Even the most ardent ‘stay calm and carry on’ kinds of people might find their wellbeing tested following the World Health Organisation’s declaration of a worldwide coronavirus pandemic, says Dr Richard Sherry, a Consultant Chartered Clinical Psychologist and specialist reserve officer (SRO) with the British Army.
Dr Sherry is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist who has training in extreme environments and has lectured on complex post-traumatic stress disorder. He has specialist experience of working with the military and other patients to reverse cycles of trauma both in the UK and the US, where he has run the clinical psychology section for the US Military Inpatient’s Service for more than seven years.
Here, as the Armed Forces, their families and the wider public cope with self-isolation and other challenges to our wellbeing posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Sherry examines the essential ingredients for our mental health and how we all might adapt quickly when dealing with the difficult situations to improve our overall outlook.
Mental Health: When Things Go Viral – Article By Dr Richard Sherry
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) declaration of a worldwide pandemic could test anyone’s sanguine nature, even the most self-assured and ‘stiff-upper-lip’ types of people, to a point where our thoughts border on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum.
And this is completely understandable.
At these times, besides employing good hand washing habits and appropriate social distancing, it is really important to understand what the essential ingredients for our mental health are as well.
If we can adapt quickly when dealing with the difficult situations, we will improve our overall outlook.
Anxiety is becoming more prevalent within our interconnected lives (according to the World Economic Forum, four per cent of the global population suffers from anxiety disorders).
The most important advice for people who suffer from anxiety, and often the most challenging to get into a routine with, is to find ways that reduce their daily stress.
Here are ten ways to turn around a stressful pandemic into discovering more meditative moments of settled peace and clarity of mind.
1) If you are having concerns about you or your family’s health, know how to protect yourself to reduce the risk that you might be exposed. Hand washing and not touching your face is important.
2) Download some of your favourite music, what you enjoy to keep you relaxed.
3) Try to get some exercise. You can work out at home with push-ups, sit-ups, a kettle ball and, if possible, running outside in nature is also a wonderful habit to build. Physical fitness bolsters mental resiliency and a better immune system.
4) Do some inner exploration and think what really makes you feel upset (or triggered) as well as happy. Focus on two key feelings. What makes you feel triggered and stressed? With these factors, try to avoid these if there is too much else going on. Understanding what supports you building a positive and healthy schedule can assist in reinforcing these beneficial behaviours.
5) If social and work plans, as well as schedules, are changing in a way that is throwing you out of sync with your regular way of working, focus on what can bring a natural rhythm to your schedule that you are able to plan. Understand how your workplace is approaching a problem-solving workstream and project problems-solving. At the moment, many events are being delayed - don’t be surprised if this may impact your plans.
6) Keeping a positive perspective. This may sound trite, but the science is behind it.
7) Learn to treasure and appreciate who and what is around you. It is time to water that neglected house plant and talk with the important people in your life, face to face, on the phone or even virtually.
8) Talking does help. If you have a friend, or even if it does become too difficult, a virtual psychology or psychotherapy session (on the telephone or via Skype) with a qualified clinician can be a huge help.
9) Focus on the things you are able to make a positive difference to and don’t sweat what you cannot change.
10) Taking up a hobby like meditating, writing or painting will help you to develop an interior space to explore and understand who you are. See this as a welcome opportunity for self-development and getting the essential things right in your life. Challenges are good ways to grow and evolve in your development. Look at life as a creative adventure.
Dr Richard Sherry is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist with training in extreme environments.
He is the Director for Psychological Systems Ltd that offers psychological and psychotherapeutic treatment both face-to-face and virtual as well as psychometric tests. https://psychologicalsystems.org
He is the Associate Course Director and Lecturer on Complex PTSD for Confer’s Course on Psychopathology. Much of his lifetime’s work is in understanding how to reverse cycles of trauma to develop healthier and more compassionate lives and consciousness the world over and beyond.
(Copyright 2020 Dr Richard Sherry).
This article is part of a series examining wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic on forces.net.