Understanding mental health responses to global pandemic and social isolation.
Hello, I'm Lorraine.
As a registered mental health nurse, I want to explain a little more about understanding mental health and how people might be feeling during this Coronavirus pandemic.
Firstly, there is no right or wrong way to be feeling. We all experience things in different ways and indeed respond to our feelings in different ways. They key message here, however, is that if you relate to any of the feelings highlighted, know you are not alone. Secondly, if you are struggling, please reach out for help.
Anxiety is a common emotion, especially at times like this. People feel anxiety in different ways. Physically, you may feel tense, restless, palpitations, increased heart rate, and just genuinely feeling uneasy. Mentally, anxiety can present as worry, rumination, feeling preoccupied, having intrusive thoughts or just generally feeling irritable. Additionally, we present with anxious behaviours such as obsessively checking the news and social media, avoiding normal everyday tasks, and excessively seeking reassurance from others. For the most part, anxiety can be a part of a normal healthy emotion, especially at times like this. An anxious response signifies our body has identified a threat and we need to take action. Currently, the action that we need to be taking is to follow the government guidance, wash our hands, practice social distancing, and isolate if you or a member of your household is symptomatic. The good news is, anxiety typically reduces as the situation evolves. We start to feel more in control of our environment, we take care of our own health and wellbeing and we allow ourselves to focus on other things. If you are struggling with anxiety, talk to someone. You'll probably realize you're not alone. Take a few deep breaths and write down the things that you can control in this moment. You can also practice breathing techniques, mindfulness and grounding. Guilt
You might be struggling with feelings of guilt, wondering if you're doing enough, parents trying to home school their children, hold down full time jobs working from home, shop and care for relatives or neighbours. Frontline staff wanting to do their job and help others, but also desperately wanting to protect the health and wellbeing of their family at home. We wonder if we could or should be doing more or if we are making the right decisions, but the truth is we've been thrown into an unexpected situation. These feelings are a normal reaction, but it's important to remember that in society today, everyone is doing their bit. Staying at home, washing your hands and minimizing all social contact is enough to make a wider impact in society and that, in itself should not be underestimated. There are many ways we can offer support and encouragement to others. A simple rainbow in the window, a phone call to a friend, showing our appreciation to frontline workers by clapping on our doorsteps provides motivation and hope to our community and demonstrates togetherness during this difficult time. So yes, you are doing enough.
Grief is usually an emotional response typically associated with a single profound loss. It's a challenging emotion for anyone to manage and one that we will probably all face at some point in our lives. The grief cycle of emotions ranges from denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and finally acceptance. So as we're faced with COVID-19, we may experience symptoms relating to grief. The loss of routine, the loss of contact with our family and friends, the loss of jobs or income, the loss of childcare, the loss of control and certainty in our lives, and of course tragically, the loss of lives and loved ones. You may have wanted to pretend this wasn't happening, stick your head in the sand and carry on as normal. You might have felt angry that your life has changed so drastically or that there isn't any toilet roll in the supermarket. You may feel so sad that you just don't want to get out of bed in the morning. Some of you may have already accepted the new reality. It's okay to acknowledge all of these emotions and allow yourself to feel them. Try to express them safely amongst family and friends. But most of all, give yourself some time and compassion. If you continue to struggle, reach out for some professional support. Your GP will be available to help you and guide you to appropriate services or self-help resources. Understand that there is no right way to be feeling right now. Be kind to yourself but reach out if you need to.
Remember, stay home, save lives.