Six Psychological Steps to Take in Corona

Source link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/get-out-your-mind/202004/six-psychological-steps-take-in-corona

Simple tools and techniques from Acceptance & Commitment Therapy

stairsThe Corona pandemic is putting us all in front of new challenges. There are economic challenges, because entire businesses can no longer operate, putting millions of people out of work. And there are health challenges – not only due to Corona itself, but because the pandemic strains the resources of our healthcare system, leading to the illness and death of people who otherwise would have received proper treatment.

And as if this wasn’t enough, we also face mental health challenges. Because of Corona, going outside is no longer “just going outside”. Instead, every trip to the supermarket is now a calculated risk, where we try to avoid contact with other people as much as possible. Meanwhile, we also need to make sure we do not accidentally touch our own face. Leaving the house thus means having to be constantly alert.

We not only fear getting infected ourselves, but that our loved ones get infected, and that we end up losing someone close to us. In fact, it is very realistic that we will experience some form of loss due to Corona, and it is important that we prepare ourselves for loss. The constant stress paired with the uncertainty of the future creates a harmful context, where psychological ailments thrive. For this reason, now more than before, we need to be attentive to our mental health. In the following, I’ve compiled six psychological steps you can do to effectively deal with the challenge of Corona. Let’s begin.

Step #1 Connect With Feelings

When we are entangled in difficult emotions like fear, sadness, or even panic, life becomes hard. Every little step becomes a chore, and our entire focus then revolves around stopping “bad” feelings. Meanwhile, we also stop doing things that would actually help us (e.g. like proper eating and exercise), and put our lives on hold.

In the middle of this pandemic, it’s important to not let our emotions run the show. This does not mean pushing bad emotions away – this has never worked well in my experience – but allowing ourselves to feel emotions, without having to act on them. Do not attempt to force “good” feelings, but try staying with your emotions in an open and compassionate manner. Hold them, like you would hold a small, anxious child. Be kind. Listen to your body. Then see if they actually contain information you can use in the next steps. For example, fear or sadness might be a good way to support connecting with others or taking steps to protect their safety.

#2 Connect With Focus

When the future is uncertain (as it is right now – more than before), our minds like to run wild. We imagine the wildest scenarios of what will happen, and how the pandemic is going to affect us. For instance, many people worry about supermarkets closing, and thus resorted to panic-buying products in bulk, like toilet paper, wine, and even condoms (yes, really). Incidentally, many of those same people are now realizing that this didn’t happen and some are even trying to get their purchases refunded (condoms, anyone?).

When your mind runs wild about all the ways of how things can go wrong, slow down and plant your feet in the now. Literally! Stand up, take a breath, and then notice your feet and how they hold you. Now that you are “grounded,” focus your attention here it matters. This is not about pushing unhelpful thoughts away. The thoughts are here, and that is alright. But instead of letting them take over, let unhelpful mental chatter pass, and focus on what is there to be done, here and now. There are many additional techniques for this, and they are worth checking out.

#3 Connect With Others

Social distancing is no fun. Due to Corona, we can no longer see our friends and families in the same way that we used to, which creates a big challenge. We are social animals after all, and the importance of physical touch for our well-being has been well documented. For the time being, we need to give up (or at least limit) touching others.

However, just because we limit contact, does not mean we need to give up connection. The New Zealand Minister of Health, Dr. David Clark, made an important distinction in a public address, where he emphasized the need for physical distancing, not social distancing. We need to maintain physical distance, while staying connected socially. Through the internet and telephones, we can do this more easily than ever before. Call your loved ones, make time to attend to them, while maintaining six feet of distance.

#4 Connect With Presence

It is astounding how much the world has changed over the past weeks and months. Just two months ago, everything still seemed like it has always been. And you might even find yourself longing for the days when you could mindlessly scratch your nose, and carelessly shake hands. Naturally this is no longer possible. And it is unclear how long this last, and how much longer we will need to continue to adapt to Corona.

