How to maintain mental health in times of uncertainty.
With New Zealand now in lockdown in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic here are some tips to help you maintain your mental health during this challenging time.
1. Control the controllables
Focusing on things outside our control can have a negative effect on our mental state. This can negatively affect your motivation, your energy levels and your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. While it’s important to acknowledge the things that are outside of your control, it’s important to refocus on the things that are within your control.
2. Stay structured and remember self care
Looking after yourself includes exercise, making healthy dietary choices, having a healthy sleep routine and maintaining structure in your day. Schedule in specific times to exercise, intentionally connect with family and friends (within the boundaries of social distancing guidelines), and do things you enjoy or find purpose and meaning in.
3. Know your strengths and values
Use your character strengths and core values to guide your decisions and actions. In a time of uncertainty, the most certain things you have are your values. Rather than being guided by worry or unhelpful thinking styles, think about what’s important to you (values) and ways to cope that you would be proud of (strengths). Be guided by the question: “What is helpful right now?” And remember, mood is contagious. Think about what the most helpful way of thinking and acting will be not only for yourself but for your family and those around you.
4. Worry is normal – choose helpful worry strategies
Try to use problem-solving (helpful) worry rather than unhelpful worry which goes around in circles and doesn’t reach a solution or conclusion. Problem-solving is structured, solution-focused and logical. Questions to help you apply a problem-solving approach to worry are:
- What am I worried about?
- Is the outcome, or any part of the outcome, within my control?
- If yes, what can I do about it (what actions can I take)?
- What are the pros and cons to each possible action?
- Which action makes the most sense and how/when will I implement this plan
5. Focus on short-term goals
There are multiple reasons you feel uncertain at the moment – these include uncertainty about your career, finances, your own and your family’s health, the timeline of the pandemic, etc. In times of uncertainty, realistic short-term goals are important. Think about what you’d like to achieve over the next week and how you’re going to achieve that. You can have multiple goals across a range of areas including social/family, community commitments, physical, self-development (e.g. learning a new skill, studying), etc. You may also write a list of things you’ve been putting off and start to tick them off (while still following social distancing policies)
6. Stay connected
Social connection is important for our mental health, so think of other ways you can connect with friends and family while adhering to medical advice to distance yourself. This can include technologies such as video calling (FaceTime, Skype, etc) and instant messaging, but don’t be afraid to get creative in ways to stay connected throughout this challenging time.
7. Practise gratitude
Experiencing a range of emotions is completely understandable at this time; but there are still ways to use gratitude to keep things in perspective. Gratitude practices can be as simple as listing the three best moments of your day, or the three things you’re most grateful for about today. Paying attention to the things that we have can be a useful strategy at any time, but particularly in times of uncertainty.
8. Stay informed, within reason
It’s important to get your information from reliable sources, which include your doctor and the Department of Health. Set yourself reasonable boundaries and try not to spend too much time checking different information sources as this can increase anxiety and worry.
More information: www.covid19.govt.nz
9. Seek help if needed
If you would like more information on any of these points, please make contact with the Vodafone Warriors' wellbeing provider Le Va. Le Va provides a confidential counselling service on 0800 360 364.
This information was provided by NRL consulting clinical psychologist Dr Lyndel Abbott and the NRL/RLPA wellbeing and education team