It’s OK To Say: dealing with the challenges of coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 09:23 06 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:40 06 April 2020

It's OK To Say: We might be cut off from each other physically at the moment, but don't cut yourself off emotionally. Picture: Claire Spake

It's OK To Say: We might be cut off from each other physically at the moment, but don't cut yourself off emotionally. Picture: Claire Spake

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Coronavirus and mental health are a volatile combination. Are you struggling through the crisis or embracing the time with your family? Stacey Turner, founder of mental health awareness campaign It’s OK To Say, offers advice on how to get through this emotional storm.

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Considered the greatest challenge to our way of life since WWII, coronavirus has everyone frightened, but if there has ever been a time to support, show love and understanding, it is now and we can show that in many ways.

Unlike during the war, our modern ways allow us to stay connected and we’re able to offer more help. This is a heightened time and has the ability to provoke so many feelings, just as it can bring the best and the worst out in people.

It’s OK To Say’s very own GP, Dr Phillippa Smith says: “It’s OK to be scared, it’s OK to be sad, I am too, but there is always hope, love and kindness.”

“So far, this has been an unsettling time for us all, children, parents, teachers and doctors alike, and some of the negative behaviour we have witnessed is upsetting but I think this is all because people are scared and worried.

“At work I have seen a huge increase in anxiety, both in patients and staff, but I find this is reduced by talking and supporting each other.

“Also getting some fresh air, taking a walk, listening to music can all help. Trying to stick to a routine can also alleviate some anxieties too.

“I feel a lot of this is like a grief reaction. People are grieving loss and it’s OK to grieve.

“We have all lost something already - lost time with our friends, seeing grandparents, finishing school, taking our exams we have worked so very hard towards.

“I grieve all the things I’ve had to Tippex out of my diary - children’s activities, sports, competitions, races, parties and holidays.

“But we are all pulling together to get through this... I’ve seen my team make amazing things happen in days that would have normally taken months of planning (and arguing!) Hospitals are ready, they have the most fantastic people working for the NHS who will always go above and beyond to do their best.

“Pollution has reduced, communities are coming together to help vulnerable people. We can do this, we can help protect our elderly at risk - these are the very people who lost so much when they were our age - they went to war, they lost loved ones, they changed their lives all so that we could live freely.

“We have so much support via digital technology - we may be isolating but we are not alone

“So it’s OK to be scared. It’s OK to be sad. But this will make us stronger and we will grow. There is always hope, love and kindness.”

It’s OK To Say founder Stacey said: “From where I sit, I am really concerned how people are coping, what is being provoked and if people are reaching out for help.

“At the time of writing, Boris Johnson has just announced an official lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus and ultimately save lives.

“While the nation adapts and is coming to terms with this fact, a natural shift is occurring and while some are good at change, many aren’t, and we need to face this.

“While difficult, a new rhythm of life is required, at least for a while to play our part in turning the tide.

“What you do now can make a huge difference to yourself, those living with you, and significantly impact the community around you.”

Stacey’s Big 8 objectives

- STAY AT HOME!

- Put mental health support in place;

-Talk to your children openly to minimise the negative impact on them;

- Keep moving and exercise inside and outside;

- Eat well and nourish the body;

- Reach out for help and ask for help, there are no burdens here!

- Try to anticipate stress and be mindful;

- Embrace this gifted time;

The way ahead may seem hard, but, there is a way through and we will come through because you are stronger than you realise.

Face coronavirus and acknowledge what is being stirred up. As if peering into a bowl, observe your thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, sensation and urges. Most importantly, acknowledge these on a daily basis and find a way to get them out, you might find writing letters, keeping a journal or creating a coronaviryus time capsule helpful.

It’s OK To Say’s own clinical psychologist, Dr Rebecca Adlington has highlighted these practical and actionable steps by Dr Russ Harris, author of the Happiness Trap.

F = Focus on what’s in your control

A = Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings

C = Come back into your body

E = Engage in what you’re doing

C = Committed action

O = Opening up

V = Values

I = Identify resources

D = Disinfect and distance

Focus: The single most useful way thing anyone can do in a crisis is focus on what’s in your control!

Stacey added, let’s find our brave and let the rest go with an imaginary bucket. Write all the things down you can control and put to one side. Now, write all the things down you can’t control, like coronavirus itself, the future and the actions of others. Tear up each point, crumple it and dump it in your bucket! What’s important is the hear and now and right now, that’s all that matters. Catch your intrusive thoughts (because they’re just that) and stand up to them.

Acknowledge: Acknowledging your thoughts and feelings through what is a national emergency and an ongoing crisis allows for space within your world for a more positive response. You’re not escaping, avoiding or distracting yourself; you’re gaining control.

Come back into your body: Connect with yourself and find your own way of managing COVID-19.

Engage: Gain a sense of where you are and bring focus. Try this exercise: notice five things you can see; notice four things you can feel; notice three things you can hear; notice two things you can smell; notice what you’re doing.

You might like to end the exercise with some deep breathing and then give your full attention to the activity. You can practice this ‘dropping anchor’ exercise yourself by visiting www.actmindfully.com.au

Committed Action: You will have a lot of control over your emotions and actions by practicing the ‘drop anchor’ exercise, ideally practice this daily, it only takes a few minutes. This makes us more effective when it comes to strictly adhering to the current protective measures. Now consider: What are simple ways to look after yourself? What kind and caring support can you offer via phone, text or email? What are the most effective ways to use this time? Throughout the day, ask yourself ‘what can I do right now’ and do it fully engaged.

Opening up: Make room for difficult feelings, as they may keep showing up, as this crisis unfolds. Don’t quarantine them, sit with them, acknowledge them and allow them space (even if they hurt). Fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, guilt, loneliness, frustration, confusion are normal human reactions. It is what we do with them that is most important. Practice self-compassion, self-care and self-kindness.

Values: Committed action should be guided by your core values. Consider the following: What are kind, caring ways you can treat yourself as you go through this? What are kind words you can say to yourself, kind deeds you can do for yourself? What are kind ways you can treat others who are suffering? What are kind, caring ways of contributing to the wellbeing of your community? What can you say and do that will enable you to look back in years to come and feel proud of your response?

Identify resources for help. Make a list of family, friends, neighbours, health professional and emergency services. Who is your leading source of information during this crisis?

Disinfect and distance physically: In respect of others and for the greater good of your community, practice D&D! I emphasise physical distancing, not cutting yourself off emotionally and from others. Align it within your core values and see it as an important aspect of committed action.

Give yourself time to ground and face the way forward, gain control over your actions and what is happening right now. Use social media, the internet and delivery services. Ask for help and be kind and know that all the above are truly caring actions and finally, what are you grateful for?


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