Every single one of us is having to cope with a huge amount of transition and change due to the current pandemic. In normal times, if there is such a thing, we are constantly experiencing a huge range of feelings and emotions which come to the forefront of our mind each day. These emotions change quickly. They can be positive; they can be challenging. Whichever they are, if managed in the correct way, it is possible to stay mentally strong.
We might have to dig a little bit deeper if we feel as though the challenges outweigh the positives but, using techniques which we can all learn, we can improve our mental strength even in testing times.
The 5 tips listed below are a good way to keep ourselves grounded in this time of constant change and are instantly implementable and if you keep them up, you will reap the benefits:
Tip 1: Positives
Every day look for three positives that have happened to one challenge. The mind believes what you tell it so feed it positives. If you are struggling to find positives, they don’t have to be big. One could quite simply be the fact that you have got up in the morning, had a shower, you have made yourself something to eat. If there has been a challenge think about how the situation can be improved.
By learning this technique, we are encouraging our mind, which is a very powerful tool, to allow the positives to come to the fore rather than the challenges. Over time, like a sportsman repeating a specific movement over and over again it then becomes instinctive.
Tip 2: Breathing
When breathing; breath in for the count of three and out for the count of four. Once you have mastered this technique become aware of your rib cage as it rises and falls as you breathe. After that you can think about the smallest of pauses between each breath.
When you breathe deeply it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. Through increasing the exhaling part of the breath, you are slowing down your heart rate which in turn puts you in a more restful state.
Focusing on a part of your body that is used when breathing, in this case the ribs, you are helping yourself to remain focused on the breath which maximises the calming effect.
By adding the minutest of pauses you are allowing yourself the time to appreciate the state of calmness that you have created. If you are able to become aware of this feeling it is then easier to recall it at a later date.
Tip 3: Touch
Find three different things to touch. When you are touching them make sure that you do them one at a time. Take the time to think about the temperature of it, the texture of it, the different shapes and colours that it might have.
Throughout this pandemic we are constantly being told to keep apart from each other. Touch has always been a key factor in calming the body and mind.
When focusing on the different feeling of each item we are enhancing our attentiveness. In doing so we are able to monitor and regulate our thoughts which when worried or anxious can escalate out of control.
Tip 4: Conversation
If you need a pick me up/conversation with a friend decide what it is that you actually need. Is it laughter, encouragement, a listening ear or, perhaps even a kick up the backside! Either choose the friend accordingly or, tell them what you need from them.
We all know how to “listen” to someone when they talk to us but, not everyone is able to “hear” what the other is saying. If you are not being heard our levels of stress increase. Try starting off the conversation by saying what it is you need eg “I need a laugh!” or, “Please just let me moan for a bit!” Straight away you have told the other person what you are looking for so they will know the best way to support you rather than exacerbate the situation you find yourself in.
Tip 5: Control
Be aware of what one can control and what one can’t control. Don’t add to ones’ anxieties and difficulties.
In the midst of anxiety we can easily take onboard unnecessary invading thoughts which can make our mental health spiral.
To reduce the number of concerns that you have make a note of the thoughts that are worrying you. Look at each one individually and put either a cross or a tick next to it. The cross indicates whether or not you are able to change the worrying thought and a tick shows the thoughts that you are able to do something about. In doing this often a number of the invading thoughts can be removed.
To work out which is marked with a cross and which needs to be marked with a tick, think about what is in the here and now rather than what is perhaps in our calendar far ahead. Also, decide whether what concerns us can be solved by ourselves or someone else.
Don’t be a hero and do too much. Letting go is a huge part of reducing anxiety.