Although we have now entered into Lockdown 3, Psychotherapist Noel McDermott remains optimistic and applauds people in Britain for complying with restrictions and containing the current second wave. He reassures us that this type of winter spike in infections is normal in pandemics and is as we expected. Infections are not out of control; they are high, and the government is responding to the evidence of high infection rates and adding further measures to control this. There is capacity both in our responses to the virus and our health services, as a nation we can manage this level of infection. The important thing to know is that the end is in sight now with the vaccination programme.
Noel comments: “We are in the second wave of our pandemic with a third set to come later this year. Typically, a second wave is significantly worse than a first wave and so far, we have managed to contain this second wave to numbers similar to the first wave, this is clear evidence the mitigation measures are working. We are also on course because of the vaccinations to stop the third wave largely in its tracks. This is the first pandemic in human history in which we have achieved this (compared to Spanish Flu 1918 pandemic). We have produced a vaccine very quickly and this is remarkable.”
The effect of lockdown on people’s mental health
We know that common mental health problems such as anxiety and depression have risen as a rest of the pandemic as a whole and that these issues spike in lockdown. Repetition of stressful events increases the impact of the event even if it is not as difficult as the first one and the more repetitions, the greater the impact on us and reduction of our resilience factors. We are also aware that lockdown cuts us off from many of our resilience factors such as social contact, work relationships, fun social events. Know the signs you or a loved one needs help, such as significant change in mood, eating and appetite shifts, constant tiredness, irritability, disrupted sleep, headaches and get help sooner rather than later.
Tips to Keeping Your Mental Health in Check
- Back to Basics: Focus on the basics, simple routine, regular meals, regular sleep patterns, hydrate, regular exercise etc.
- Exercise: Stay active, go for regular walks, do home gym sessions, practice your yoga and if you don't do it yet, now is a very good time to learn.
- Slow down: Reduce your commitments and slow down, focus on self-care and resilience.
- Normalise your feelings: it’s okay to be experiencing overwhelming feelings of fear and sadness right now. Be kind to yourself and others.
- CBT: Learn cognitive behavioural therapy techniques online to improve your mental health toolkit, a good resource to start with is the NHS website https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/self-help-therapies/
- Practice meditation: Ensure you meditate regularly and if you don’t do mindfulness yet then now is the time to learn. There are a lot of apps available to learn and one of them is Headspace.
- Stop or manage drinking: Alcohol is not going to help. Don’t drink regularly or to manage anxiety, stress, depression or because you can’t sleep, the healthiest pattern of drinking is random and irregularly.
- Stay social: Online social time with friends and family, stay connected, social connections play an important part in looking after our wellbeing.
It is now more than ever crucial that as a nation we adopt a positive mindset and keep our mental health in check. We have been here before and we got through this, we can do it again and this time we know that a brighter, healthier future lies ahead.
Positive Psychology Techniques
Everyone can benefit from positive psychology techniques, have a healthy structure to your day, one that sees you eat, hydrate, rest, sleep, and work at reasonable times. Stay connected and make social times with family and friends and exercise daily. Manage your mind with techniques that allow you to challenge your thinking if it becomes unhealthy (cognitive restructuring) or how to move your mind from harmful thoughts to helpful ones (through for example meditation). Avoid panic behaviour such as stocking up which send signals to yourself that there is a big risk. By doing this we are making things seem dangerous. Develop acceptance and learn to live more in the moment, reducing your expectations (acceptance) will give you power back to your thoughts and feelings. We must get on with life as best as possible, embrace the situation and look for the positives, ask yourself, what are you grateful for? Learning how to thrive in the face of adversity will lead to positive growth from traumatic situations, helping you develop meaning and purpose and manage those feelings associated with the current situation.
Noel McDermott is a Psychotherapist with over 25 years’ experience in health, social care, and education. He is the founder and CEO of three organisations, Psychotherapy and Consultancy Ltd, Sober Help Ltd and Mental HealthWorks Ltd. Noel’s company offer at-home mental health care and will source, identify and co-ordinate personalised care teams for the individual. They have recently launched a range of online therapy resources in order to help clients access help without leaving home - https://www.noelmcdermott.net/group-therapy/.