Mental health has suddenly become something that can’t be swept under the carpet. The world is a mess, and we have a genuine cause for concern. Uncertainty is everywhere you look, and unfortunately, it isn’t easy to see the light at the end of the tunnel. So, I guess there’s only one thing to do, and that’s to make the best of it? Well, that’s easier said than done. So, I’d like to share some of my own experiences and the coping strategies that have worked for me.
Having worked all over the world, I’ve dealt with more than my fair share of curveballs. I’ve had to grow a thick skin and develop my own coping mechanisms. Resilience isn’t always an innate trait; it’s usually something that is formed along the way. We have to learn it the ‘hard way’ if you like. The last time for me was the global financial crisis that caused my sleepless nights; this time, it’s a global pandemic. So here we go again, but this time is different for me. I feel more prepared. I certainly have more experience, and I knew that by adopting the right mindset and facing things head-on, we’d manage to get through this crisis just like we did the last.
But there are plenty of harrowing stories out there and what I see every day in our clinics is that people who were fine suddenly aren’t okay anymore. Working from home is taking its toll. There is more stiffness and pain for sure, often due to questionable workstations, but what’s worrying me more than anything is that this whole situation messes with people’s heads.
Are you feeling isolated from the 'herd'?
As humans, we are ‘pack animals, and we tend not to do well when faced with isolation from the ‘herd.’ It is generally accepted that people who spend long periods isolated, alone with their thoughts, are more prone to mental health issues. This means that this new ‘Working From Home’ reality is a genuine cause for concern. It’s hard to believe that we can be alone in a city of almost 6 million people, but some people are. They are locked in a ‘home office’ with silence and their thoughts, without an end in sight.
I worry that this could be a perfect storm for mental stress. Without some strategic thinking here, we could just be sowing the seeds for disaster. Day after day, no one is there for a chat and no one to provide emotional support. I believe this needs tackling head-on before there’s a massive problem, so let’s start with what we know.
First of all, let us accept that most anxieties or mental health issues gradually build-up over time and are a consequence of actions or habits – things we are doing or things we are not doing! If we can start building healthy habits, especially those that reinforce a healthy mindset, that will be half the battle. So what would be some healthy habits to cultivate?
Our metacognitive superpower!
Firstly, as humans, we are blessed with something called metacognition. This is the ability to think about what we are thinking about! It’s probably the number one human trait that, should we use it effectively, can become our ‘superpower’ and the key to long-term resilience and a healthy mental state.
So, let’s try a little self-reflection. Are you as mentally stable as you could be, or do you tend to overact if something is said that you disagree with? Maybe you resort to sarcasm or metaphorically stamping your feet. Or perhaps you tend to sulk? Either way, it is an unhealthy response and probably needs your attention.
I want to suggest that you become more self-aware and develop a habit of observing your thoughts and feelings — what tend to be the triggers you react to? The more you learn about yourself, the more you will regain control. Once you’ve identified the situations that push your buttons, you can recognize them before they happen and build in some simple coping strategies. Taking control of your mind is probably one of the most empowering things that you can ever achieve. It may not be easy, but if you can get there, what a difference in your life it will mean.
I think it’s like a superpower to harness the power of our mind. If you think about it, the most powerful influence on your own life is your mind. Even when external circumstances make you feel like things are out of control, we can still choose how we interpret them. By changing our perception, we change our feelings. This, in turn, changes our thoughts and actions and, therefore, our outcomes. So next time you feel that emotion building inside, take a breath, hit pause, and smile knowingly. You are now back in control.
Of course, other things can help us with our emotional and mental resilience. Getting out in nature, regular exercise, and even creating a calming, ergonomic workstation will help. Daily meditation or mindful exercises will certainly help reduce stress and quiet the mind, as will positive visualization exercises. It should go without saying that eating healthily and avoiding fast, processed food, or resorting to alcohol, is vital to prevent a downward spiral.
Also, don’t suffer in silence. If you are feeling out of balance, talk to someone. All companies have a responsibility to care for their people, but they can’t help if they remain in the dark. If you feel that you need to seek professional help, then please do so. There are many people out there struggling at the moment, so don’t be too proud to find someone.
I hope that this article provides some helpful information and wish everyone the very best in these more challenging days.