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Protecting your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Protecting your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, there is evidently a growing sense of distress amongst the public – from panic-buying at supermarkets to wearing several layers of masks for fear of being infected. While ensuring our physical well-being is of great importance, we cannot deny that our mental health is also equally important – especially during the stress of a pandemic. The ever-changing situation can cast a shadow of uncertainty over us, creating feelings of vulnerability and helplessness. 

However, allowing coronavirus related fear to overcome us certainly isn’t the way to go. Let’s take a look at how we can help ourselves by avoiding the pitfalls of anxiety and depression.

CNN recently published an article on how to keep coronavirus fears from placing an undue burden on our mental well-being. In the same vein, we would like to emphasise the utmost importance of self-care during these trying times. 

In the context of this pandemic, what does self-care entail? By keeping our minds from straying into muddled uncertainty, we can avoid the toxicity of excessive worry – with the world already so volatile, it’s in our best interest to try to stay cool-headed to better make decisions. There’s no point expending precious processing power on unwarranted concerns. With the influx of information and ease of access to social media, it can be mentally exhausting if we choose to hang on every update. If you feel the urge to check your phones for up-to-date news constantly, learn to walk away. Know when to put away your phones if necessary.

Depending on the individual, the idea of self-care may vary, but ultimately, it is still a means of managing our stress and anxiety levels. 

During this period, some of you may well experience higher levels of mental stress. Worry over your own health and your loved ones’ may consume your mind, in turn leading to knock on effects such as – changes in sleep and eating habits; worsening of chronic illnesses; and increased substance usage. Needless to say, we would do well to guard against the deterioration of our mental health, to better cope with our negative emotions appropriately.

Connecting with our own feelings is a great place to start. It’s important to stay in touch with our feelings, taking care to identify our worries and concerns. Try naming your emotions. It sounds simple enough, but you’ll soon learn that there are nuances that set apart sensations, emotions and feelings. 

Is there anything specific about the situation that is heightening your stress level? Emotional awareness is often neglected, with some studies showing that only 1-in-3 people have the ability to correctly identify them. If you have reached a state of panic or hysteria regarding the virus, you might want to start considering how realistic your concerns are. There is a high chance that we often over-magnify our fears and underestimate our capacity to handle the situation. 

As mentioned, there is a need for us to remain cool-headed and not plagued by excessive worry in these trying times. Here are some tips that may help you to get through this difficult time, if you ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or fear.

Firstly, it is of great importance to consider if your worry is solvable. Is the problem within your control? In the case of the COVID-19, you may be constantly worrying about contracting the virus. However, if you are certain that you have done your part, such as washing your hands occasionally and not touching your face unnecessarily, does worrying excessively help in any way?

In some cases, excessive anxiety may cause one to hyperventilate – and this is where proper breathing techniques will come to your rescue. The 7/11 breathing technique is an exercise where one breathes in for a count of 7 seconds and exhales for a subsequent count of 11 seconds. This exercise is very simple, yet proven to be extremely effective in helping one regain his or her composure. Try this for approximately 5 minutes (or whatever duration that is best for you), and you’ll eventually feel calmer and be able to think more clearly.

Remember, while you may not have power over what happens to you, you are able to control how you react to it hence your state of mind. 

Avoidance and escapism from acknowledging the root of our uneasiness is not a healthy method of coping. Coming to terms with and recognising our concerns can in fact help us to better seek social support. Stay connected and start talking to the people you trust. Talk to them about your feelings and worries. Get them to share theirs too, and by the end of it, you’ll realise that you are not alone. Understanding others’ perspectives on the situation and recognising that they are most probably experiencing the same concerns will surely help to calm your nerves and help you feel less lonely and vulnerable.

It is also important that we spend more time with our families and friends. Taking a break from our busy lifestyles and hectic work schedules will benefit your mental health. Make sure to take time off to unwind, and to do activities that you enjoy. This could mean exercising, socialising, or some form of recreation in your spare time. 

