Today the Spanish government has issued a list of new helplines for the mental health crisis which is ensuing during Lock Down, many are struggling which is effecting those they live with too. I have written a few blogs on Depression, Anxiety, Mental Health and Burn out in the past, but as each individual is different in their approach to balancing emotions, and with many sharing experiences at this time in the hope of helping others cope, I thought it time to share some of my own coping mechanisms, so here goes…..
My emotions and thoughts have been on a roller coaster ride these last 18 days starting with, lets make the best of this, to wow this is serious, we are all going to get ill, I am vulnerable and maybe die, frustration, anger, flying the nest syndrome, impatience, loneliness, deep assessment of my life so far and life sucks or why bother etc. On the other side I have felt so much love for people, felt loved, felt peace, acceptance, felt safe, felt happiness, have been patient, philosophical, rational, singing a lot more and truly grateful and thankful. Each day as feelings, thoughts and emotions pop up I have got on with whatever I am doing but noted them, when finished I lay for a while and assess what is going on, asking myself why I am feeling this way and work my way through whatever is there. Sometimes I come out feeling better for this other times I still feel on edge and have to accept that is how I am feeling. At this point I tell my self its OK to feel this, I am human and as such we are capable of experiencing the whole spectrum of emotions from best to worst, these come and go, swap one for another and often pass.
Lets go down the rabbit hole and I will let you inside my head with an example…. Sometimes its peoples stupidity that lingers the longest, more so when I know the people. I have to accept that this stupidity though, comes from my own perceptions. People bypassing the rules of isolation to go out everyday the underlying issue behind their stupidity in my own rationale, is firstly that I worry they will get sick, worry they will carry it to others that I know who are vulnerable who may get sick. The next stage is that I start to see them as selfish, causing this crisis to last longer than it should, with most people adhering to these rules desperate to get back to work to feed their families, pay rent etc. the ones I see pushing the boundaries don’t have any of these worries. I feel frustration which leads to anger, at this point my thoughts can go darker, I hope they get fined to hurt their pockets too (these fines are a minimum of 600€), I will enjoy watching them angry and complaining, they deserve it, I’m so annoyed that they are getting away with it whilst many others are caught for much less, why is it that some go through life without making any sacrifices at the expense of those that do etc. etc. When I find myself down these thought patterns on whatever the subject, after a minute or sometimes hours before I realise, I have to stop myself and acknowledge it. Sit with it and assess where it is coming from, is it worth the peace it is taking away from myself and upset it is causing me? I have a choice at this point, I can be in control. In the example above I could try to discuss the subject honestly with the person if I know them, even knowing their aggressive defensive response in advance could lead to conflict and loss of future contact. I could report them (which many are doing at the moment), I could try to understand why they are behaving this way and if any fears are behind their actions of selfishness, I can choose to let them go from my life for my own peace or keep them in my circle. Whatever I choose I have to do it from a conscious based place, not from subconscious or habitual emotions running wild, I remind myself that all actions have a reaction or consequence and I need to be at peace with that. Of course I may have that dreaded conversation and it may turn out well, maybe they weren’t being selfish just unaware of the impact their actions could have, or genuinely had a reason to be doing what they were doing I may not have known the whole story.
The point being is that whatever gets under your skin or whatever emotions are consuming you, for whatever reason, they cant be ignored and allowed to grow stronger, fester and take over to the point that we suffer e.g. anger is a poison that we alone consume not the perpetrator. Nobody is escaping self reassessment and facing their own demons during this global Isolation (even those outside when they shouldn’t be), we can run from or hide from these feelings, ignore them, or accept them for what they are, a part of every living soul. We can face them, work through them, peel back the layers to what hides below the surface, but most importantly we can choose to be aware of them and our reactions. As all actions have a consequence it’s healthier to live from a place of awareness rather than blind emotion, the phrase “live in the moment” is so true regarding our thoughts and emotions, being aware of each process can save ourselves from many future regrets over outbursts etc. we often see things as exaggerated when in a stressed state or irrational.
I class myself as so lucky and blessed I am able to have this time for self assessing, but also set limits each day not to be consumed by this. After working through emotions I may be feeling around any situation I then find space to be thankful for the experience. At the moment it’s everyday and I get a little weary from it, there is no hiding or running away during these times. I find ways to bring myself back into balance by meditation, listening to uplifting music, singing, chanting, letting myself feel the love inside I have for others, for myself working through this and coping, I try to feel compassion for those struggling, search for inspiring stories etc. In overwhelm this is impossible for most people which is why limits must be set on deeper thoughts and balanced out by more positive actions, thoughts, creativity or inspiration. Self awareness goes on all day though, I often laugh at myself gently asking where did that thought come from, is it necessary or helpful, does it make me happy, is it useful in the context of the task I am doing or is it an avoidance or distraction? This awareness will see thoughts leave or change and I can concentrate on what I was doing, many are unnecessary and just invade my space and peace. This process is basically the same as “Mindfulness” which has roots in many meditative practices and been around for thousands of years, in can be seen incorporated and taught in many mental heath programmes such as Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Another thing that I do daily for as long as i can remember is daydream what I want to see in the world and for myself, I pretend that its happened and see all the beautiful things I want to see, this doesn’t consist of things like new car etc. but of feelings and happiness. If hungry children are in my thoughts I daydream them eating, happy, healthy and living with no worries, I dream of sick people healthy and smiling and if I read depressing news I dream the opposite e.g. an oil leak in the rivers, I dream of beautiful clear water sparkling as it flows with an abundance of wildlife. Somehow it seems like a natural response to me, not hiding from the truth but as I feel so helpless and out of control in such matters I make the choice of what I would like to see, and day dream it. I know this doesn’t help any situation but it helps quell any anger or frustrations I feel and I am making a choice, stating who I am and where I stand on the scales of humanity.
Well today I have revealed rather a lot of my inner self, this is very rare but it is my own coping mechanism, there are so few that I have shared my own truth with, as working as a therapist I had many of others experiences to share, they were all individual and different, we all cope in our own ways. During this isolation period some are out volunteering, some are still functioning as essential workers but the majority are sat at home facing themselves and feeling helpless. Many coping with stress were just about functioning before this and may now be falling, if you or anyone you are living with is struggling then please seek help.
A list of suicide crisis numbers for all countries can be found here or search online for your own local mental health help line. We all talk of getting back to normal as quickly as possible but that may never happen, through these times we will all be changed in one way or another, for my part I hope its for the better. Please stay safe and take precautions to protect yourself and loved ones including taking care of your mental health💜