We’re all having to adapt in these difficult times. When the lockdown started, I had to transfer my face to face counselling business to an online service. I knew the first thing I had to do was change my mindset. Before this situation, I would have said, “I’m no good with technology”. “I just can’t do it!”. I knew I couldn’t keep thinking that way as it wouldn’t help. So, instead of saying, “I can’t!”, I changed it to “How can I?’’.
Those 3 words have made a massive difference to how I have adapted to this current situation. I decided to be curious about technology, give myself a chance to learn and adapt a belief that I can do it. I started to feel surprisingly excited at what I could achieve. Since then, I have continued to enjoy learning new ways of using technology, and have become very grateful for what the online world allows us to do.
That leads me nicely into gratitude. I keep a gratitude journal. If you don’t do this already then I highly recommend it. This is when you take time out to reflect on things you already have that you are grateful for. At the end of each day, I reflect on the three highlights of my day. We get what we focus on, so if I focus on all the negative stuff then I will just get more of it. I am in control of what I focus on, so it makes sense to focus on positive things.
One of the big positives from this situation is our newfound appreciation for the NHS. Going outside to clap for our health care system helps bring us together and reminds us that we are not on our own. I heard a joke about there being a round of applause for courier and delivery drivers every Friday. It could be anytime between 9 and 5!
For those of you who feel out of control, you can choose to focus on what IS in your control, like the things you do in your day. You can decide how you want your day to be. You can make up a routine to create structure and control. You can also say the serenity prayer, which helps to keep me grounded during difficult times. The prayer doesn’t have to be from a religious point of view, you can say it to the universe or whatever you want. The words are:
Grant me the serenity,
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
It can feel like you have no control with what’s going on in the outside world because this is all new, so we are all learning as we go along. Instead, can focus on what IS in our control, such as helping the wider world by washing our hands, social distancing and staying indoors.
I read another joke recently, about Snow White saying to the Seven Dwarves, “I want you all to stay at home during this pandemic to stay safe – except for you Sneezy, you can F**k off!”
They say laughter is the best medicine, and I’ve been enjoying the topical jokes and stories. I’ve been setting aside an hour every night to have a good laugh, and have enjoyed jokes like the ones used in this article, such as:
‘I used to cough to hide my farts, now I fart to hide my cough!’
I’ve created some of my own funny videos, such as when I dressed as Sister Mary parasailing, and there’s a James Bond spoof too. They’re all on my YouTube channel if you fancy a giggle. Please subscribe and stay in touch.
For those who don’t know, I have been performing Mental Health theatre shows for the last five years. I was due to perform my new mental health show at the Lichfield Garrick Theatre in April, which ironically was about anxiety! Although the show had to be postponed, I thought there were messages in it that still needed to be shared, so, I’ve written a free online show about anxiety as a resource for the current climate, providing valuable information. about useful skills and coping mechanisms.
Just click this link to view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwRF6v_zRHE&t=1929s
Also on my YouTube page, ‘Sheila’s YouTube Channel’ you can find other useful resources, such as ‘the healing hug’ technique, a ‘Manage Your Thoughts’ daily tracker and guided relaxation.
Just to let you know, the live theatre show at the Lichfield Garrick has been postponed to Saturday 10th October, which is actually World Mental Health Day! I hope you will all be able to join me in person for that show.
Writing and recording the online show on anxiety has certainly helped me during this time. It was strange to write about a process that I was going through too! In the show, I talk about the stages of grief, and the rollercoaster of emotions we may be feeling.
However we’re personally affected during this pandemic, all of us are experiencing loss of some nature, whether that’s a loss of a loved one, or loss of your job, income, lifestyle or wedding.
That’s why it’s perfectly normal to feel ok one day and feel very low another. As a counsellor and a survivor of mental ill-health, I encourage you to allow emotions like sadness or anger to surface and be offloaded in a healthy way.
‘Bottling up emotions can cause long term mental health conditions.’
I encourage us all to remember that ‘it’s ok not to be ok’. We are not robots, so we can accept going through many different emotions.
