How to manage feelings of anxiety as lockdown eases
Recently research into people’s concerns about the easing of lockdown and its effect on mental health highlighted some common themes. Below we have provided some helpful advice and information on those themes.
You might be worried about your mental health at the moment. If you’re with a mental health team, you can talk to your usual contact there. If you’re not, you can get an appointment with your GP and discuss your feelings with them.
Our list of topics below covers the main areas of psychological concern and we hope it includes one that will help you.
1. ANXIETY - Lots of people are feeling more anxious at the moment about going
out of the house and meeting people more often. It’s understandable if you’re feeling
this way. There are some things that you can do that you might find helpful:
• Think about what places you need to go to and what people you need to see, and which ones you don’t. Just because lockdown has eased, you don’t have to go places or see people if you don’t want or need to. You can do what you’re comfortable with. You could maybe ask other people you know what kinds of places they’ve been to and who they’ve seen. It might help you to think about what you’re comfortable with.
• You might have to go to some places, like the shops, which are busier than before. You can think about when the quieter times are, like early in the morning or later in the day. You can find out what measures the place has made to keep people safe. You can search their website or give them a call.
2. CONFUSION - It can be difficult to keep up with the rules regarding social distancing, wearing masks etc when they change however the government will continue to change the rules as the pandemic changes. So, you can find the best way for you to keep up with the rules.
You can do the following things:
• You can check what the current rules are on the government .gov.uk website
• You can ask someone you trust and who understands the rules to go through them with you.
• You can write down in your own words what you are and aren’t allowed to do. You could use bullet points or use pictures if you want to.
• You can keep up to date with changes in the media. The BBC publishes a brief ‘Coronavirus: Morning update’ on their website, with a summary of important developments.
3. FEAR - Even though lockdown has eased for now, there is still a risk that you can get coronavirus. But the risk has significantly decreased overall, which is why lockdown has eased. Some people who get coronavirus die, but most don’t. The risk to you of infection depends on your individual circumstances. Things like your health, your age, where you live, your contact with others and safety measures all play a part.
Although lockdown has eased for now, things aren’t back to ‘normal’ the way they were before the coronavirus pandemic. So, it is understandable if you are still anxious about the virus.
You can do the following things:
• You can read the government guidance on ‘Staying safe outside your home’.
• You can research the risk where you live. You can put your postcode into the BBC coronavirus infection rate calculator to find out figures on current infection rates in your area.
There are practical things you can do to manage your anxiety, including:
• You can get help and treatment from the NHS if you need it.
• Practicing mindfulness can improve your mental health by paying more attention to the present moment.
• Keeping physically active can help to reduce stress and anxiety. It can
increase the levels of serotonin and endorphins which are your body’s natural
• Breathing techniques can help to slow your breathing, which can calm your thoughts and reduce anxiety.
4. STILL SHIELDING -You might still be shielding as you have been advised to do so because of your personal circumstances. Or you might have made your own decision to continue to shield. You might need mental health support and treatment from the NHS.
You can do the following things:
• You can still get a GP appointment if you need it. GPs should still be offering phone appointments if you need one. Mental health services should also be offering phone appointments if you need one.
• If you are with an NHS mental health team you should have a care
plan. The plan might not meet your needs anymore if you are shielding. You can ask them to work with you to update your plan. If you don’t have a care plan, you can ask for one to be drawn up.
• Your mental illness might mean that in law you are considered to have a disability. If you do, you are protected by the Equality Act. Services, including the NHS and social services, must reasonably adjust what they normally do to meet your needs. So, let’s say you normally have face-to-face help from a support worker in your mental health team. You can request that they adjust this, so you meet by video call, or phone call. If the adjustment you ask for is reasonable, they usually must do it.
5. WORKING FROM HOME - Most people are now allowed to go back to their workplaces. But if you can do your job from home, the government say you can still do that if it’s possible.
You can do the following things:
• You can check on the government website to see if you should go back into work.
• You can discuss your situation with your employers. If it’s not possible to work from home full-time, maybe you can do it part-time. Or maybe they can agree a change of role with you, where you can work from home full-time. You can discuss any reasonable adjustments you need.
• If you must go back into work, you can ask your employers about what safety arrangements are in place. Employers must make sure workplaces are Covid 19 compliant.
6. UNCERTAINTY ABOUT THE FUTURE - The uncertainty of what will happen with the coronavirus situation is causing a lot of anxiety for many people. Not knowing what will happen in the future can be difficult. But there are things you can do to help manage how you are feeling.
You can do the following things:
• You can think about what things you can and can’t control. You can even write these things down. So, you can’t control when an effective vaccine will be developed. But you can control what you’re doing to stay safe or to help your wellbeing. You can make a list or plan of what you can control and how you’ll do this. A lot of people find this reduces their anxiety and gives them a better feeling of control over their situation.
• It helps some people to try to focus on the present moment or on the short term.
Many find mindfulness is useful to develop the ability to be in the present moment. You can focus on the short term by making a list of goals for the day or the week.
This can also help to give you a sense of achievement when you’ve completed a
ANXIETY – WHAT IS IT AND HOW TO CONTROL IT
"The feeling of anxiety is a result of an interplay between physical sensation, thought and feeling that can result in symptoms ranging from the mild to the severe including; tension, panic attacks, stress, physical ailments, an inability to cope and PTSD (post- traumatic stress disorder), obsessive compulsive disorders, and, in some cases, a breakdown in reality (psychosis.)
Anxiety is usually caused by, a particularly stressful event, stress build-up over a long period, a trauma or associated fear. We can be anxiety free on one day, and then the next day anxiety can overwhelm us, taking us by surprise, in a seemingly irrelevant context. This happens because the seemingly irrelevant context reminds us of an event which caused anxiety and has triggered a similar programmed reaction and emergency state of mind. The mind remembers and the body reacts giving us little time to think about our options.
Anxiety has a useful purpose in survival by activating our ‘fight or flight’ mode. It allows us to assess a situation and take decisive action; to stand and confront or to run away and avoid. To manage anxiety, we therefore need to learn how to create a space, or a pause for thought, before the ‘fight and flight’ mode is activated. Obviously, the ‘fight and flight’ mechanism is appropriate in emergency situations.
The following are some ways to manage anxiety:
1) 3 Minute Breathing Space – this gives your mind the opportunity to focus on your breath or some part of your body for 3 minutes when you feel anxious. You can follow the process for the 3 Minute Breathing Space explained in the Mindfulness Meditation paper. This meditative activity can potentially give you the mind space to assess and think about any situation calmly and with more clarity.
2) 7/11 way - Breathe in for 7 counts and then breathe out for 11 counts. By doing this, you should find that your body automatically relaxes, and your body cannot be anxious and relax at the same time.
3) Panic Attacks - If you experience panic attacks, where your heart beats quickly, hands are clammy, and your breathing is fast and erratic, and you have an out-of-body experience (dissociating) (you can think you are dying from a heart attack.) Try sitting on the floor with your back to the wall or corner, touch the walls and feel the surfaces against your body to remind yourself that you are actually present in reality or count backwards from 5 to 1 with your eyes closed, and then focus on the number 1. Drink some water. If you can ‘ground yourself’ and be in the present moment, the panic attacks should reduce and disappear.
4) Clench your fists (if you have long fingernails, just clasp hands together) – find a comfortable spot and make your hands into tight fists. Look at your fists and see the difference in colour of your knuckles and fingers and the tension moving up your arms. Closing your eyes to focus on the physical sensation of tension, relax your fingers and hands and the rest of your body. Visualize a blowhole at the top your head and breath in through this blowhole and then visualize the breath leaving a blowhole under your feet. This method works on the principle that your body will be in a more relaxed state after tensing.
