If there is one thing that this pandemic world has taught us, it is the value of our mental health. For many of us it is the first time that we are experiencing a sense of uncertainty, disruption and confusion on such a large scale and across multiple facets of our lives. With such disruption we are all more vulnerable to experiencing stress and mental health challenges. Today I’d like to share with you the 3 things that are influencing your thinking right now.
The act of creating awareness of what is influencing your thoughts right now is so important. The thoughts we keep thinking are creating our emotions and our experience of the current circumstances.
This is not about thinking positive thoughts and ignoring the bad things happening.
This is about creating awareness that in turn creates space for choice.
You can choose what you feed your mind and what you focus on. You can make changes when you’re aware of what isn’t helping you.
Let’s get started!
Likely the biggest influence on your thinking at the moment is the media. News about the pandemic, social media and all those statistical updates are beating down the door all day long. We are particularly vulnerable at the moment because we are hoping for a breakthrough and also fearing the worst. This means we check the news more often because we hope to hear good news and we hope we don’t hear worse news. We’re in flight or flight mode and our survival instincts are kicking in.
The impact: Media exacerbates fear and uncertainty. If we are hoping for a positive change, we feel the disappointment each time the news does not deliver it. You can also feel overwhelmed with the scale of influence of this pandemic in conjunction with other world events.
What to do: Limit your intake of news from all sources (including social media) to a set time each day. Perhaps 10 minutes in the morning and night. The key here is to create boundaries. It’s easy to keep checking all day for updates but doing that is incredibly unhelpful and often damaging to our mental health.
The next big influence on your thinking right now is physical detachment. Many of us are working from home or are in different work circumstances. Our normal hobbies may be interrupted and certainly travel has been restricted. The number of people you see and interact with in-person on a daily basis is significantly reduced. The networks we all felt a part of at work and in our after work activities have dissolved or are disrupted.
The impact: Many of us are feeling isolated and some of us are experiencing loneliness. Our support networks are disrupted which increases these feelings of isolation. If you live with your partner/family, they have assumed the role of friend, colleague, partner, confidant. If you live alone you may feel increased feelings of isolation and a sense of having to face it all on your own.
What to do: As many of our interactions have fallen away due to isolation, you need to have a plan to create interactions. It doesn’t have to be complex at all. Set yourself a minimum social contact goal to chat to at least 2 friends or family members each week. Make one of those interactions via video or phone as this will generate more feelings of connection. Who can you safely meet in person? Schedule a walk/ coffee chat/ brunch with a friend while being mindful of social distancing.
The third influence on your thinking right now is what I like to call change fallout. Change – even small change- has a big impact on us as human beings. Therefore large scale change has a huge impact. Even if you’re not feeling it on the surface and you are able to generally manage your days, you are still being affected (so be mindful).
The impact: Change is tiring, perhaps exhausting at times. You can feel emotions ranging from a little nervousness and anxiety through to feeling completely lost. You may not feel like yourself. You might feel like something is wrong. And because of this your thinking can spiral into some negative self talk such as “I should be managing it better” or “what’s wrong with me?”
What to do: When your physical and/or mental energy is reduced, do less. Simplify, simplify, simplify. When you have energy then you can resume your to-do list. This may fluctuate as the weeks roll on and that’s okay. Have a self-care plan. You must be doing at least 2-3 activities each week that will bring you rest, calm/peace of mind. This is different for everyone but some examples include: exercise, relaxing with a book/Netflix, creating special rituals that help you stay grounded, meditation, time with nature/pets. Implement self care practices for the long term, not just for the times when you feel that you need it.
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