion but it is a healthy negative emotion that is more rational, helpful, logical and beneficial as opposed to anxiety.
Taking into account the very difficult times that we are currently facing as well as our loved ones it is natural that we experience negative emotions - afterall we are humans. My aim is to simply point out that we can experience it in a healthier manner that shall not lead to emotional disturbance such as panics, anxieties nor behaviours such as buying the entire store.
So what measures can we take that shall be more beneficial for our Mental Health?
- Be mindful about what you read and try to limit the news; so you can allow yourself to focus on other areas too. We do have other areas of our lives that we value too and we shall work towards finding balance in our minds;
- Be aware of your thoughts and if there are any recurrent thoughts that may be contributing to the negative emotions you shall be experiencing – explore it. You may set a specific time to dedicate to the news and be aware that there is a lot of misinformation too and therefore please place your focus on the trusted sources;
- Try to have a break from social media too as it can easily work as trigger too;
- Wash your hands, in a mindful manner but not excessively. Try to be aware with regards to what drives you to wash your hands. Is it for health safety precautions or is it becoming compulsive instead? Try to be mindful and not exaggerate as remember that our brain’s seems to have a PHD on clinging into habits as long as you repeat it enough, somehow it becomes automatic without us realizing it and we shall unnecessarily develop OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder) tendencies.
- Stay Connected with people, if you are going through the isolation process on your own – try to take some time to stay connected with your loved ones and check on each other.
- Take this time as an opportunity, to spend quality time with yourself and possibly some good rest. Remember all those times that you were not able to fully focus on your goals, take time for yourself, and focus on your journey because you were too busy with life? If you do suddenly have the time now, try to focus on the here and now - where you are at the moment and where you are aiming to go?
- Avoid burnout, the length and developments of the epidemic highly increases the probability of feeling low at times. Please ensure to access nature, try to get some sunlight whenever it is possible. Try to exercise, eat well and stay hydrated.
Practice the "Apple" technique to deal with anxiety and worries.
Acknowledge: Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.
Pause: Don't react as you normally do. Don't react at all. Pause and breathe.
Pull back: Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling. Don't believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts.
Let go: Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don't have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.
Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else - on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else - mindfully with your full attention.
I wish you strength, hope, focus, humbleness, good health to you and your family and a sense of unity. I shall highlight that we shall only be able to conquer this virus if we work collectively and each of us takes the necessary steps to protect each other.
If you find yourself with low mood, anxiety, stress, depressed, among other feelings and would like to learn more about the main approaches that I use namely, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy & Hypnotherapy, Eastern Philosophy, Logotherapy, NLP and Life Coaching and would like to find out how it can benefit you, I do encourage you to reach out to me.
Be aware that I equally provide skype/online sessions. Many studies, including the 2014 study published in Behavioural Research and Therapy found that online CBT is effective in treating anxiety disorders.
Love & Light,