5) The effect of water on our minds. If you are comfortable with it, immerse yourself, swim or paddle in water, get in the bath or shower and listen to it or look at it. There is an interaction between the water and the mind which has a calming effect on people to reduce anxiety and improve wellbeing.
6) Visualise a place of your choice which brings you calm and peace where you can go when you close your eyes, in the event of feeling anxious. Try to imagine what it would be like in this place, the colours, sounds and what would be around you. We cannot relax and contract a muscle at the same time; so too, we cannot be calm and anxious at the same time.
7) Systematic Desensitisation - In the event of a phobia (fear) of something, such as heights, for example, you can use systematic desensitisation or flooding as a way to alleviate the symptoms. Systematic desensitisation is a process of gradually introducing yourself to the situation which you fear. So, if it is heights, you would first get up on a chair, then a ladder and then walk to the top of a hill, preferably with someone who can support your efforts.
8) Rewind Therapy – as the name suggests, this therapy involves rewinding one’s experience, possibly traumatic, and extracting the emotion from it, so that it does not appear as traumatic as it has been. This is performed as follows: relax by visualising a place of peace, and in this place, imagine that in this place there is a tv, video or dvd and remote control, float to one side (dissociate) and watch yourself watching the screen but not actually seeing the picture – this aids emotional distance from the traumatic memories, watch yourself watching a film of the traumatic event (the scene starts just before the event when you were not aware of the oncoming event and ends when the event is over and you are safe again), then float back into your body and experience yourself travelling quickly backwards through the traumatic episode, from safe exit to safe entry, then watch the images again on fast forward, do this fast forward and rewind sequence as many times as it takes so that the viewing no longer associates any emotion. If this scenario is one which will be experienced again, visualise a point in the future where the scenario occurs and imagine that you are confident and relaxed. This method can retain confidentiality as it is only you who are watching the film and only you will know the detail.
A common theme in the above activities is calmness and relaxation, which gives our minds space in which to think and process information, to question ‘all or nothing ’ thinking and to challenge our programmed minds which have been etched into our processing through continuous thought cycles. These activities, if practiced regularly, and with belief, have the potential to manage anxiety when it visits. They can give the thinking part of our brains (neocortex) the time to challenge the emotional part of the brain, the amygdala, which sometimes uses a chemical concoction, dopamine, to ensure that the programmed routine behaviour is carried out.
There are many other processes and techniques that deal very effectively with anxiety, but these are some which can be performed on your own and some would best be undertaken with the supervision of a trained practitioner.
"1)How to master Anxiety by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell (2007)."
"2) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – Reduce and overcome the symptoms of PTSD by"
"Belleruth Naparstek (2004)"
"Nick Banfield (MSc, CPsychol)
Going back to school with confidence
The last few months have felt like social disorder and chaos for many of us. Whilst for some people mental and physical health suffered, others flourished. This raises the question; What was the difference between these 2 groups? Which character strengths prevailed, to ensure that some not only survived but thrived?
Anxiety needs to be managed
Unfortunately, due to unclear, confusing and at time contradictory guidelines, many adults have been unable to be optimistic and forthright role models. Despite teachers endeavours to sustain learning via social media and the occasional attendance day, there has been educational disruption.
Young people have suffered from, loss of learning, lack of socialisation and uncertainty about their exams. Students need to know what will happen next in an atmosphere of optimism because optimism breeds learnt helpfulness and resilience.
Take action – Teach Learnt Helpfulness
Action by Schools
1. Learners have been arranged into bubbles, for example, years 3 & 4, learn and play together. In this way, the whole school does not interact at the same time, reducing the risk of infection.
2. In some schools, learners have been asked to face the front of the classroom only and teachers are not allowed to spend more than 15 minutes with any child.
3. All schools are undertaking measures to rearrange the school day that best suit their particular circumstances. This information is posted on school websites. Here a few general websites with information:
Action for Students
1. Students can think about the strategies that worked positively for them and their learning and decide what strategies they will use in the future. They can think about their useful character strengths and how they employed them. Perhaps they could spot their friends’ character strengths, as they have done in Australian Schools. A list of character strengths can be found on this website:
2. Students can look forward to seeing their friends. They can enjoy their relationships again but must do so within the guidelines set out by their schools and colleges.
3. Here are some websites which learners may access to assist them with their learning:
• Doddle – gives revision Power Points and tests for science and maths.
• Hegarty – maths revision and maths watch (both Doddle and Hegarty have videos and quizzes on all maths topics)
4. Look at everything you did educationally whist in lockdown. Recap and revise to make sure you didn’t just copy everything down but have really understood it. Don’t let that work go to waste!
5. If you start to feel anxious or fearful, think back to a time before lockdown when you felt good. Remember this time vividly and feel the good feelings (the sights, the smells, the sounds, how your body felt, what was said, the calm, the joy.) Whenever you feel anxious go back to this ‘happy place’ and overlay your fears, anxieties. Repeat this process a few times, until the good feelings are easy to access. In this way you can always access them in
The above methods should be completed with some supervision so that students know what to do. It is just a resource for them in teaching them ‘learnt helpfulness’.
Action for Teachers:
1. Show students how the school is going to address the gaps in education."
2. Remote learning is quite different from being in a classroom environment.Students
confidence will need to be re-built as they readapt.
3. There has been a loss of social interaction so teachers will need to recognise that learners will be building relationships again.
4. Use registration/tutor group time for students to process their feelings by drawing pictures or writing articles on their experiences of Lockdown. By processing feelings and discussing views, students can acquire knowledge and understanding, which helps build resilience.
5. Children can be encouraged to share their experiences by being asked to think about what they enjoyed doing differently during the lockdown. There will also probably be moments of upset, anger and anxiety that will have to be managed sensitively.
6. Ask students to write down their expectations of safety in school.
7. Create ‘little islands of sanity’ where students can discover how they can help people locally during this time. The knowledge that they can help someone else, is associated with positive emotion and purpose in life.
8. Use the ‘time machine’ concept of looking ahead 40 years from now and writing about what"
"happened during the pandemic and how they got through it.
9. Welcome students back to school at their current development point; not at the level they should ordinarily be. Being realistic, relieves pressure and grows positivity.
Action for Parents:
1. Be compassionate towards yourself. This has been a difficult time.
2. Consider having a quiet time of meditation during the day to process rumination and"
"pessimistic thoughts. Remember that they are just thoughts. You can always go back to the breath for calm and grounding.
3. Keep up to date with the notices from the schools. They will be taking their guidance from government.
4. Try to provide your children with a balanced view on what social media are reporting so that the news does not appear one-sided."
5. Teach helpfulness and ask your whole family to consider, ‘What action can I take to get through this?'
6. When children return from school, ask them about their school day and what they experienced.
Nick Banfield (MSc, CPsychol)
- Back to School
There are 3 factors that influence our health, genetics, environment and behaviour. Whilst science chips away at understanding the genome, produces vaccinations and educates us with regard to hygiene; it is in our behaviour that we have the most and easiest influence over our health. However, more than 20 million people (11.8 million women and 8.3 million men) in the UK are inactive. The British Heart Foundation estimates that inactivity and the increased heart disease that results from it, costs the NHS £1.2 billion pounds each year.
