These four walls are starting to feel pretty narrow…How can we help support our mental health ...
These four walls are starting to feel pretty narrow… How can we help support our mental health during uncertain and challenging times? By Psychotherapist Hannah Hipwell
It is, without a doubt, that we are living in extraordinary times, with increasing worry and uncertainty about our health, loved ones and livelihoods, being gripped by this global pandemic which is sweeping the world.
The daily routines and activities which formerly gave meaning and purpose to our lives have been prohibited and suddenly our homes and the people we live with have been transformed into office spaces, classrooms, gyms; not to mention social spaces in which we relax, socialise and unwind.
Suddenly the world can feel very narrow and the relationships with those we love can begin to feel strained. Seeing each other day in day out with perhaps the added strain of job safety, financial worries; not to mention worries of becoming ill, or concerns for those who are vulnerable and at greater risk.
Before we realise it the cracks in our mental health and wellbeing can begin to show and our quality of life becomes poorer. Feelings of worry and anxiety can keep us up at night and can often feel difficult to switch off from. Relationship strains can start to take their toll and we wonder when there will be an end to all of this uncertainty and instability.
But there are some simple changes you can make to your day to day routine which can make a big difference and by supporting your mental wellbeing we can get through this with more calm, clarity and patience. Check in with yourself Often we are so busy focusing on our ‘to do’ list that we can forget to check in with ourselves and ask “how am I doing?” But a daily check in with ourselves and acknowledgment of our emotions can make a huge difference to our mental wellbeing and relationships.
Try if you can, to give yourself just five minutes a day to either write down how you are feeling or sit with your eyes closed and focus on your emotions. Whatever comes up can be acknowledged by saying or writing ‘I am feeling angry,’ or ‘I feel stressed.’ Try if you can to sit with these feelings and accept that however difficult they may feel, there is always a perfectly good reason why they are present. Mindfulness and Meditation - One day at a time. Mindfulness and meditation are a great way of being present with our emotions, of checking in with ourselves and acknowledging how we are feeling right here in the moment. So much of our lives can be spent worrying about tomorrow, the what if’s which never materialise or dwelling on the past and what we ‘should’ or ‘could’ have done differently. Both ways of thinking can trigger destructive mental health patterns and mindfulness aims to bring awareness to the present; where we are now and how we are doing. There are some brilliant apps such as Headspace and Insight which offer guided sessions to suit whatever time frame you have space for, or simply closing your eyes, focusing on the breath and channeling inwards for whatever time you have available. In addition to this, drawing up a list each day of what we are grateful for; health, loved ones, food to eat… can shed light on what we do have going for us when the struggles we face seem to dominate our thoughts.
What can we control? During this time of uncertainty, with no-one really knowing when things will return to normal, it is understandable that feelings of anxiety, stress and worry can begin to surface; feelings which are difficult to switch off from. So what do we have the power to control? Perhaps a new project, craft or hobby? Something which is solely yours and gives you a focus away from your daily routine. Projects like this, have nothing to do with the external world and are solely of your own creation; not dependent on your job, relationship or happiness of another but something for you to tune in to and gain pleasure from, without asking for something in return.
Exercise There have been numerous studies done which highlight the positive correlation between exercise and increased mental wellbeing, and the government has made allowances for one hour of exercise per day during this time. So if you can, get outside of your four walls and go for a walk, run or cycle ride. This provides an excellent opportunity for self reflection while we take in the scenery and allow thoughts to come and go while focussing on the breath and movement.
What if I’m not coping? The first step in gaining support is by acknowledging that you’re not coping and often this can be the hardest thing to come to terms with. This might be because your mood is at an all time low and you're not finding meaning or purpose in anything. Or it could be feelings of anxiety or stress which are making relationships and self care difficult. You are not alone in feeling this way and there is nothing to feel guilty about if finding things difficult.
The next step is to reach out to someone trusted about how you are feeling, whether it’s a family member, friend or professional. The moment we say out loud that we are finding things difficult to cope with, you are taking a huge step forwards and therefore don’t need to suffer on your own.
Caring for you mental wellbeing - An overview:
● Check in with yourself - how am I doing? ● Time for yourself - mindfulness / exercise / hobby ● Communicate - reach out to a loved one / friend / professional If you feel you would like to speak with someone privately then a counsellor can offer a confidential space where you are listened to with warmth, empathy and understanding. Counselling is not solely reserved for those experiencing severe mental health difficulties, but anyone wishing to forge a space for themselves for growth and development.
Due to the challenging times we are currently facing I’m offering discounted video/phone 50 minute counselling sessions at £25 each, for a block of six. For more information please visit: hannahhipwell.co.uk or call: 07725018984.
In times of crisis If you are feeling at risk and need someone to talk to immediately then please contact Samaritans on: 116 123 or email: email@example.com
Take care, Hannah