We have all experienced moments of stress in our lives. They could be driven by project deadlines, looming exams or even happy moments, like a wedding or the birth of a child. In these cases, we often resort to “self-care activities” to help us manage through.
Crises such as the current coronavirus pandemic are a different beast. When facing a crisis, it is normal to feel anxiety, stress, confusion, anger and even fear. When the days stretch into weeks and months, these emotions and pressures can take a severe toll on our mental health and overall stability.
For example, a new study out of Maynooth University has found that mental health problems increased by 13.5% in UK adults during the lockdown earlier this year. This increase was seen across every sociodemographic they studied (interviewing over 14,000 people), providing strong evidence that the coronavirus pandemic is having a pronounced and prolonged impact on our mental health.
For those of us working in the mental health field, these results are no surprise. We are living in an extraordinary time, with little opportunity to take a break from the constant pressure and stress. Worse yet, many of our self-care options have been taken away, such as seeing family and friends, having alone time or traveling. As we stare down the prospect of further lockdowns and cancelled holidays, we are encouraging everyone to take stock of their mental health.
How do you know when is the right time to reach out for help?
If you are suffering from extreme emotional responses, such as uncontrollable anger, crying, staying in the bed, insomnia or self-harm, you should get in contact with a counsellor or therapist as soon as possible. These symptoms could have a severe impact on your daily life and relationships with friends and family, or even spread over into your workplace. Therapists can advise on coping mechanisms and possibly medication which could help you get back on your feet.
For everyone else, given the long-term and uncertain nature of the coronavirus crisis, we would encourage a proactive approach to maintaining good mental health. Counsellors can offer new self-care tools and outlets for release of the everyday pressures associated with living through a global crisis.
What types of mental health support are available?
The good news for those seeking help is that mental health support is far from one size fits all.
Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a way of paying attention: focussed, with purpose, staying in the present moment and withholding all judgment. It can help you gain clarity on what is happening around you, what you can control and what you cannot. Mindfulness is an excellent skill to learn, for everything ranging from managing daily stress to coping with serious problems.
Individual and Group counselling: Counselling provides a safe space for people to talk about their problems, either in an individual session or as part of a group. Counsellors are not there to judge you, but instead to listen and to guide you as you examine the issues which are impacting your life. During a crisis, counselling can be particularly useful in helping you identify which elements you can control and change, and learn how to cope with what you cannot.
Family therapy: Even the strongest family relationships can suffer when put under the pressure of a crisis. Family therapy sessions provide the opportunity for open dialogue, where family members rebuild communication lines. Participants learn how to listen without judgement, gaining a deeper understanding of one another and empathy. Family therapy and relationship counselling can include both individual and group sessions, depending on the circumstances and needs.
Where can you go for help?
Our team of trained counsellors are a phone call or email away. If you have a question or a concern, or simply would like information on what support is available, please get in touch. We are offering sessions via Zoom, Skype and phone, as well as self-led online courses.
Other online resources:
Rethink Mental Illness: https://www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/covid-19-support/
Owner and lead counsellor of Hope Therapy and draws upon various approaches including CBT and Mindfulness.