“Exercise is medicine” is an expression coined in America. It describes a health programme that targets health issues before they become a problem, by encouraging a more active and healthier lifestyle. There are many benefits to this approach to health not least, that exercise, responsibly undertaken, has little or no financial cost and very few negative side effects. Human beings are built to move and be physical. This is how we have evolved over millennia and our bodies are primed to use exercise to be both, self-regulating and to some extent self-medicating. Harvard scientists have recently discovered that when you exercise, your muscles release natural substances that help relax blood vessel walls, lower blood pressure, reduce "bad" cholesterol, increase "good" cholesterol, move glucose out of the bloodstream and into the cells where it is needed, lower insulin levels, and reduce inflammation. All of these functions together help protect us against heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. There can be no doubt nowadays (due to the thousands of medical and scientific studies) that exercise at any age can enhance longevity, health, and wellbeing. Unfortunately, modern life encourages sedentary leisure activities such as watching TV, surfing on the internet, and playing computer games. Many people are discouraged from taking exercise by the idea that they have to join an expensive gym, wear Lycra, exercise for hours and hours and give up pizza, to be fit and healthy. In fact, none of these ideas are true. Science suggests that to get positive health benefits we need to burn approximately 1000 calories a week doing physical exercise. This means that just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day (such as walking or swimming) can help you side-step many life-limiting and life-ending problems such as,
• reducing your chances of getting heart disease. For those who already have heart disease, exercise reduces the chances of dying from it.
• lowering your risk of developing hypertension and diabetes.
• reducing your risk for colon cancer and some other forms of cancer."
"• improving your mood and mental functioning.
• keeping your bones strong and joints healthy.
• helping you maintain a healthy weight.
• helping you maintain your independence well into your later years.
The positive bi products of getting up from the sofa do not stop there. People who exercise; sleep better, are less stressed, are more positive and resilient, have better verbal memory and have an improved sex life.
There are four components to physical fitness, and each offers different health benefits:
1. Aerobic – This is activity that quickens your breathing. It aids cardio-vascular fitness, focusing on your heart, lungs, and circulation. The word ‘aerobic’ can strike fear into anyone who has ever heard the phrase “feel the burn” but this is a misconception. If you want to cycle or jog or indeed join an aerobics class that’s great but a brisk walk is also fine and will help you burn just as many calories. Aerobic activity also releases natural chemicals into your bloodstream to enhance your mood.
2. Strength – This is weight bearing exercise. It helps protect bones and bone density and builds and maintains muscular strength. Our bones weaken with age and can become brittle. Stronger muscles bolster and protect our bones. If you enjoy lifting weights, that’s great but doing normal exercise carrying/wearing small weights is also good. If that’s not your ‘thing’ then consider using resistance bands (big elastic bands) or use your own body as the weight you are bearing in activities such as Yoga and Pilates. For keen gardeners, digging the garden is a productive strength exercise. Know too the more muscle you have the more fat you burn when you exercise. Feeling strong and healthy has the psychological benefit of increasing self-esteem and personal power.
3. Flexibility – These are stretching exercises for posture and balance and to counteract muscle shortening. Our muscles shorten with age and this process can affect our skeleton. The combined affect results in; back, neck, shoulder and joint pain, tendonitis, and increased injuries. Stretching exercises elongate the fibres within muscles and the tendons surrounding them. Yoga is great for stretching but any moderate stretch exercise such as ‘warm up’ and‘cool down’ stretches will also help. Stretching feels good and it’s very easy to do. You can start with a stretch as part of your early morning wake up and go from there.
4. Balance - We tend to take balance for granted but our ability to balance is very important and is unfortunately eroded over time. Poor balance results in poor posture, falls, a lack of poise and general clumsiness. Yoga, Pilates, and Tai chi are all great for enhancing balance. Dance too can be good for balance, as well as a great way to socialise, learn new skills and have fun. If you don’t already exercise, NOW is the time to start. Don’t put it off until you develop health problems. Develop the habit of exercise by either setting aside 30 minutes each day to be active or by attaching small bursts of activity to everyday routines. Remember to feel the reward after exercise or build in an additional reward. You can march whilst you mow the lawn or vacuum the carpet, balance whilst you wait for the kettle to boil etc. If it helps, get an exercise ap or pedometer. If you prefer company and camaraderie, join a class or a group. If you can’t perform moderate intensity exercise remember that light activity is good for your health too. Write yourself a health prescription and remember “exercise is medicine”.
Nick Banfield (MSc, CPsychol)
- Exercise is Medicine
Appreciative Inquiry is a process tried and tested since the mid-1980s. For the purposes of coaching it is a 4 -stage process whereby Purpose and Goals logically emerge as an outcome of considering one’s character strengths, unique skills, values and beliefs, identity and dreams.
Discovery – the first stage. Generally, people are not aware of their character strengths, making it impossible to utilise them effectively in their relationships, their hobbies and their careers. To discover your character-strengths you can go onto the website: www.authentichappiness.org, register, and then complete the VIA Character Strengths questionnaire. It’s all free but you will need to complete the questionnaire in one sitting, which will take between 30 -45 minutes. Once completed, you receive a printout identifying your top strengths. Initially, it will give you only 5 strengths and if you click the icon that says ‘more’, it will print out all 24 strengths. This done, you can authenticate your top 3-5 strengths with your coach, family and friends. Using your strengths more, and in different ways, together with your values/beliefs, unique skills and identity, can then be used to the fullest extent in your life at present and also in setting your vision and mission for the future.
Dreams – the second stage (PURPOSE)
In this stage, try to visualise your dreams without getting stuck on any obstacles which emerge. To assist with this process, imagine you get into your own personal time machine and you travel to a day in your ideal future. It can be a week or a year from now, but it is your ideal. Visualise the detail of this, what are you doing? Who is around you? What are the associated colours, smells, sounds and feelings? How do you feel? What is your environment? It is important to employ all your senses and make the vision as vivid as possible. Write this down in the present tense as though it has already happened, and you are describing how it is now. Now look back (to the old days) , what obstacles did you have to overcome to get to this ideal? How did you meet those challenges, what had to change in your life and who helped? During this stage, you should consider writing down a description of ‘The Best Possible Me’. Contemplate, given your resources, what is the best you can achieve in life? Include all aspects of yourself and aim to improve them (health and wellbeing, relationships, spirituality, career, etc.) Do this exercise 3 times a week for 20 minutes. At the end of the week, observe any themes emerging. They might be your; environment, behaviours, strengths, capabilities, beliefs/values and/or identity. ‘Best Possible Me’ should provide you with a Purpose/Vision. Consider how your resources can assist you to achieve your dreams?"
"This work engenders Purpose/Vision and once that has been established you can consider the pathways (ways and means) towards your purpose and then an action plan.
Design – the third stage (GOALS)
This stage involves thinking and documenting the different pathways towards your dreams. It builds positivity and hope. It manifests resources and a vision into clear and realistic goals. These goals are the backbone of your future planning and it will stand or fall depending on how strong, achievable and well- formed they are. Any future planning should anticipate challenges and obstacles as these are part of life. Should an obstacle be too big, another pathway could be chosen. Once a specific pathway has been selected, an action plan can be written to measure progress against Purpose. Remember a vision is not a blueprint, it is the star that guides us.
Destiny – the fourth stage.
