While we are all adjusting to our new situations many of us will be making a determined effort to stay positive, despite the many and various challenges we might be facing. I’m a great fan of positivity, focusing on things we can be grateful can help maintain our mental health, something that has been highlighted by the NHS via every mind matters and Prince William and Kate have stressed the need for self-care amid this crisis launching a £5 million scheme to support mental health.
However, while there is a ‘pause’ across the globe with amenities closed, passenger planes grounded, all but essential workers working from home and everybody practising ‘distancing’, let us not lose the chance for a personal pause as well. This could be as vital for our mental health as our daily walks and efforts to stay connected to family and friends in alternative ways.
There is a lot at the moment to be anxious about, for many of us our whole world has changed in a few weeks. These changes, need a period of adjustment – a transition, the unusual thing is we are all experiencing it at the same time, albeit in different ways.
Our losses are individual but most people could identify with losing something – work, contact with certain friends, being able to socialise, attend interest groups, children have lost school, exams and the sense of achievement they bring for teenagers and others. Numerous celebrations have been lost, birthdays, proms, parties, weddings, and holidays. At a time when lots of people are experiencing a loss of some kind, they are also without many of their usual support networks. And for a growing number there is also bereavement.
The tendency when faced with a lot of uncomfortable emotions is often to distract ourselves with tasks and activity, which can be very helpful but if we embark on a path of ever-increasing busyness, we can miss the opportunity to process emotions in a healthy way.
I remember after losing close relatives there was a time of intense activity, arranging funerals, liaising with other family members and friends, dealing with possessions or property which were all essential and felt ‘helpful’ but it wasn’t until after this that much of the process of grieving could really begin.
Loss is personal and individual; and loss and grief can often reignite other losses. I have spoken to friends and colleagues who have admitted they have found themselves becoming emotional about previous loss or trauma. In terms of processing emotions, it is important not to bottle them up, but to try and express them in appropriate and healthy ways. The following steps may help with that processing.
Slow down and feel
Routines are important but don’t create routines that are so packed you don’t have time to pause and be present. Allow time to relax, be still, and feel. Taking time to be creative might help, or walking, meditating or anything else that helps you be ‘present’ will probably be beneficial.
Acknowledge what you are feeling
We rarely experience one emotion or feeling at a time and at the moment many people will feel, sad, worried, afraid, irritable, angry and a whole host of other emotions, not all negative. Many people may feel happy that they are able to spend more time at home but others will find it a real strain, some people may be glad that they are still going to work others may feel resentful. What you feel is important, the feelings might not be comfortable but they are yours and they are valid.
Take a moment to check in with yourself each day in terms of what you are feeling. Remembering that any, and every feeling is OK – It’s what you do with it, how you act that can cause further problems or help you process and express the emotion.
Express emotions in a healthy way
As long as what you do doesn’t hurt others or cause harm to you then there are no rights and wrongs. Many of us have multiple responsibilities, caring for children, working in essential roles, supporting others by shopping for them and we need to carry on doing those things, but also, if we need it, allow ourselves time to grieve.
It is acceptable to cry, feel down, feel afraid or anxious, want to be alone sometimes, or not. Talking to someone about how you feel can be helpful or even writing down what you feel. How you express emotions is up to you but letting out the emotions is a key part of the healing process.
So, let’s enjoy the box sets, the connections with others, the new found hobbies, the creation of new routines, the de-cluttering or gardening but let’s also enjoy the occasional pause, and allow ourselves time to feel and process our emotions.
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