Although socialising may be slightly more of a challenge due to the increased need for social distancing, it is still largely possible, especially with technological advancements. Now and then, you can opt to organise your own get-together through ‘Zoom’ or ‘Skype’, and perhaps have lunch with your friends over video-calls. Do you have something you’ve always wanted to learn, but could never find time for? Well, this might just be the right time for it too. In addition, some places of interest have started providing virtual tours. With this, one can explore and discover new areas whilst staying in the comforts of his/her home. With countless things to do on the internet, one can easily find various means to unwind and to de-stress. 

Doing things you love will help to ease the burden on your shoulders and distract you from your fears and concerns. Life goes on even with the COVID-19 situation, and constant worrying is in nobody’s interests.

One crucial thing to note is that you should never feel guilty or ashamed of your fears, and neither should you blame yourself for worrying. It is completely normal to worry, especially with uncertainty at every turn. After all, evolutionary biology dictates that it’s perfectly natural to feel threatened and afraid during a pandemic.

Do not hesitate to seek help and support when the going gets tough. If you ever find yourself barely treading water, there’s absolutely no shame in reaching for a helping hand. Stay safe! 

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Bibliography

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/14/health/coronavirus-fears-mental-health-wellness-trnd/index.html  (Retrieved 18/3/20)

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fabout%2Fcoping.html (Retrieved 18/3/20)

https://www.apa.org/practice/programs/dmhi/research-information/pandemics?utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=apa-pandemics&utm_content=pandemics-resources (Retrieved 18/3/20)

Intrinsic motivation as a source of vitality?

Intrinsic motivation as a source of vitality?

“Vitality management is provided for organizations that have a vision”. A quote from Pauline van Dorssen, writer of “Vital People in a Vital Organisation”. This is a new successful training (NIP). Positive psychology and the use of vitality are central. The response from Occupational and Organisational Psychologists and Occupational Health Psychologists was exuberant, with all available places booked. In addition, the same question arises from organizations, who often need advice and coaching in the field of vitality.

To know more, here is the original article in Dutch language: Artikel_De Psycholoog_lisa van der Heijden

Written by Lisa van der Heijden, Clinical Psychologist.

If you are interested to know and learn more therapy for children/adolescents, contact Promises Healthcare for more information.

Care Community Fun Fair : 5 August 2017

Care Community Fun Fair : 5 August 2017

HMI Institute of Health Sciences in support of the FestivalForGood (organised by raiSE) invites you to join us for hands-on experiences on caregiving through training simulations and fun activities. Some takeaway knowledge include:

  • Knowing how to create a safe home environment for your aged parents/grandparents
  • Safe feeding skills for Caregivers
  • Understanding Caregivers’ stress & preventing/relieving these stresses
  • Understanding how your aged parents/grandparents feel
  • Recognising illnesses & emergencies
  • Simple skills on CPR

-and many more!

Our Career Coaches will also be around to assist you with information on our training programmes and career services.

Event Details

  • Date & Day: 05 August 2017 (Saturday)
  • 3 Sessions: 9:00am · 11:00am · 1:00pm
  • Venue:
    HMI Institute of Health Sciences @
    Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability, 
    80 Jurong East Street 21, #06-03, Singapore 609607

To know more information about this event, you can click here: link:http://hmi-ihs.com/index.php/care-community-fun-fair-05-aug-2017

The Relationship Between Media Multitasking and Executive Function in Early Adolescents

The Relationship Between Media Multitasking and Executive Function in Early Adolescents

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The increasing prevalence of media multitasking among adolescents is concerning because it may be negatively related to goal-directed behavior. This study investigated the relationship between media multitasking and executive function in 523 early adolescents (aged 11-15; 48% girls).

The three central components of executive functions (i.e., working memory, shifting, and inhibition) were measured using self-reports and standardized performance-based tasks (Digit Span, Eriksen Flankers task, Dots–Triangles task). Findings show that adolescents who media multitask more frequently reported having more problems in the three domains of executive function in their everyday lives.