To assist in this stage, it can be useful to stand at the point of success / accomplishment and start to walk backwards along a timeline and ask yourself what needs to be achieved by that point. So, if the purpose is to get a certain job in May 2021, what do you need to have completed by April 21, then by March, Feb, Jan? Once you have planned this all the way back to the present moment, you should know what to do each week and month to reach your goal. This is an alternative method of future planning and is useful when a goal must be completed by a specific time. It prevents a ‘concertina’ effect at the end of the process. Once this exercise has been completed, an action plan should be written with due consideration of, who is responsible and who will support. A key timeline for specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic action points will also need to be completed. For a consistency check, once the action plan has been completed, ask the question, ‘Will my resources, dreams and Purpose be fulfilled?' This is the Appreciative Inquiry coaching process, which needs the individual and coach to ask the appropriate question at the right time and at the right stage. Once Purpose has been established, the rest of the work seems to fall into place, and that’s why Purpose is Power. For further information on Purpose, you can watch the following:
1. Movie - LINK - story of Shaun Thomson, world champ surfer.
A useful exercise leading on from this videoclip is to write 10 statements beginning with ‘I will…….’ . This is an immensely powerful exercise and has the potential to commit you to your goals.
2. Netflix – ‘Resurfaced’ – a documentary on returning soldiers and their venture into surfing."
Nick Banfield (MSc, CPsychol)
Some neuroscientists think that humans have a built-in negative bias because we have been programmed to ask ourselves: “What if?” For millennia, this question has been a factor in our survival and even now it has a useful purpose. However, the level to which it has been imprinted on our minds, has resulted in our inability to ask, “What if it doesn’t happen?” or “What if it does work?” To redress this imbalance of the negative “What if?”, it will take a dose of positivity or at least, some learnt helpfulness, instead of learnt helplessness.
Learnt helplessness is the feeling that everything that one tries seems useless. Learnt helpfulness lies in the belief, “Circumstance will improve because humans have survived pandemics in the past and are even better equipped to do so now!” If we can learn to be pessimistic, we can also learn to view upsets optimistically, or at least extract some positives from setbacks and learn to be resilient.
Success does not rely exclusively on, talent and desire, optimism is also a key component. There are two types of mindsets: optimistic and pessimistic. The optimist thinks that a bad situation is temporary, isolated and interesting. They assess their role in a problem-solving way. They view obstacles and trauma as a learning opportunity and a challenge to do better. The pessimist views a bad situation as long term and personal. They often focus on placing blame (themselves or others) excuses, denial and helplessness and the situation tends to impact negatively on them and those around them. Pessimism is self – fulfilling, it converts a mishap into a disaster and a disaster into a catastrophe.
Can optimism be a learnt? Yes, it can……. Ideas on how to improve ‘thinking style’
1. Think of bad events as having a temporary duration, this encourages resilience.
2. Take ownership of your positive achievements.
3. Associate upsets with specific causes.
4. Remember that optimism leads to, better health, youthfulness, longevity and a stronger immune system.
5. Realise that your actions can make a difference. The earlier in life one learns this,
6. Genetics, environment and hormones play a part in the development of depression, but an optimistic mindset can be the deciding factor in whether it is triggered and flourishes.
7. Cognitive therapy can reduce and eliminate depression and help us nurture optimism.
8. Challenge automatic negative thoughts. Focus on evidence to the contrary. Break the habit of automatic negative thinking.
9. Pessimism has its place; pessimists sometimes foresee challenges and obstacles
before optimists. They just don’t deal with them in such a positive way.
10. If your childhood caregiver had an optimistic mindset, you will also probably have the same mindset. Conversely, if you have inherited a pessimistic style, you can change to an optimistic one through learning and practice.
11. Sports teams who are more optimistic go on to be more successful.
12. Research has shown that choice and control in thinking saves lives, as opposed to helplessness which can kill when it leads to hopelessness.
13. Studies have shown that women with breast cancer who have an optimistic outlook, respond better to treatment than those with a pessimistic outlook.
14. An optimistic approach to politics has been associated with voter popularity …… just think of Barack Obama’s ‘You Can’ speech.
15. Assess the cost of failure. Where it’s high, do not use optimism; where low, use optimism. The danger lies in being overly optimistic for example, the RNLI Rescue Boat deciding whether to go in and rescue people off a cliff, or the individual who
has had too much alcohol and decides to drive home. Here the costs of failure could be death and a motor vehicle accident/death. As opposed to the individual who risks learning a different sport, risks only upset, being optimistic.
16. When pessimistic beliefs appear, use distraction. You might like to wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it when pessimistic ruminating kicks in, and then shift your attention elsewhere. Alternatively, carry a reminder around which says
‘STOP’ which may help when ruminating starts!
17. When pessimistic beliefs appear, become aware of them, and say to yourself that you will attend to them later at a given time. Write them down so that you have a record. This can take the sting out of rumination and the negative beliefs lose their power.
18. Dispute the pessimism. This is more of a long-term strategy. Using Cognitive Therapy ABCDE process.
• A – adversity: what is the stimulus or what happened?
• B - belief: what is the underlying belief?
• C – what is the consequence of your belief?
• D – Dispute the belief
• E – energize the dispute.
By using this process, you can give yourselves distance from the belief and practice disputing the claim. This can be used for disputing what others’ say or believe but also what you say to yourself. Ask what evidence do I have to support this belief?
Don’t confuse ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ with optimistic thinking. The power of optimism is through non-negative thinking. Upsets usually have many causes; pessimists usually hang on to the personal ones. Try to think about other possible beliefs which may be the cause. If this is difficult, deconstruct the belief and make it less powerful. Ask how useful is this belief and how can I change it to serve me better in the future?
19. With children, when taking them through the ABCDE, emphasise that the way they think can make them feel a certain way. To assist the child with this process, try the ABC first and then the DE. You could even use a puppet, if they are still young, as the disputer to help your child talk back at others and themselves. It is particularly important to be sensitive and use the appropriate words so as not to do any harm. For example, the puppet could say: “you know sometimes that other people say nasty things about us and sometimes we even say nasty things to ourselves about ourselves…….”.
20. If you can meditate with your child, or on your own, you can observe how your mind latches on to negative thoughts and ideas. This offers the power to change the’ mind-talk’ from something negative into something new, positive, useful, and/or realistic.
One major advantage of the optimistic thinking style is that it breeds perseverance and can therefore motivate people to use their strengths and improve on areas they have potential for growth. The current Covid 19 pandemic has resulted in some people feeling helpless. We can intervene with hope and optimistic thinking so that they don’t become hopeless, which could lead to large-scale depression.
Now, more than ever, we need to learn to be optimistic and provide positive role models for our communities to follow. By doing this, we are not just focussing on our individual needs but on the needs of our communities, a practice associated with happiness and thereby improved wellbeing.
What you think’ you are.
Nick Banfield (MSc, CPsychol)
- Helpful Thinking Styles
We may be under biological stress in this pandemic, but let’s keep our minds
sane…and build and keep ‘little islands of sanity’ for ourselves and those around us, wherever we are, with whatever resources we have. Here’s one way:
Mindfulness Meditation – ‘Being in the Moment’
‘Mindfulness is the awareness of what is going on in us and around us in the present
moment’. (Thich Nhat Hanh, 2014)
To achieve the above, we practice mindfulness meditation. This practice provides us with the space in our minds to be able to respond instead of react to stimuli, to observe how the mind ‘latches’ onto (thoughts, sensations and stimuli), to use the breath as an anchor and gain some control in response to the ‘chatter’ in our minds. It offers the opportunity to start a ‘new beginning’ after each breath and a process to relieve stress, anxiety and depression and to move out of ‘clock-time’ into appreciating ‘moments of time’.
