A Psychologist’s Advice On Mental Wellbeing During Covid-19

While every individual is of course affected differently, the impact that COVID-19 has on mental health is undeniable – in particular for our industry, as business owners shut down indefinitely and practitioners lose their jobs. These devastating consequences, coupled with the stressors of practising self-isolation, not seeing family and loved ones, constant negative news and the staggering (and often contradictory) amount of information available, can often be overwhelming.

Dr Rebekah Doley

SPA+CLINIC chatted to Rebekah Doley, Gwinganna’s resident Clinical & Forensic Psychologist, so that we could pass onto you some wisdom on coping and maintaining a positive outlook. According to Rebekah, the keys are ‘adapting and enriching’.

“In these uncertain times, we’re all facing unforeseen and sudden economic and lifestyle challenges”, says Rebekah. “Our brain wiring is processing fear and triggering our fight/flight/freeze pattern. It is hard to always show up as the best version of ourselves.”

“A big part of thriving in adversity is maintaining a sense of purpose, meaning, and self-control. Here are two important ways in which you can adapt and enrich your experience in these difficult global times.”

  1. Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Research suggests that being both gives you a greater prospect of contentment. “Realistic optimists” combine the positive outlook of optimists with the rational, unemotive perspective of pessimists. You have a clear-eyed view of your current struggles and the challenges ahead. This facilitates creativity, judgement, pro-active decision-making and a sense of self-control. Thinking, “I have no choice”, paints you into a corner. Considering, “I have choices, some not so palatable” gives your brain the capacity for self-direction. Reframe the challenges you are experiencing in order to focus on the control you DO have rather than the helplessness you may feel.
  2. Maintain structure: We are fundamentally creatures of habit and our system responds well when we follow a structured outline. Set yourself goals each day. There is currently a wealth of information available about online exercise classes, the importance of calling rather than texting, opportunities for video-social gatherings while maintaining social distancing requirements, and myriad lists of recommended podcasts, youtube videos and audiobooks to discover. Do something every day for exercise, relaxation, connection and, most importantly, every day invest time in something that feels important to you. These are necessary steps in the right direction to giving life meaning, under any circumstance.

“Remember that we are built to be threat-sensitive; that is in our inherent wiring. But we also have an “evolved” brain which is capable of logic, rationalisation, problem solving and goal achievement. Have compassion for the part of you that feels fearful and uncertain, offer soothing through finding meaning and purpose in what is available to you RIGHT NOW, avoid ruminating on what might have been and let go of injustice – these things get in the way of your ability to rise to the extraordinary circumstances we are all facing today. If you have tried these strategies and feel that you are not able to maintain or restore a sense of equilibrium, telehealth services are available – contact your local health provider for more information.”

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