No matter how upbeat and positive we aim to be at this unprecedented time, for many, this is an additional struggle to our daily norm.  There are a number of factors that cause us to and maintain low mood or poor mental health, including; life events such as the death of a family member or friend, relationship difficulties, job stress, financial worry, physical health stress, and limited social contact.  Clearly, many of these factors will affect us at this time, limited social contact and financial worry perhaps being the main ones.  This can make us anxious, numb and detached.  Sleep patterns change and make it harder for you to cope with physical and mental demands.  Our behaviours can change; withdrawing, not caring about yourself, not doing the things that you enjoy and neglecting your day to day duties.  

A few weeks ago I was just a few months into a complete change of career, moving away from my stable monthly salary and completing new qualifications to set up my own business in Aromatherapy.  I had finally finished a three-year Master's in Mental Health Psychology and was nervously awaiting the results (which I since received and passed - without being able to celebrate at the local pub!).  I was struggling with my own mental health and was referred again to the mental health team through my GP surgery.  Little did I know that all of this was to come.

Having moved to a new area just over a year ago, my two children still live with their father 45 minutes away, to maintain their friendship groups, schooling, and their rugby clubs (a hard enough decision in itself).  My parents live in Devon, where my 85-year-old dad with macular degeneration and a history of heart conditions cares for my mother who has in the last year herself been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, already suffering from osteoporosis.  I have no idea for the time being when I will see them all again, and the impact of that on Mother's Day was a struggle.

None of this makes me unique, for we all have our share of life hurdles to surmount.  My community and many of those that we live in today is already limited, but to reduce this further and to restrict our social contact will understandably have a great effect.

Neither does my mental health make me unique, for over 1 in 4 of us do or will suffer and the degree of this can vary from person to person.  What we are all sharing at the moment is the common element that we are isolated for how long no one knows and we are definitely fearful.  

Like many I have had to close my business for the time being, in its infancy, I have no salary from this as yet and no premises, but equally no money in the bank and no foreseeable income.  I too like many have my outgoings and my mortgage to consider.

I have self-isolated for a week now, and as we teeter on the edge of full lockdown, the stories of greed and contrasting acts of sheer human kindness swirl around my mind daily, amplified by what I read on social media and hear on the news.  I try to focus on what I can achieve from this and how I can use my own knowledge and skills to help myself and others.  

Without a daily goal, many may start to struggle, the worries of what is going on around us and the distancing from those we love will make us feel more alone and helpless to situations.  Feelings of loneliness, fear of the unknown and of the uncertainly of whether we will survive this and quite how to begin to circulate.

What we need to remember at this time, is that this is normal, worrying is a natural emotion from time to time, but when it weighs us down, this is the time that we need to begin to address it.  There are many ways that we can do this, and whilst most are normally exercise, socialising and enjoying hobbies, some of these may not be possible due to restrictions of isolation and social distancing.

Meditation can provide a natural release and there are many apps, such as; Calm and Headspace that provide support.  Just changing things around the home and rearranging space is also a way you can inspire inner changes and personal growth.  These don't have cost money and could simply involve having an early spring clean and a de-clutter.  

Create an anti worry playlist of the songs that uplift you when you feel the most stress or anxiety.  If you learn to realise what sets you spiraling into worry then thinking of a few ways that can bring you back to the present moment can help.  One way that helps me is writing.  this doesn't have to be anything that you share, but simply offloading your thoughts and concerns onto the page.  Writing down your happy thoughts before you go to sleep is a great way to promote a more positive mindset for rest.  

Writing down some positive mantra's and have them located around the house to remind you, is another great way to promote self positivity.  One of my favourites is "Better a whoops than a what if".  Remember all of the things in your life that are going right and all of the things that you have.  Unplug from social media for a while, as at times like this it can drain our mental wellbeing.  Write a letter to someone, or to your future self.  Take a moment to call someone, a friend or a family member, rather than sending a message.  Talking promotes a sense of wellbeing and connects us to others around us again.  

Mistakes are a natural part of life, and at times like this, they can manifest themselves again.  Writing them down can stop the rumination of them and the cycle of self-criticism.  Write them down and cross them out one by one, or rip them up.  Or write them on a balloon and pop them one by one.  Each provides a physical acknowledgment to move on and let go.  

Find new talents or rediscover those that you have not used for a while.  Talk to yourself like you would your best friend, be compassionate and identify those in your inner circle that impact the way that you feel about life and yourself.  Perhaps you need to take a step back from those that drain from you at this time.

Most of all allow yourself some free worry time passes, self-expression is vital to us as humans, as releasing these emotions is resetting our factory settings in our brain.  By using these free worry passes you can give yourself time to feel it all, preferably talking it through with someone close to you, and then move on.

Where there is darkness there is always light and a glass half empty is also half full.  Keep your own fuel tank, your emotional tank regularly topped up with the things around you that can make you happy.  Learn something new online, there are plenty of free courses, take part in an online exercise or craft class or visit a virtual art gallery or place of interest.

This too shall pass.  We will all learn vital new skills and ways of living from this and whilst our lives will change maintaining a positive mindset and undertaking some new ways of filling our time and reducing our worries can help.  We all suffer more in the imagination than in reality, and that does not detract from anyone's situation.  A fearful mind will always struggle to think straight and solve problems that lie ahead of us.  Especially when we have children at home and those of us that are lucky enough to be are also trying to work from home.  Do not make your children feel like they are in the way and it's an inconvenience them being at home, for they too are worried.  

Become more centered, and each day you will see that there is a way forward.  Calm your daily fears and create a little bit more certainty to move forward mentally and combat your worries and fears.  

For any support or ideas that you may have please do feel free to share them in the comments and if you have found this helpful please do share

For the time being, I will be using my business page to better support mental health

Stay safe, well and sane xx


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