Mindfulness is a medication without negative side effects and a resource which we can dip into at any time. Buddhist monks have been practising mindfulness meditation for over 2000 years. Clearly, they knew they were onto a good thing; The West have only just discovered mindfulness and have done 1000s of research studies in order to prove its benefits. There is now significant proof that mindfulness can improve wellbeing in many ways.
Here are a few tools to take away and practice. These tools can then be used at any time of the day, enabling us to be more mindfully aware of the moments that make
up our lives. Don’t worry if the benefits are not immediately obvious …. the challenge is to practice daily, and the benefits will soon speak for themselves.
3 Minute Meditation
Practice – at any time of day (3 minutes),
1) YOUR SPACE - Find a place to sit quietly. Keep your back straight, place your hands on your knees, head gently tilted forward slightly and closing your eyes, or find a position that is comfortable for you.
2) INTENTION- think of the intention for your practice…..to slow down, for new beginnings, to change a thought pattern or to just relax, reduce stress, depression, anxiety.
3) AWARENESS - Become aware of, recognising, acknowledging thoughts, emotions & sensations. Visualise these thoughts, emotions and sensations knocking at the door of your mind, let them in……see them float across a movie screen…. Watch them come and go…observing your mind.
4) ANCHOR to Breath – now bring your attention to the feelings of the breath in a particular place in the body (the coolness as it enters your nose, the sensation of it lifting your chest) …. If your attention latches onto some thought, just lead it back gently to the breath and that place in the body, over and over again. The BREATH is always available to us.
5) EXPAND this awareness. Imagine the breath moving throughout your body using the sensations of the breath as an anchor and perceive the experiences these bring.
6) After three minutes, gently opening your eyes and becoming aware of your surroundings. This new breath can signify new beginnings, that is, a new way of looking at one’s experience, trauma, vulnerability, or patterns of thinking.
There are many different mindfulness meditation practices of different durations and there are no right or wrong ways to do them. I have copied a few of these here. Try them and see which ones feel right for you, persevere. Take a little time each day for yourself, to develop the habit of mindfulness.
Included in the following links are the Walking, Sitting and Stretching meditation which are all free to download.
The most important thing is to keep practicing so that being mindful becomes an oasis of calm in your day. Start experiencing the power of the ‘moment’.
Going forward, try to identify a prompt, a routine and most importantly, a reward
for practicing mindfulness, and it will become a habit. For example, eating,
brushing your teeth, or showering mindfully, once a day. Obviously, you need to stay safe and so mindful driving or operating power tools is not recommended!!!!
The aim is to practice being mindful so that our days can be filled with mindful moments, and thereby, sustaining ‘islands of sanity’.
1) The Mindfulness Survival Kit by Thich Nhat Hanh (2014)
2) Awareness id Freedom by Itai Ivtzan (2015)
Nick Banfield (MSc, CPsychol)
What is Stress
Stress is a word we use, to convey the meaning that we are under pressure physically, emotionally, or cognitively.
Stress can be defined and understood in three different ways:
1. As a stimulus
Events occur and humans respond dependent on how much pressure they feel. We may feel stress in response to events in our workplace, at school, and in the current environment, the Covid 19 pandemic. It is important to note that we don’t all feel stressed by the same stimuli and that our responses to stress may differ in type and magnitude.
2. As a physiological response.
Cannon’s (1929) ‘Fight or Flight’ response model, explains how animals and people, faced with a threat, either fight it or move away from it. This triggers physiological changes (adrenalin is released, heart rate increases, blood moves from the digestive system to limbs.) This behaviour was essential to the survival of our hunter/gatherer ancestors. This response could also be included under the psychological response section in (3) below. Hans Selye explains the response to stressors in a 3-stage model called the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). In this model, the individual, who is experiencing a threat,
1. alarm stage - the body gets ready for action to resist the threat.
2. resistance stage – resources are pooled to fight off the threat, ignoring some of the usual functions.
3. exhaustion stage – at this stage, the resources have all been used up and the individual becomes vulnerable to infection and disease. This model suggests that the body responds in the same way to all threats, regardless of type and that it is a purely biological response, It also suggested an association between stress, the immune system and illness, such as kidney, liver, stomach, lung disease and allergic reactions like asthma and skin conditions. It also differentiates between good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress) which suggests that some stress is good for us to keep us aware and motivated, whilst others are destructive, breaking us down physically and mentally.
4. Psychological response -
Stress is a transaction between appraisal and coping.
Lazarus and Folkman suggested that stress is a product of the interaction between our perception and the demands of the stimuli or stress in the environment. Firstly, we assess the threat (its size, power and duration). Next, we assess our resources to manage or defeat it (past experience, skills, capabilities and known social"
"support.) Wherever there is a lack in personal resources to manage a stressor, social support can usefully fill the gap. People are NOT machines; they do breakdown and it is then that they need to be brave enough to ask for support.
Stress as an inherited vulnerability
This is the Stress-Diathesis Model – which suggests that given enough stress, any individual will develop a neurosis or psychosis, based on their unique vulnerability. So, due to the same workplace stress, one individual may develop depression, whereas another may develop a general anxiety disorder. As above, the extent of their neurosis or psychosis could be reduced by the amount and type of support they received to manage the stressor.
Coping with Stress:
1. Remove the stressor or remove yourself from the stressor – for example, surround yourself with positive people.
2. Redefine the stressor – try using language that takes out the threat, for example, redefine from “I will never get into this team because they are so good” to “These guys are not so good; I just need to get better”. The language we use, defines our boundaries and what we can achieve. Try moving out of your comfort zone and into your challenge zone……. you may surprise yourself.
3. Change the stressor – Do more of what you enjoy and are good at both at work and at home. Use your character strengths. (See paper on Purpose and Goals)
4. Meditate mindfully. Come into a sitting position, and close your eyes, observe your mind and see what thoughts enter it, and what the mind latches onto…. bring your attention back to your breath over and over again. Observe which thoughts come knocking at the door. In this way, you will be able to identify which stimuli may be causing you stress. Meditation can potentially also provide the space in your mind between ‘fight or flight’, where your mind is given the opportunity to respond instead of just reacting.
5. Blue Health - Try Open Water Swimming, surfing, snorkelling, or any other activity in the sea – the sea provides us with opportunities for our minds to interact with the water and to calm.
6. Make your routine exercise a habit by doing it for more than 21 consecutive days. To do this, arrange a prompt for your exercise, for example, go to sleep in your running kit or leave your running shoes by your bed. Post run remember the reward…. this is essential to sustaining the activity. Doing the exercise is the reward itself but there may be other rewards such as a cup of coffee, a luxurious shower gel or a good breakfast.
7. Ask for support – we all do this at some stage but be mindful that we need to do this at the appropriate time…… this will be different for everyone but it is when you are starting to worry obsessively, losing sleep, irritated, feel like you are on a treadmill, not eating, no time to relax and when you feel your life-balance is out or when you keep thinking about past events.
8. Seek spiritual help – whatever faith you have or don’t have….. put your faith in a Higher Power….Spirit and believe.
9) Try R.A.I.N:
R – Recognise the stressor/feeling"
A – Acknowledge it"
I – Investigate it (if it’s too traumatic, linger on the outskirts until you are ready or have the support to go deeper
N – Nourish yourself (have self-compassion – find those unique aspects about you that you love and cherish them)
10) Take a holistic approach to wellbeing by looking at the PERMAH Wellbeing Wheel (www.authentichappiness.org) and identify two areas on the wheel where you could improve. Start by creating habits (prompt + routine + reward)
11) Boost ‘Positive Emotion’ (1st part of PERMAH Wellbeing Wheel) by doing something early in the morning, like running, yoga, meditation, swimming, walking with a friend etc. This has the effect of producing happiness, joy, and self-esteem, which makes more achievements possible during the day. This is called the ‘Broaden and Build theory (B. Fredrickson).