Every person is different, so, when it comes to finding out what coping mechanisms work for you, I encourage a trial and error approach to see what works best.
Some people work well by making comparisons, for example, by getting reassurance from thinking that at least we are not going through a world war! Sometimes it can help to think that, as bad as things seem, they could be much worse…
People may feel reassured by acknowledging that this time will pass. One thing we do know is that time always moves on. We can, instead of wishing it pass, decide to make the most of the time we have. I have met some people who are loving lockdown, as it gives them a chance to do the jobs they have always wanted to do, and are enjoying the satisfaction of finally getting things done.
If you are feeling disconnected or lonely, then I encourage you to reconnect. Just texting someone to ask them how they are can make a big difference to both them and you. You can set yourself a goal of talking to someone every day. You can set-up or join support groups, business or personal groups or buddy groups. You can find someone who is in a similar position and be a back-up partner for each other, and maybe create a weekly routine where you call each other at the same time each week.
You can use this time to be creative and productive – whatever suits you?
Everyone will have a different experience or take a different approach, and that’s fine. We have never been in this situation before so there are no rules to follow!
You choose how you see this situation. You can see it as ‘stuck indoors’ or having more time to spend on you or with your family.
‘We can control what we think and choose how we respond to what is going on’
I encourage you to become aware of what’s helpful and unhelpful in managing your stress levels. You don’t have to watch the news if it makes you too anxious, and you can choose to not view social media if it’s putting you in a low mood.
You may be feeling anxious about things getting back to normal, and even begin wondering what the new ‘normal’ will look like? If this is you, then I encourage you to think about how you personally want the new norm to be?
When the restrictions have eased, do you want to go back to your life exactly how it was before? Is there anything you would want to change?
These last few weeks I’ve introduced a home spa afternoon each week. During this time, I switch off from work, paint my nails (something I always said I didn’t have time to do) and take time to look after my own self-care. I’ve realised how much I ask of myself and my body, and that I don’t take enough time to re-charge. Whatever my new norm is, I know I will continue to have my weekly home spa afternoons to ensure I keep looking after myself.
Whatever happens, trust that you will be ok. Think about all the times in your life you’ve questioned whether you could get through it or not, and did. You can say the following affirmation:
I am at peace with uncertainty, I am ok with not knowing, I am ok with vulnerability
This may seem strange at first, but if you keep repeating these affirmations to yourself it will help your body and mind believe you’re ok.
If mortality is a worry for you, then watch my online anxiety show where I discuss different perspectives on this.
I lost a friend in January this year. She was on a dream holiday with her husband and passed away in her sleep. She was only 51. Nobody expected that to happen. I am sharing this to highlight that none of us knows how much time we have. Despite what is going on now, we are alive and we can make the most of it. We can support ourselves and each other through it.
I mentioned earlier that bottling up emotions can cause long term mental health issues. I have just launched a new ‘Therapeutic Guided Meditation’ as a coping tool to help those who are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, sad or angry. For every copy sold, I will gift a copy to an NHS or frontline worker, to help one of them during this difficult time. If you are an NHS or frontline worker and would like one of the free gifted copies, then please email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find the Therapeutic Guided Meditation at:https://www.mindmanagementforyou.com/videos
I believe we need access to as many resources as possible during this time to help us minimise any long-term mental health effects.
We need to focus on the here and now. Moment by moment. Step by step. I encourage you to stay in the present, let go of the future and allow it to be what it will be, and keep trusting that you will be ok.
Remember it’s ok not to be ok.
If you have found this article helpful, then please share it as we continue to help each other.
If I can support with online counselling sessions or group sessions then please feel free to contact me directly.
Remember, we get the choose how to deal with this situation.
Did you hear the joke about ‘I’m giving up drinking until this is over. Sorry, bad punctuation. I’m giving up. Drinking until this is over.’
I wish you all peace within uncertainty and laughter!
‘Remember we are not alone and we are getting through this together’
By Sheila McMahon
Qualified Counsellor Reg. MBACP, FTP and Comedienne