The ripple effect
I read with regularity that we’re going to soon be facing a mental health crisis in the UK, due to the effects of the Coronavirus. The pandemic has no signs of abating, as cases increase, and more local Lockdowns are imposed. If you look around and see the effects it’s having, you can understand that the human psyche is taking quite a battering at the moment.
Whilst there are pockets of businesses managing, pivoting and diversifying, there are so many at breaking point. Only recently, I read about a travel agency owner who had successfully run her own firm for 20 years but is now struggling to keep things going. In her late 50’s, she’s needing to put a CV together, something she hasn’t done in decades, and she feels desperate about the whole situation. Unfortunately, her story is not unique.
The entertainment and hospitality sectors are fighting to hang on but every day, it probably feels like the odds are being stacked against them. There’s a small café where my Mum and I meet for lunch, because the village is the half-way point between us. We’ve been several times and having reopened after Lockdown, I did wonder how they could operate with social distancing guidelines because it’s such a small place. They’ve had to remove several tables so how they make money I don’t know. However, they were ever cheerful, and the attitude was that it is what it is, and you just have to get on with it. Great to hear! However, when we met there last week, the mood had changed. New guidelines had been introduced and restrictions were even tighter. It felt like the staff were curt and the twinkling eyes above the face mask were no more. I hazard a guess they maybe felt they were fighting a losing battle.
Getting used to wearing masks everywhere has been interesting; always remembering to take one when you leave the house to pop to the local shop; having spare ones in the car in case when you’re out you need fuel, or suddenly think of something you need from the supermarket. Just getting used to the fact you need to wear one in any indoor space except houses!
I recently went to the Harvest Festival Service. Living in a rural area as I do, surrounded by farms, I always love that celebration at the primary school. But they can’t have one in the current circumstances, so I thought I’d pop along to the Church Service. I love a bit of ‘We Plough the Fields and Scatter’ and no Harvest Festival is worth its salt if there isn’t an ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’! Hymns played but no singing allowed. Despite the fact we had masks on. It felt so deflating and sad that we can’t enjoy the simple things like that.
About the only thing I can do at the moment that doesn’t require any thought about COVID-19 is the dog walk. Although having said that, I open the bin with my elbow so as not to come into contact with a touch point…!
Start with a clean slate
Going over all the ways this virus is having a negative impact isn’t healthy. I know that. I can blog and put out social media posts about how important it is to be conscious about our thinking but self-improvement is a work in progress and I am acutely aware that over that past few weeks, I have allowed the nature of my thinking to slide. And it’s totally 100% affecting my mood.
"People often say motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily." Zig Ziglar
#PEwithJoe is no longer on the agenda. My bike rides have gone down from four a week to two. I’ve been obsessively checking the news, many more times than the usual checking when I get up, then once more later in the day. I devour any Downing Street daily briefings and check the R number like some kind of lunatic. How exactly is this feeding my mind with good stuff? It’s not and consequently I’m finding myself feeling overwhelmed very easily by the other stuff in my life. I feel less able to cope with the teenage traumas, something which normally, I could lend a listening ear to, where wanted and offer either some soothing words of comfort, or advice – you need to gauge this one pretty quick or else you can very quickly fan the flames without meaning to.
And I don’t think I’m alone with these feelings. Hence the concern of a mental health crisis on the horizon.
So, it’s about taking conscious steps to change the way I’m choosing to think about this whole situation and no matter what has gone before, I can start today with a clean slate
"Every morning we are born again. What we do today matters most." Buddha
Last week, a friend asked if I’d like to see a comedian with her and some friends. Lovely idea as my social diary isn’t exactly fit to bursting at the moment! Thinking about the evening, funnily enough, my first thought wasn’t about the venue and how they’d manage an audience with the whole social distancing. Nope, with me having re-programmed my brain with good self-talk and assumptive affirmations, my go-to thought was what kind of humour was this comedian’s USP? I had an idea but did a quick check on YouTube to get a flavour. His was satirical humour about government decisions around COVID-19. That’s all his most recent videos were about. Now, I get it. Many are finding the decisions confusing, ridiculous and some laughable. I’m not going to get political and comment but the way I choose to look at it is I cannot right now, inherently change what the government are doing. I cannot influence their latest decree. So, it’s a lighthouse and I therefore need to intelligently navigate my way around it. Listening to someone else moan on and on about it, does not personally serve me well. Even if it is humour, my subconscious does not know the difference and all it processes is the negativity. And I know I don’t need that in my head right now. I thanked my lovely friend for her thoughtfulness but politely declined in joining her night out.
New ways of thinking
If we don’t think ourselves out of the bad place we might think ourselves into, we stay in that dark space. Wallow for a bit for sure, because slapping a smile on just ain’t real. But then you gotta pick yourself up and work out how you’re gonna get through this.
You feel crappy. You feel fed up. Tired of this whole new way of living. But keep feeling like this and nothing changes. Nothing changes until something changes. And I know you can’t cure Coronavirus by changing your thinking, but you can feel better by changing your thinking.
First of all, do you want to feel better? Do you believe it’s possible to feel better? Do you think there are people out there who have made the decision that they want to feel better? There are those who feel positive about the future, or who at the very least are making a conscious effort to get through the day being mindful of their thoughts and the effect this is having on their mood and thus behaviour. So, it is possible.
Our world has changed dramatically in the past nine months and every day, this situation continues to evolve. We have never collectively needed to constantly keep our safety and health front and centre of mind:
Just as we have needed to rewire our brain to adopt new habits to keep ourselves safe by doing all of the above, so too do we need to do an inside-out job and check in on our Mindset VITALS.
Let’s remind ourselves of what those checks are that we could be doing:
Are you visualising feeling confident and calm about the future? Use visualisation to programme your brain that this is going to be so. Make that mental movie using all five senses and constantly replay it to yourself so it feels your new normal, ‘til you make it so.
Ensure the nature of your thoughts, feelings and actions are working for you. If the negative thoughts feel like they’re spiralling – intercept that loop. We can’t think two thoughts at once, so replace it with a thought that will serve you well.
Taking personal responsibility
Your thoughts, moods, actions and decisions are down to you, and that means the resulting outcomes are on you too – the good and the bad. So, own your stuff and make it work for you. Drop the blame. COVID-19 can’t make you feel anything. You get to choose. Take back the power.
These are key to changing how you see yourself - changing the negative to the positive. They focus you on the kind of person you want to be and the kind of things you want to do and have. Repeat your affirmations at least twice daily.
Identify the things you cannot control in life, and intelligently navigate around them. Stop wasting time, thought and energy on them. The Serenity Prayer is key here: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
It will either hinder you or support you. Positive self-talk fuels self-belief, and in turn fuels self-propulsion. Make it work for you because life will never be better than your self-image allows it to be.
Spending just 15 minutes a day to consciously work on the nature of your thoughts so that they work for you, will help you to keep your mental health in check and help you to fight COVID-19 not just from the outside in, but so too from the inside out.
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