12) Tell yourself that you have control over a stimulus. This should have the effect of spurring you into action.
13) Communicate assertively, as opposed to passively or aggressively as you are more likely to get your needs met. Communicate your needs strongly with the correct tone, on an equal level to the other person, in a non-threatening manner with due" "respect for the other person’s position. Then, if the person you are communicating with has not responded adequately, repeat your message, in the same way.
14) When faced with a stressor, examine your past and identify what thoughts, feelings, words and actions helped you in a similar situation.
15) Do an action plan to deal with the situation. Once you start problem-solving, you might feel better.
16) Be optimistic about outcomes, it has been proven that people who are optimistic had fewer negative physical symptoms and may recover quicker from health issues.
17) Studies have also shown that a sense of humour can help us cope with stress. Think of all the Covid 19 jokes.
18) Get involved in community – it has been found that greater involvement in community was associated with lower psychiatric symptoms.
19) Explore Biofeedback. This is a process where one can try various relaxation techniques and gain immediate feedback afterwards on physiological response to the relaxation technique.
20) Stress Inoculation – with the help of a coach or a therapist, you can become aware of the interaction between stress and coping. This can be done through processes such as role play, using a true -to- life stressful simulation enabling anyone to develop confidence and self-belief in handling the particular situation. The above are some constructive ways to manage and cope with stress. Avoid destructive solutions such as alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs. These exacerbate the situation by causing more long-term stress.
Remember that you have the freedom of choice to say yes or no to something. If you are saying no to something, what are you saying yes to, and if you are saying yes to something, what are you saying no to?
Nick Banfield (MSc, CPsychol)
- Stress and Coping
Good Sleeping Hygiene
In order to sustain our body energy and awareness, our bodies are biologically programmed to sleep, normally at night, to fit in with societies’ norms and the world’s planetary rhythms. Within these rhythms, people have different biological clocks, some sleep early and rise early, whereas others prefer to go to bed late and rise late. Whatever our needs, we need a few good hours, normally between 6-8 hrs, of light, deep and REM sleep each night, or sometimes during the day, if we are on night shift.
There are a range of behaviours that can interfere with our regular sleep pattern: stress, alcohol, pain, eating too late, sleep apnoea (cessation of breathing periodically), overstimulation from watching TV or working on a laptop late at night, too much caffeine, exercising too late, jetlag, anxiety and shift work.
Here are some things to consider in order to keep good sleep hygiene -
1. If you start to worry when trying to sleep, set yourself a time during which you give yourself permission to worry, say, between 6.30 and 7.00 am. List your worries in writing and shut them in in a draw not to be looked at until next day. This can convince the mind that it does not have to worry in the meantime, assisting the whole body to relax and sleep.
2. Meditate before going to bed – focussing on the breath or completing the body scan can clear the mind of thinking, clearing the mind of worry.
3. Even when unable to sleep, try not to worry. If the body is lying still, it is resting.
Whilst lying on your back, you could try the body scan.
4. If you are unable to sleep, try reading a few pages, and then lying still. However, if
unable to sleep still, read a few more pages and then resume the sleeping position.
5. The body has a way of coping, so if you are unable to sleep, the body will catch up again, maybe the next day will not be so bad. If you cannot sleep, try doing some work on a project or doing something which will focus your mind. Take the time to be aware of being awake. Many people float through life unaware that they are actually alive!
6. Regular exercise, such as swimming, yoga, running, can enhance your sleeping quality, no matter what age or ability.
7. If you wake up tired in the morning, consider going to bed earlier.
8. Avoid drinking tea or coffee late in the evening.
9. Consider having a good breakfast and lunch and a small dinner, before 6 pm. This gives the body an opportunity to focus blood supply to the rest of the body for healing, instead of digesting. Once in a while, consider having your end-of -day meal before 6 pm and then your next meal at lunchtime the following day; this gives the body a long window in which to focus blood supply to the rest of the body. (fasting).
10. A few alcoholic beverages will probably get you off to sleep but once the alcohol has been broken down, your body may experience withdrawal and wake you up.
11. Do exercise early in the day and certainly not within two hrs of sleeping. Let your metabolism rest and the endorphins settle before sleep.
12. A milky drink or camomile tea before bedtime can help.
13. Consider having a relaxing, warm, bath or shower before going to bed.
14. Make sure that the mattress and pillow you sleep on is right for you, that is, good for your back; not old and too soft.
15. When it is dark, our bodies respond biologically to sleep, so use blackout curtains or blinds or an eye mask, if necessary.
16. The bedroom should be used for sleep and not for watching TV or listening to loud music; sex is good for releasing tension and promoting post coital relaxation and sleep.
17. If possible, leave your mobile out of the bedroom (especially for children), but definitely out of reach.
18. Try thinking about one creative project only just after getting into bed… leave the mind free to create and consider options but no pressure to decide.. and see what happens.
19. Earplugs can shut out any unwanted noise like snoring. A consideration here is that it will possibly also shut out any noise associated with an emergency, so caution is advised.
20. You should ensure that you have the appropriate amount of bed covers so as not to be too hot or cold.
21. Spraying some lavender around the bed or on the pillow can help induce sleep.
22. Try not to nap at lunchtime or in the afternoon as this could erode your sleep later on.
23. Try visualising a place you associate with calm and beauty, as you move into this space, leaving your cares and worries behind can enhance sleep.
24. Sleeping at night is a conditioned behaviour…. think how we train infants to sleep through the night. So, if you reward the brain when it wakes up during the night by watching a film or cooking food, it will continue to keep you awake. However, if you deprive the brain of reward, by doing boring repetitive tasks like polishing or ironing, and only go back to bed when physically tired, your brain will learn that being asleep is the better option.
25. If your sleep is interrupted by worry about, finances, relationships, health etc. log on to authentichappiness.org website and have a look at the ‘Wellbeing Wheel”. Choose two of the life areas under the PERMAH wheel to improve. By developing, a prompt, a routine and a reward, the routine will eventually become a habit of wellbeing. In this way, you can look at your life as a whole to see where you need to focus to grow and evolve. This will diminish worry and aid sleep.
26. People often talk about ‘going to sleep’ but we don’t go to a place, instead sleep comes to us. Our sleep can also be seen in contrast to how awake we are during the day. Perhaps being less concerned about our lack of sleep, and more mindful of how we spend our moments during the day we can learn more about our bodies’ sleep requirements by listening to our bodies’ needs in general.
Nick Banfield (MSc, CPsychol)
Whether, shielded, vulnerable, quarantined or in a local lockdown, Covid 19 means that a good many of us have and will be in isolation at some point. Since human beings are by nature sociable, isolation (beyond the odd pamper evening or man shed moment) is unwelcome and unwanted. Solitary confinement is after all considered a very harsh form of punishment. For those of us locked down and confined with families, small children, teenagers or seniors in relatively small spaces, the converse is also true. Loss of personal space and autonomy coupled with conflicting agendas and expectations can be stressful, tiring and fraught with anxiety. Here are some practical, proven steps we can take and pass on, to ensure we stay well and stay sane.