Right now it’s easy to wander off with your mind – to romanticize the past, or to paint grim pictures of the future. And when you caught yourself wandering like this, make sure to gently guide yourself back. You are needed right here and right now. Life is happening right in front of you, and the better you can attend to your life right now, the better off you – and everyone you come in contact with – will be. Ground yourself in the presence, and gently guide yourself back whenever your mind has wandered off.

#5 Connect With Values

The Corona situation has forced us all to restructure our days. The morning coffee at McDonalds? No longer possible. The daily commute to work? Not a good idea with public transportation. In short, a big chunk of our lives is out of order, and many of our habits that once filled us with pleasure and meaning are suddenly no longer an option.

This creates a problem. Many people can no longer do what is truly important to them, and for some, it is like taking their purpose, their lifeblood. In this stressful time, it is crucial that we reconnect with our goals and values, and with whatever lies closest to our hearts. Again, there are many techniques to do this, my favorite you can find here.

#6 Connect With Action

Many people have now more free time than ever before, because they are working less, and spend less time visiting their friends and family. Naturally, this opens a big window to finally do the things we always wanted to do, but never quite found the time for. And yet, most people do not tackle their goals.

Instead, they resort to just functioning, going through the motions, and continue putting things off. There is no strict schedule that they would need to stick to, and no colleague or friend to hold them accountable. And so a day in pyjamas on the couch it is.

I get it. It’s hard. And this is exactly why we need to create accountability by choice and start taking action. Move towards your goals in tiny, small steps – bit by bit. This is not just about achieving a specific outcome, but merely taking steps with purpose can do wonders for our sense of competence and self-efficacy. Corona is posing a challenge to us all, and we can come out stronger than ever if we are willing to show up as whole human beings, connected to our feelings and to others, focused on the now and the possibilities it contains for values-based action, and then moving forward in a way that reflects who and how we want to be.

 

The Invisibility Of Depression — DSM (Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

 

Sadness In The Shadows

Depression is like an invisible dark cloud that hovers in the stratosphere, looming all around us and ready to attack when in our weakest states of mind. The invisibility of depression can be observed through the actions of those affected: avolition, abulia, apathy, anhedonia and more. Sadness in the shadows is much more common than you would think.

via The Invisibility Of Depression — DSM (Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

sad man

8 Ways to Overcome Sadness

We all experience sadness at some point or other in our lives. Pondering on the sad thoughts and feelings again and again, can keep people from overcoming sadness. For those who are suffering from depression or are going through an emotionally tough phase, it becomes all the more difficult to stop feeling the way they are. Sometimes, such individuals feel frustrated at why they can’t just stop feeling sad or why can’t they just snap out of their sadness. Another difficulty they face is that other people around them believe the former have control over such emotions, not realizing that a depressed or sad person doesn’t enjoy being sad or unhappy and that he himself too wants to feel good but is somehow unable to do so. It is, therefore, important for all of us to understand that emotions don’t work as simply as we expect them to; and so, you can’t just put a stop to the emotion of sadness altogether. However, what you can surely do is to pause the feelings of sadness, anxiety, guilt, anger, or feelings of being worthless for some time. Here are a few ways that can help you overcome sadness and make you feel better; these may be considered components of your first-aid kit:

1. Distract: A significant characteristic of depression is rumination. A person who is feeling sad or depressed often ruminates on negative thoughts which, in turn, increases the feelings of sadness. To get rid of the habit of ruminating, you should try to distract yourself by watching TV, reading, listening to music or anything that you find enjoyable. The idea is to keep your mind occupied.

2. Use mantra: You can design your mantra which you can recite whenever negative thoughts come to your mind. This can be a serenity prayer, an inspiring quote, or you can just simply repeat saying OM or one.

3. Physical exercise: There is ample research to prove that exercising helps uplift mood. Exercise makes your body release feel-good hormones called endorphins which help lower feelings of sadness and depression. So when you feel sad or down, go out for a walk or hit the gym.

