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Covid-19 – Finding the light at the end of the tunnel

By Angela Stanton – January 2021

angelastantoncounselling.com

‘Good riddance to 2020!’ Many of us have used this slogan recently as we look for better things to come in 2021. The government has made it clear that we have a few hurdles to get over first but how do we keep upbeat and look after our own wellbeing during this, what seems like, a never ending challenge?

The challenge may seem insurmountable, as we juggle caring for loved ones, the thought or reality of homeschooling our children, extra pressures of work or furlough. We are anxious about the risk of becoming ill or have experienced Covid at first hand. Future plans are put on hold and we are just missing the company of friends and family. How can we stay positive and cope with such a restricted lifestyle now we are in 2021?

We know how to improve our chances of not getting Covid, these are well publicized, we know what we must do and have heard the ‘Hands. Face. Space’ message many times. For many, the challenge is now with our mental health. As a therapeutic counsellor I can support others find their way through this difficult and unpredictable time. I tell clients that apart from behaving responsibly, we cannot control what is happening but the good news is that we can learn to control our response. We can also take extra care of ourselves emotionally and physically.

We all have days when we feel a little sad or down and this is normal. If these feelings are affecting you more, there are steps that you can take. First, notice them and think about what triggered them. Find someone you trust to talk to; the chances are that they have felt the same at some point in time. Take some time to think through how and what you are feeling? Where is your anxiety coming from for example? Recognising your feelings or emotions is the first step to taking control. Set half an hour aside a day to have a ‘worry time’. This gives you freedom during the rest of the day to get on with your life.

Managing your negative thoughts includes understanding that they have a purpose. Although painful or uncomfortable they can stir us into activity when needed. Worrying about getting Covid means that we will take safe, preventative measures such as ‘Hands. Face. Space.’ Understanding this can help us to reframe our negative thoughts. So, if you are thinking ‘I am going to become really ill with Covid’, use positive thoughts such as ‘I will regularly wash my hands, wear a face mask when out and will keep two metres away from others’.  However, if these thoughts are interfering with your daily life, then they must be challenged. In times of uncertainty, it is easy to confuse fact and fiction and so it is important to stick to the facts. Make sure your Covid information is from a reliable source but do not spend too much time watching news updates or reading statistics on your phone.

Remember to be kind to yourself and allow time for doing what makes you happy. Curling up on the sofa with your partner/children or dogs/cats, taking a relaxing scented bath, gentle walks, try online yoga or Pilates, watch favourite movies, baking, gardening, meditate. Even in these restricted times, there are opportunities so do whatever makes you happy while keeping safe.

Sleeping well may sound difficult to achieve when you are feeling worried or anxious but is so important to our physical and mental health.   Good sleep hygiene is all about keeping to a pattern of going to bed and getting up at the same time. Restrict caffeine during the latter part of the day and avoid looking at screens an hour before bedtime. Lastly, take a calming bath or shower to help you relax.

Do you have a hobby or would you like to start a new course? We have been forced to spend more time at home this year but this has allowed us opportunities for hobbies and learning. What do you like doing? Although some hobbies will have been curtailed due to Covid, there are lots of opportunities to get involved in hobbies from home. There are also many online courses available, so follow your dreams and learn new things.

Mindfulness is all about being in the present and so helps you to stop worrying about the future. Look for mindfulness or other meditation apps (such as Headspace) and find one that suits you. You will also learn relaxation techniques that will help with anxiety and getting a good night’s sleep.

Feeling lonely and isolated is a reality for many people, remember that wearing masks mean we cannot communicate visually, which again separates us from others. But there are things we can do. You may not be able to actually visit friends and loved ones but that does not mean they are not there for you. Stay connected by phone or video calls, your friends may be feeling the same and you can help each other to get through this.

Our physical health is closely connected to emotional health. Remember to get moving, take a walk, jog or bike ride and enjoy the out of doors. If you have outdoor space try gardening, winter baskets and tubs will bring joy to you and your neighbours. Look for online fitness sessions, try something new and see how it feels. Avoid smoking and drugs to give you a chance to boost your health. Perhaps now is a good time to quit smoking as you won’t be tempted to socially smoke. Take care to limit alcohol and avoid putting on extra pounds.

Doing things for others makes us feel more worthwhile and allows us to contribute to others well -being. Think of ways that you can help others, it may involve shopping or just phoning a vulnerable person for a chat, or perhaps helping a local community group. We are all in this together and so it is so important to be kind to each other as well as being kind to ourselves.

If you feel that you cannot talk to friends or family, or your negative feelings are impacting on your daily life, reach out to a counsellor for support. Having someone to talk to and someone to specifically listen to you, is invaluable during this unprecedented time. You do not have to face your issues alone. I can work with you to explore your fears and anxieties, in order to help you find a confident way forward. I offer online therapy sessions as well as phone sessions. I also see clients face to face from my therapy room in Wallingford.

Angela Stanton   Therapeutic Counsellor