Coronavirus Diary – Page 5 (Staying mentally well)

As you may have read on some of my previous posts, I have been really struggling mentally with the lockdown. I know that this isn’t easy for anyone, but when you have difficulties with your mental health, or even if you have in the past, then this is an extremely overwhelming time. I would just like to point out to anybody who doesn’t know me personally, I am not trained in mental health or psychotherapy in any way. This is just my experience and things that I have found that help me. There are also a few techniques that were suggested by my CBT Psychotherapist. Although I am not actually seeing her any more, she kindly sent me some information that she thought may help me with this.

In the past I have overcome huge battles with anxiety, depression and PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder). This situation is very unsettling for everybody and can easily stir up old feelings that were once quite processed and filed away. Last year I was having cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and they explained something called the linen cupboard method. This is where you imagine that all of the towels and sheets that go in the cupboard represent your feelings. Sometimes your feelings get screwed up and squashed into the cupboard, hidden quickly and easily, but not properly. Because things aren’t in properly, the doors won’t shut properly, and the slightest nudge can make everything fall out. The job of CBT was to empty the cupboard, get all of your feelings out. Then look at them, fold them up and put them back properly. When they are all back properly and they have been dealt with, the doors can close properly, hopefully forever. This did work really well for me and I felt like finally the past was in the past. My bad memories were still there, but they weren’t painful and didn’t cause me anxiety. However this unusual situation we are in feels like my cupboard is starting to open again and things are starting to slide forward. I have been getting feelings that I had dealt with only last year. This does worry me, but I am doing my very best to keep control of those feelings and not let them control me.

If you want to read in more detail about the feelings I have been experiencing, I have covered them in the other Coronavirus Diary posts. I don’t want to keep repeating myself and I’m sure that you don’t want me to either. So for now I would like to concentrate on things that might be helpful to other people who are struggling. If there is one thing I have learnt over the years, it is that you are never alone when it comes to feelings, even if it feels like you are. There is always somebody out there who can relate to how you feel. So here are a few things that are keeping me going at the moment.

It’s OK to be not OK

When the lockdown first started I felt bad for feeling the way I did. I was so desperate to escape and if I had anywhere to go, I would have gone. That’s not because I don’t care about other people, it’s because mentally I just couldn’t accept what was happening. I felt like I was being judged for complaining all the time when really I have nothing to complain about. I’m well and everybody I know is well, which I am so grateful for. But this is a huge change to life which was causing a lot of anxiety and old PTSD related feelings. My need to escape wasn’t because I was being selfish, it was because I felt trapped and I was scared that having to stay in for so long would make me mentally unwell. I need to be out, keeping myself busy and seeing different people to keep my mind well and I knew that from experience. A lot of people just didn’t seem to understand that. A friend told me today that I shouldn’t feel bad for feeling the way i do. I have my reasons for feeling this way. Just like everyone else has their reasons for feeling the way they do.

So if anybody else is mentally struggling with this and feeling like you are being judged. Please remember that you have real and valid reasons for feeling the way you do, there is nothing wrong with that. Other people haven’t been through the same things that you have.

Keep in touch

When you are feeling isolated it is easy to slip into the trap of encouraging the isolation. This doesn’t happen intentionally, but sometimes the less i do something, the less i want to do. So you may not keep in touch with people as much. People that you see every day, you may not normally phone or keep in touch online with. So it’s easy to forget that is an option. Just because you are not used to doing it. A friend who I usually see every week when I am volunteering phoned me today. I kind of forgot how nice it was to speak to somebody properly and hear their voice. I didn’t even think about phoning her until she suggested it, because we usually just text and then catch up properly when we see each other. So using your phone as a phone does make things feel more normal.

Video calls are the in thing now more than ever. It’s a way of seeing the people you love, without having to travel. It’s clever and I like the idea of it, but something about it makes me nervous. I have never actually tried it, but I think it’s going to be happening at some point during the lockdown.

Social media and email are also brilliant ways to keep in touch with people. Where would we be now if we didn’t have all of this technology? We would be very lonely and even more isolated.

Please don’t isolate yourself more than you need to. Find new ways of doing things and come up with new ideas. Keep your friends and family close. Or as close as they can be.

