With the rising fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to boost our mental resilience is stronger than ever. It is important for all of us to recognise and acknowledge the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and be vigilant in our day-to-day behaviour so as to contain the spread of the virus. Many of us will face financial pressures and serious concerns for our family members susceptible to contracting the virus. In the midst of it all, it is critical that we try to avoid being gripped by fear and panic under these rapidly changing global conditions. With so much uncertainty, it is easy to allow our thoughts to spiral which can promote a more negative mindset, especially in these testing times. Science tells us that our brain is naturally hardwired to be more sensitive to negativity, as psychologist Rick Hanson explains, “our mind is like Teflon for positive experiences, and Velcro for negative ones”.
Research has also confirmed that with neuroplasticity, we can train our mind to create new neurological pathways to think differently. Just like building muscles, mental resilience can be learned and reinforced. In the Be Well Plan that we (Be Well Co) deliver, we teach people to become aware of their thoughts and understand where they come from. With this awareness comes the ability to make choices in how to think. Balancing our thinking ensures that we are not catastrophising and helps us to avoid the negative spiral. It helps to put things in perspective and regulate our emotions in times of stress.
In applying reframing and balancing our thinking, could self- isolation and lock down be an opportunity to appreciate and enjoy the simple pleasures in life which we normally do not have time for? Perhaps this is an opportunity to read that book you have been wanting to read, finish the DIY project you started two Christmases ago or play that board game that your six year-old had been nagging you to play.
Here’s a short video that further explains separating our thoughts and emotions using a metaphor.
Another key strategy we can apply regularly throughout the day is practising mindfulness – simply taking a pause and noticing our breath or engaging our sense perception i.e stop and listen, watch or feel. In other words, be truly present in the here and now, even if it is just for 20 seconds. Practising this throughout the day helps to cultivate awareness of our thoughts and acceptance of situations we cannot control and dampens the activity of our amygdala, the part of our brain that activates our fight, flight or freeze response. In addition to helping us stay grounded when we feel anxious, mindfulness practice is particularly important under the current climate when we need our immune system to function at its best. Regular mindfulness practice has been shown to help activate our parasympathetic nervous system which in turn reduces inflammation in our body, thus keeping us healthier. Mindfulness can also come in the form of watching a beautiful sunset from your backyard, tending the garden or savouring a cup of tea.
When we react to insecurity with fear, we worsen the problem and create a frightened society. We all have a responsibility to bring out our best self in this troubled time. So consider taking a break from the news, take some time out to pause, reflect on what is important to you, embrace what you have and look for the good in your life.
Learn more about our Be Well Plan training.
Need further support?
We want you to know that it is ok to acknowledge when you are experiencing mental health issues and to seek help if needed. We understand that the mental health system can be complicated and that it can be hard to know where to go for support. So, to make life easier for you, we’ve compiled a list of resources that may be of use.