Soap and Water -
It probably goes without saying that handwashing is paramount in the fight against Covid 19. The virus has an outer layer that once breached with soap and hot water renders it harmless and kills it. Hand gels with more than 70% alcohol do the same thing but are hard on hands if used repeatedly. Use soap that lathers but not dish soap since this too, when used neat, strips the helpful oils from your hands.
Health workers have been advised on returning home to; strip off their clothes by the door, put them in the washing machine and then go directly to shower. Washing with soap and water seems ridiculously simple and easy to forget but it really can be the difference between life and death.
During an outbreak, food should be taken from its outer packaging and fresh food should be washed. Freezing will not kill Covid 19 but heating it to above 200 degrees centigrade will. Remember that supermarket produce is handled many times and fruit and vegetables can be flown from far away and on the shelf in less than 48 hours.
It’s tempting in isolation to console ourselves with food because we are: bored, stressed, anxious and fed up. We eat not to fuel our bodies but to; occupy, distract, comfort and reward ourselves. When so much seems out of our control and with so many activities denied us, we seek to satisfy our needs and appetites by eating.
Humans are programmed when stressed, to eat food high in sugars (for fight or flight) and high in fats and carbs (to create long term energy reserves). Our undernourished hunter- gatherer ancestor’s survival depended on this programming, not so for us. So, whilst a little bit of what you fancy may do you good, it’s estimated that the average weight gain during lockdown this year, in the UK, was 1 stone per adult.(Imagine 7 bags of sugar on your kitchen counter, imagine how much they weigh. Now imagine all that weight being transferred to your own body!)
The advice is to eat a balanced and varied diet. Drink water and stay hydrated, our bodies are over 60% water and to stay healthy we should be drinking 2.5 to 3.5 litres of water a day. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, some lean animal protein and a small amount of
dairy produce and carbohydrates. This approach is not just important in terms of weight but also for your bodily organs, skin, brain and your immune system.
Anything that we take into our bodies becomes a part of us. The food we eat is a big determiner of how fit and strong we are. There are currently no vaccines widely available to help us fight Covid 19, we have to rely on our bodies to fight it. Eat with that in mind.
Take the time to really enjoy what you eat. Turn off the TV and lap-top, put your food on a plate (even fruit or snacks) be aware of the size of portion. Enjoy how the food looks and smells before you ever get it to your mouth. Eat slowly and savour each mouthful. Try to chew your food well, before swallowing and be aware of the textures and the tastes. In this way, not only do you get the most pleasure from your food, but you are more likely to eat less. Eat mindfully and remember, ‘You are what you eat”.
Routine and Healthy habits-
During lockdown many found themselves still in their night clothes at 3 o clock in the afternoon, bedtimes started later, and morning routines were ditched. Human beings have evolved to be active in daylight hours and sleep at night, we are creatures of habit. Studies show that people who work night shifts for instance, have increased risk of certain cancers, as well as metabolic problems, heart disease, ulcers, gastrointestinal problems, and obesity. They also risk mental health problems such as depression, alongside a decrease in wellbeing and happiness.
Establishing and maintaining a routine is crucial to physical and mental health. Setting your alarm to get up, showering and dressing will prepare you for positive and constructive activities. Listing jobs that must be done and activities that you like to do, will add purpose to your time. Dividing that list into daily tasks and ticking each task off as you do them, will raise awareness of your accomplishments (no matter how small). This enhances your sense of self-worth and personal satisfaction.
Be sure schedule ‘up times’ of social contact where you talk to friends and family, ‘Zoom’,
‘What’s App’ or if appropriate talk to a next-door neighbour whilst socially distanced. You can tell them your plans or show them, what you have accomplished that day and get lots of positive (feel good) feedback. If it is safe to hug, get a hug because being touched and held
is very nourishing for us all, it lets us know we are loved and acknowledged, just for being us.
Stay active in lockdown. Keeping the blood pumping around your body and your muscles and skeleton active are more important than you might realise. You will have heard the saying, “Use it or lose it” human beings evolved to; walk and bend and stretch and lift and generally be active. When we neglect our body’s needs, we quickly lose these abilities and our health suffers (see previous article Exercise is Medicine)
Exercise does not have to involve squats and lunges, Lycra and weights or hours on a treadmill. 30 minutes moderate exercise a day will keep you fit. You could march whilst you mow, salsa whilst you sweep or just dance like no one is watching. Do something you enjoy; gardening, cleaning, and decorating are good exercise. Try walking around your house whilst talking on your phone. It doesn’t matter what you do but as Nike says “Just Do It.”
Neuroscientists and sleep researchers are only recently, fully understanding the power and importance of sleep. When we sleep, our bodies digest food, grow body tissues, repair cells, restore energy, and release molecules like hormones and proteins. Our brains store new information and get rid of toxic waste, whilst nerve cells communicate and reorganise. This all supports healthy brain functions such as learning, memory, problem solving, creativity, decision making, focus and concentration. Not surprisingly, sleep deprivation has a massive impact on physical health and mental wellbeing. Most adult humans should aim to have at least 6 hours sleep and function best on 8 hours sleep. Depression, anxiety, and stress; alongside obesity and many physical diseases are linked to lack of sleep. Anyone who thinks sleeping is a waste of their life couldn’t be more wrong. So, make sure your bedroom is at the right temperature, your bed is comfortable and inviting and that all brain stimulants (lights and screens, phones and music) are switched off 30 minutes before bedtime. Have a bath, drink a soothing (non-caffeinated) drink, get a lovely bedtime routine and aim for 8 hours sleep.
Lockdown and isolation can be tough. It can also be an opportunity to try new activities and learn more about ourselves. Looking after our health should not be optional. Taking care of our health has never been more important, it is part of caring for ourselves and it could be crucial if we get Covid 19.
You could choose to see Lockdown as the opportunity to get healthy, fit, and productive. Locking down could really free you up.
Nick Banfield (MSc, CPsychol)
Effective communication is challenging at the best of times and the current pandemic has created additional difficulties. We are grappling with, talking through masks, keeping a 2- metre distance, and communicating via technology. We are also coping with the uncertainty of not knowing; what we can/should be doing, when life will be normal and what the ‘new normal’ may require of us. However, this is not uncharted territory. The world has experienced pandemics before and we survived as a race due to our capacity to think positively, adapt and be resilient. Humans need to communicate and feel connected. So how can we best equip ourselves going forward? How can we best communicate during the Covid 19 pandemic?
1. Stick to the rules – give people their 2-meter personal space. During normal times, it should be 1-meter personal space and so we are just increasing it by1 meter.
2. Wear a mask when going into shops. This protects both yourself and others, including vulnerable people.
3. Choose wisely when considering going to pubs/restaurants/gatherings. Where there are more people, there could be a higher risk of infection.
4. Keep in touch with loved ones and friends. Do this face-to-face, if possible, as loneliness is the world’s biggest mental health killer.
5. During these times, think creatively about what you can achieve both for yourself and others. Think of lockdown as an opportunity to be constructive.
6. Concentrate on positives and use your strengths to engage in hobbies and activities to occupy your time productively. Get things done and learn new skills.
7. Connect with yourself by meditating. Over time this will provide you with a ‘place of peace’ whenever you feel overwhelmed.
8. Build ‘places of sanity’ in the community so that people feel supported. Work on the premise, “We will get through this together”.
9. Have a sense of humour. Laughter and fun are great medicines. Seek the smiles in yourself and others. Active Constructive Communication Responding in an active and positive way to someone who is communicating good news will result in stronger relationships. There are four styles of responding: Scenario - Someone says: “Hey, I have just landed this amazing project”. You can respond with:
• Active constructive – “Fantastic, tell us about it. What’s involved?”