Media multitasking was not related to the performance on the Digit Span and Dots–Triangles task. Adolescents who media multitasked more frequently tended to be better in ignoring irrelevant distractions in the Eriksen Flankers task. Overall, results suggest that media multitasking is negatively related to executive function in everyday life.

To read the full article: http://jea.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/02/17/0272431614523133.abstract

Written by Lisa van der Heijden, Clinical Psychologist, Susanne E. Baumgartner and Wouter D. Weeda.

Contact Promises Healthcare if you are interested to know and learn more therapy for children/adolescents.

A Play in Psychodrama

A Play in Psychodrama

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As I mentioned in my first article, the phrase,”reverse roles” was very much what I heard at my first psychodrama workshop. As this was uttered by the group leader, two people on the stage switched places and began playing the opposite role. 

 “This is it! “, I thought as I began to think of how I could use it in my work. Get people to reverse roles and voila! Well I was sorely mistaken those many years ago. As I began to explore this fascinating form of group work I discovered several techniques that are used in Psychodrama. Here are two key techniques used and an example of how I used them. 

Role Reversal

Here the Protagonist says a few words in the role of a particular ‘character’ or entity in their drama. The Auxiliary then says these lines to the Protagonist who is in the complimentary role. 

Concretization

In this technique, objects and people are used to represent the scenario the Protagonist wishes to explore.

A Drama using Role Reversal and Concretization

Ken is aged 19, and has a serious problem with drugs and alcohol which he has managed to stop, after going to the alcohol treatment centre. He had just come out of drug rehab in the United Kingdom and was brought to my practice by his concerned father. His father had tried very hard to help him over the years and has now brought Ken to us at Promises. Ken is worried about going out for dinner with his Father and a family Friend, whom we shall call Andy, because he might be tempted to drink again.

I encourage him to enact a scene at dinner with his father and Andy, playing out what he expects to happen. He sets out the chairs and chooses two people in the group to be his Father and Andy. As he greets the two older men rather lethargically, his shoulders slouch and he speaks in a flat voice.

Reversing roles, Ken now plays the part of Andy. He perks up now, smiling and full of energy. ‘Andy’ says, “The last time I saw you Ken, you were a small boy. My how you’ve grown!” Playing the role of his tempter, he urges Ken to “have a drink now as a real man” holding a glass towards him.

Back to being himself after another role reversal Ken’s face reddens and he clenches his fists in agitation.  He speaks to me as the Director, saying that he is afraid he might have a relapse. I immediately ask him to take on the role of his father.

As his father, he sits with his arms crossed and says through clenched teeth, “It’s okay, you don’t have to drink. I don’t want to cause a relapse.” As himself, Ken is at a loss for words. I ask the other audience members to do some modeling and try different responses in the role of Ken as he watches.

Ken cheers up as he sees the other group members rising to the occasion. Everyone is animated as they get a chance to act the part and try to tell Andy off. There is much laughter and hilarity as people do and say whatever they think might work. A sort of role training session is underway.

Ken is noticeably inspired by the group and he chooses one response. He stands tall with a cheeky smile and says to Andy, “I’m not drinking today, and I wonder why you are so determined to force alcohol on me!”  In role reversal as Andy, he changes the subject and backs down, no longer the magnanimous host. The drama ends. Ken is no longer a deflated doomsday worry wart. Instead he is positive about going out for dinner and knows what he can do later that night at dinner. The group has come to his aid and I once again marvel at the magic of Psychodrama.

In future articles, I shall illustrate more psychodrama techniques with dramas I have directed. It continues to be a privilege to be allowed into the lives of group members and I am continually amazed at the transformations that happen.

Written by Sharmini Winslow, Therapist.

At Promises Healthcare, we are committed to helping you through your journey to recovery. Discover a new life and find renewed hope. If you or someone you know needs mental health support, please contact our clinic for inquiries and consultations.