Experts’ tips on coping with lockdown stress

Experts’ tips on coping with lockdown stress

This COVID 19 epidemic causing lockdown after lockdown, has been hard to deal with for some. Psychologists have reported a rise in people experiencing depression, isolation, lack of concentration and symptoms related normally associated with sustained stress at work.  The most common problem though is disturbed and altered sleep patterns. 

Help is here, There are ways to help deal with current uncertainties brought about by this epidemic.  Below are a  selection of expert tips from psychologists and those with experience of extreme isolation.

Give yourself small goals

We are in an uncontrollable environment and we need some sense of  control to feel healthy, so give yourself small achievable goals to  regain a sense of control. If I am working I am dressed because it gives  me a sense of control and a sense that I have gone to work and it also  gives me that sense of identity. 

The other thing that really came out from my research as one of the  most powerful coping mechanisms is looking for the good in the  environment. 

If we train brains to focus on a positive it changes how we interact  with the world cognitively. Encouraging ourselves to go out into the  word encourages the prefrontal cortex to work more effectively, which is  good for creativity and attention encourages better function. Emma Kavanagh, a psychologist and author of the Devil You Know

  • Emma Kavanagh, a psychologist and author of the Devil You Know

Be kind to yourself

What we are going through now is part of our human experience and we  only have the capacity to experience joy because we experience pain.  This is the shadow side of so many gorgeous things and anyone who has  gone through grief or sexual trauma or health problems will know that  sometimes what you are going through is hard and can be long. There is  something about being as kind to ourselves as possible and not looking  for the quick fix and easy solution, looking for hope – where it is  there – and contact. Yes, at the moment it feels unstable and at those  moments, some people will adopt conspiracy theories and so forth, but  lots of others will be asking big questions about how to live life and  what is important. That is such a gift and answers to those questions  will serve you well in the future – 2020 promised us clearer vision but  never told us we would like what we see.

  • Nina Burrowes, psychologist and founder of the Consent Collective

Deploy known stress management techniques

People should be on the lookout for red flags or warning signs that  they’re excessively stressed out. These include sleeping difficulties,  increases in irritability or moodiness, and overeating or abusing drugs  or alcohol. If you notice these warning signs then it’s important to try  various forms of stress management. These include reaching out to  friends and family and developing a healthy lifestyle – for example,  regular sleep, healthy diet and physical exercise. You can also deploy  various forms of relaxation exercises such as meditation and yoga. If  the forms of self-help aren’t sufficient, then you should consult your family doctor. There are also some very good internet self-help programmes and phone apps available, which can be useful. 

  • Steven Taylor, professor and clinical psychologist at the University of British Columbia

Think about what you can do rather than what you cannot

At the age of 30, I moved to a remote cottage with no services in  the hills of mid-Wales and lived there alone with no vehicle and no  phone … I began to find this life suited me and I remained there for  five years.

You might say that I was uniquely suited for the unexpected arrival  of lockdown, even though I am a single parent living in a council flat  in town, and unable to head out to the wilder parts of the country as I  am used to.

I have, however, made a point of going out walking every day, and  resetting my expectations of what I am likely to experience. I have  refocused my attention on to the smaller things – wildflowers and  butterflies and fungi, learning as I go. I think that a lot of people  have found that a locked-down life has given them a much greater  appreciation of the natural world, and I hope that many people will find  that this new interest endures. I find myself, and trying to find the  positives in any given situation, concentrating less on what I have lost  than on what still remains to me and thinking about what I can do today  rather than what I can’t.

  • Neil Ansell, author of My Life as a Hermit and The Circling Sky

Use this time to explore your creativity and live in the moment

What you have to do in lockdown is to keep mentally alive. In my own  situation [when I was taken hostage] years ago I was kept in very  strict solitary confinement with no books, papers or natural light and  that lasted for five years. It was a long experience without  companionship.

I wrote my first book in my head. I used my imagination to write  stories and kept my mind going. The other thing to do is to learn to  live for the moment – you cannot think too far ahead. 

It is easy to become depressed and when you are isolated and faced  with yourself there is a tendency to become very introspective – and  anyone who is introspective will find they look inside with two sides of  their personality, the light and dark. If you dwell too much on the  negative side you can fall into a deep depression. The answer to that is  to recognize we are all the same, we all have two sides of our  character and work for a degree of inner harmony.

My life changed greatly after I came out of captivity and I thought  time in captivity was a waste of time, but it was not. I was discovering  creative abilities I had that I did not know I had. This current  situation may seem a waste of time but is not if you can draw on it at a  later stage.

  • Terry Waite, author and humanitarian who was kept hostage in solitary confinement

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