• Passive constructive – “Oh, great”.
• Passive destructive - “I watched this funny video the other day….Lets have a look”.
• Active Destructive – “So how are you ever going to find the time? You are involved in so much”.
Character Strengths, Personal Beliefs and Communication
You can use your character strengths to respond in an active, constructive way. For example, if one of your strengths is bravery, you could initiate conversations with people you don’t know."
(You can identify your top character strengths by doing the free online questionnaire called VIA Character Strengths in the authentichappiness.org website. Do this in one sitting, because the system does not save information. Then print off all 24 strengths. You can then authenticate your top 3-5 strengths with friends, family, self, and coach. Use these strengths as much as possible and in different ways to flourish – experiencing high wellbeing.)
Different Communication Styles
• Passive – sends the message “You probably won’t listen to me, will you?” it stems from the belief – You are OK, I am not OK.
• Assertive – sends the message “I can trust you, you can trust me, so I am being honest and clear”. This stems from the belief - I am OK, you are OK.
• Aggressive – sends out the message “I think people will take advantage of me, if they detect a weakness”. This stems from the belief – I am OK, you are not OK. There are underlying beliefs/reasons for the style we use. Often, we adopt our mother’s communication style, although this is not always true. We can learn to be trustful and honest in our communications. The challenge is to ensure the tone, body language, pace and language is appropriate for the situation to get one’s needs met. The “I trust you” style is the assertive style which is valued here, and has the following attributes:
The steps of assertive communication to aid relationship resilience.
• State your situation and needs clearly
• Use a tone, language and pace which communicates trust, understanding, attention and action
• Describe the situation accurately and objectively
• Communicating concerns, asking the other person for their perspective
• Moving towards an acceptable change/compromise"
• Summarise the benefits from the discussion.
Surround yourself with positive relationships, if possible, and have the ability to identify ‘toxic’ ones and minimise or exclude them. This is particularly difficult when involved in a ‘toxic’ relationship but understanding the relationship dynamics and your role within them can offer options for trying new approaches.
"RELATIONSHIPS" Partner Compatibility - Is she/he the right one for me? The following is a compatibility list of areas you can use when searching for a suitable partner. Physical attraction, including personality, is important but compatibility and character is associated with longevity in the relationship. There are 10 compatibility styles. It is not expected that we should be compatible with our partner in all styles, but we should aim for over 60 percent as a rough guide. Also, there may be one specific area which is a ‘deal breaker’. In this case the style is deemed essential and the relationship won’t work without it. These styles are:
1. Physical style – attraction, diet, fitness, personal hygiene, wellbeing.
2. Emotional style – romantic and affection, how he/she treats you, how he/she shows feelings, how he/she perceives the relationship.
3. Social style – personality traits, does he/she communicate easily with others, including friends and family.
4. Intellectual style – educational background, approach to growth, culture, environment.
5. Sexual style – attitude, skill and ability to enjoy.
6. Communication style – articulate, easy to approach.
7. Professional/financial style – attitude to work, money success, blend with family.
8. Open to Growth – self-development, open to change, prepared to work on the relationship.
9. Spiritual style – belief in a higher power, spiritual practice, attitude to life, values.
10. Interests and hobbies – creative strengths, music, etc. FATAL FLAWS (With the appropriate support and willingness to change, some of these flaws do not have to be fatal.)
• Addictions – to involve yourself with someone with an addiction, is incredibly challenging and in most cases fraught with stress and unhappiness.
• Anger – we all feel angry sometimes, and there is nothing wrong with this, if it is channelled in THE RIGHT WAY. If not, the anger is in control. This is abnormal, inappropriate, and damaging. Hence, some animal rights organisations do not always use aggressive means to get their message across, but also use softer options, like demonstrations.
• Self- centred ‘victimisation’, that is, ‘It is always someone else’s fault”.
• Control freak – someone who wants to control you and others. This is often accumulative over time. Personal boundaries are pushed and pushed until they are breached.
• Sexual dysfunction – includes sex addiction, sexual dysfunction – this area does not have to be fatal if your partner can get the correct support and are willing to change their behaviour.
• Hasn’t grown up – perhaps financially irresponsible, not reliable, immature, and parenting them spoils the relationship.
• Not open with emotions – this is not a relationship; it’s an existence.
• Still being plagued by past relationships – the more someone’s heart is crowded with anger for a past relationship, the less space there is for love in the present one.
• Emotional trauma from childhood – your partner’s preparedness to confront their mental programming and to change, will reduce the effects of a fatal flaw. Qualities to look for in a partner:
• Personal growth commitment – they will be more open to change.
• Open to emotions – will be able to express love, joy and emotions honestly.
• Integrity - will value honesty and there will be trust in the relationship.
• Mature and responsible – breeds respect and the relationship will flourish.
• High self-esteem – your partner is proud of themselves, of you, and the relationship.
• Positive attitude – breeds resilience & grit, and success, as these people don’t give up. Setbacks in life are likely to be overcome with a positive attitude. In summary, for a relationship to work, 3 things are needed: chemistry, compatibility, and commitment. When there is commitment, more energy is channelled into the relationship, as there is ownership. Like the difference between renting and owning a car or house. Ask the question: “Does this relationship feel right”? Perhaps the most important quality of all is CHARACTER, this lies below the surface of personality. What are your partner’s character- strengths and do you recognise each other’s character strengths? Getting to know our partners is a life-long experience. Some of the guidelines above may hopefully assist you in this venture.
Nick Banfield (MSc, CPsychol)
- Positive Communication and Connections
Learn the Art of Self-Compassion Self- compassion is the basic building block of self-esteem and underlies the ability to bounce back from adversity. Refute negative self-talk which erodes self-esteem and self-care. Be kind and gentle to yourself and forgive yourself for not having the foresight to know what is now so obvious in hindsight.
Use events as learning experiences. The Chinese symbol for crisis is made up of the two symbols for danger plus opportunity. Be motivated, not debilitated by stress. Learn from adversity and grow from it.
Alter your perceptions. As Epictetus said in 1 A.D., “It is not events which
disturb us, but our view of those events.”
Enhance rational thinking to prevent negativity from spinning out of control! The quality of our thoughts determines the quality of our lives. Limit distorted all-or-nothing thinking.
Limit the hostility factor. The negativity and anger we harbor for others are more destructive to the one who harbors the resentment. Be generous and giving in spirit and avoid a negative focus.
Strive for GOODNESS, not PERFECTION! Give up the need to be right. Limit defensiveness. Accept limitations. Let go of “shoulds” which make one bitter.
Develop compassion and empathy to others. Choose kindness over being right. Resist the need to be critical and judgmental. We are all works in progress and people do the best they can with what they have at the time.
Develop good self-care habits. Allow yourself “mental health breaks” and “time out” regularly. Take care of needs in mind, body, and spirit. Eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep. Pamper yourself. Set limits, prioritize, and delegate.
Don’t isolate yourself – CONNECT! Avoid self-absorption. Seek to understand – not to only be understood.
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Look for the humor in things. Lighten up! Life is too serious to be taken too seriously. Accept that life isn’t fair!
Develop mindfulness. Learn to live in the present. Don’t ruminate on events, which can’t be changed and worrying about the future limits fully experiencing the present. Focus on what you can control, not what’s out of your control. Be solution-focused, not problem-focused.
Have a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset sees achievements and being above average as vital to self-worth. A growth mindset values learning, growth and effort, which leads to resiliency and flexibility.
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