4. Practice gratitude: Research has shown that being grateful helps increase happiness. So whenever you encounter negative thoughts, focus on the things you are grateful for. Concentrate on what you have rather than what you don’t.

5. Write down your feelings: You can make a pact with yourself that every time a negative thought comes to your mind, instead of ruminating over it you will write them down in a journal and close the book. Give outlet to your feelings without overthinking.

6. Let things take their own course: Sometimes, when you try to control things, they take control over you. So rather than trying to control each and everything, free yourself and let things take their own course. Take things as they come and as they are.

7. Read biographies: Reading biographies of inspiring people will help you learn better coping skills and will help you realize that hardships and difficulties are part of life. What matters is how you perceive and approach them. Taking hardships and difficulties as challenges will definitely change your outlook towards them and will help you deal with your situation properly.

8. Challenge your thoughts: Whenever negative thoughts creep in to your mind, challenge them. Don’t surrender to negative feelings; confront such feelings instead. You will find that most of your thoughts don’t even have any base and are just creation of your mind and imagination.

Depend On Yourself — Psychology of Mindfulness

We should try to learn to depend on ourselves. Try not to look to others, or external things to bring us happiness or fulfillment. Being independent can be a tough battle. What many don’t understand is that being dependent on others can lead to misery, sadness, loneliness, and disappointment. Others aren’t always going to be […]

via Depend On Yourself — Psychology of Mindfulness

Good vibes only

The Tyranny of the Positive Attitude

Source link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/eating-mindfully/201911/the-tyranny-the-positive-attitude

It’s hard to scroll through your social media feeds without being bombarded with motivational quotes. Bonus points if they are spelled out on a letter board.

Good vibes only. Choose happiness. Find the rainbow in the rain.

As a psychologist (and as a human), these quotes kind of irk me. They make us think that life should be all roses and rainbows; we just need to choose the right state of mind. And, by extension, if you are struggling, you aren’t trying hard enough. You just need to change your mindset.

The problem is, life isn’t all roses and rainbows. We don’t get to experience the good without the bad. As mindfulness instructor Jon Kabat Zinn says, life is about “full catastrophe living.” We must embrace what life brings us and learn how to experience the full range of human emotions, even when it’s not so pretty.

A 2016 study found that expressing negative emotions is adaptive and is associated with improved psychological health and adjustment. Conversely, avoiding negative feelings can make you feel even worse. Barbara Held, a psychology professor at Bowdoin College, calls this “the tyranny of the positive attitude.” In a 2016 Newsweek article, she explains that our culture has little tolerance for those who aren’t all smiles and sunshine all the time.

There is an expectation that people should always look on the bright side of adversity and be grateful for the positives in a difficult situation. This attitude is a double hitter for people going through a difficulty; first, you feel bad about whatever the thing is that is making you feel bad, and then you feel guilty or defective for not focusing on the positives and keeping an upbeat attitude. In other words, we feel bad for feeling bad.

As a therapist and an eating disorder specialist, I spend a lot of time helping clients identify and welcome in the full range of emotional experiences. In this “good vibes only” culture, so many of us have become disconnected from our emotions. We try to keep away feelings of anger, sadness, fear, jealousy, and disappointment. Rather than feeling happy all the time, this leaves us feeling numb. We live our lives in fast-forward, keeping ourselves busy every waking moment, so we never have to actually be with our thoughts or feel our feelings.

What would it be like to feel your feelings? To be OK not being OK? To experience discomfort and trust that you have the resilience to withstand it and come through the other side. This way of approaching life may not have the same letterboard appeal as “good vibes only,” but I think there is real power to bringing authenticity into our heavily filtered lives.

References

Coifman, K.G., Flynn, J.J. & Pinto, L.A. Motiv Emot (2016) 40: 602. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-016-9553-y