Limit your news intake

There is so much negative news around at the moment and it is easy to get bombarded and overwhelmed. There is news on the TV, radio, social media, apps, absolutely everywhere! A lot of this information is either not accurate or it is just repetitive. Reading every single news update and social media post isn’t helpful. I have started limiting how much I read and even think about everything that is going on at the moment. I have started watching the news on TV once a day to keep myself updated and that is all. After that I clear news notifications without reading them, Any social media posts that seem to be about the virus, I stop reading and even conversations about it that are causing me anxiety, I try to avoid. This is extremely hard in the circumstances, but it can be done. I am not completely blocking out what is happening, and of course I really do feel sorry for the people who have the virus or have lost loved ones because of it. I am just trying to limit my stress and anxiety as much as possible. This has actually helped me quite a lot and it has been recommended by mental health professionals.

Do things together

It is good to remember that even though you are not in the same house as your friends, it doesn’t mean that you can’t still do things together. In normal life me and my boyfriend love going to the cinema. A big part of that is talking about the film, so he came up with the idea of having long distance film nights. So we choose a film one night and stream it at the same time. Afterwards we talk about the film as we usually would, but over the phone. We do this over a phone call so that we can talk properly and hear each others voices as we would if we had been to the cinema. I always thought this sounded a nice idea, but I wasn’t really sure how well it would work. My boyfriend (Idea Guy) was living up to his name and trying really hard to think of things to cheer me up. And actually our film nights do make things feel a lot more normal. We have something to plan and look forward to. Then on the night, just sharing that experience makes us feel closer. As close as we can be in the circumstances. So give it a go, get some popcorn in and some sweets and make things feel as normal as they can. I really would recommend this.

If films aren’t really your thing then stick on a series or a show that you are both into. Or you could do some sewing or knitting, using the same pattern and send photos to each other or a video. Find another way of doing something together, even though you are not together. It will give you something new to talk about if nothing else.

Worry time

My CBT Psychotherapist has sent me some information about how to cope with the Coronavirus situation. One of the things that I found really interesting is called worry time. I haven’t actually tried this out myself yet but I do think it sounds a very good thing to try.

If you are feeling very overwhelmed and anxious most of the time, either because of the virus, the lockdown, or even something else then this is a good way of keeping control of your feelings. The idea is to plan two time slots in a day, maybe an hour long for each. In these times you are free to worry as much as you like. You can cry, scream or do whatever feels right in those time slots. If you find yourself worrying out of these time slots, then it’s not allowed and you have to try and do something to distract yourself. You have to try and stay focussed and calm until the next worry time slot.

This is the same kind of thing as limiting the news. It won’t do any good to completely avoid the thing that you are anxious about, but keeping control of when it happens will help you feel better. That is one thing that I struggle with as I’m sure many other people do too. When big changes are out of my control it makes me really anxious and unsettled. So it’s good to find healthy ways of keeping control of smaller aspects of life.

Mindfulness

One thing that really does help me to relax is mindfulness. For some reason though it is something I never seem to think of doing for myself. It’s only when somebody suggests it that I think about it and I do quite like it. So find a quiet space or stick on some relaxing music and give this a try. You can sit in a comfy chair, or lay somewhere. Anywhere that you can feel relaxed. Give yourself a few minutes to try and settle in a comfy position.

Look around you. Look at all of the objects that are around you, think about the patterns, the colours, the shapes. Concentrate on what you can see, if your mind wanders then bring it back to focus. Let other thoughts just pass by, don’t hold onto them. Let them go and get back on track. Think about what you can smell and the noises you can hear. Listen to your breath. Are your breaths deep or shallow? Don’t control your breathing, just focus on what is happening naturally. Think about where in your body you first feel your breath. Think about your body. Think about your feet, your legs, your hips, your tummy, your back, your hands, your arms, your shoulders, your neck, your mouth, your cheeks, your eyes and your head. Let them all relax as you think about each part individually. And sit or lay as you are for a few minutes, nice and relaxed.

If this does work for you, remember to move slowly and carefully as you come round. Just like you would after a good night’s sleep. I don’t know if I’m that good at this, but take it steady anyway. This is actually my first time writing about mindfulness so please let me know if it does work for you. Writing about it has actually made me feel quite relaxed.

Finally

I really hope that some of this helps you. It is an extremely tough time at the moment for some more than others. Remember that we are all different and that we all deal with things in different ways, because of the different life experiences we have faced. There is no right or wrong, just different. So can everyone please try and keep that in mind. Also try to remember that not everybody wants to talk about it. If you don’t mind, I won’t tell you to stay safe because if somebody says that to me one more time, I am going to scream! Stay strong and look after yourselves and those around you. We can do this.

xx ❤ xx

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