Are you worried about your mental health during the Coronavirus lockdown?
Here are 10 ways to support you in maintaining a sense of mental wellbeing in these difficult weeks. As this is a moment of crisis, it is important to look after our mental health and put in place some strategies to prevent trauma from developing and having long-term effects.
These strategies are based on neuroscience and the psychology of trauma, and have been informed by the work of experts such as Peter Levine, Dr Steve Porges, Thomas Huebl, and Dr. Erica Francesca Poli.
In this post I’ll take you through the first 5 ways and in the next blog I will address the next 5.
Try to set up your environment so that it is comfortable for you. As much as possible try to do things that comfort you, that bring you a sense of safety, self-care and protection. For example, have warming herbal teas, wear your favourite comfy clothes, find a safe space in your home and make it your cocoon.
Also, fill your environment with music, colours and smells you particularly like. According to neuroaesthetic, a new field of research concerned with the experience of beauty and its effects on the nervous system, the aesthetic dimension (i.e. beauty) is important – and actually necessary – for the wellbeing of our brains.
Inner resources are what we can access within ourselves that help us to get through difficult times. We all have them and everyone’s are different.
Examples of inner resources may be:
- A safe and favourite place in nature that we can bring to mind, visualise and then immerse ourselves into, feeling its energy in our body
- Finding the safest place in our body and resting there
- The silence and peace we can experience in meditation
- The love we feel for our partners or children
- The joy our pets bring into our lives
- Our courage
- Having a sense of purpose in this crisis.
You can explore what yours are and compile a list of them so you can go back when you feel a bit lost.
Writing is a great tool to prevent and deal with trauma.
There’s different types of writing you can experiment with. The most commonly used in the therapy space is journaling. Or you can try to put into words the ineffable feelings that may come up in this time through poetry.
Storytelling is also very powerful for understanding how we deal and cope with situations. So think about how you are dealing with this crisis and turn it into a story – a story that covers what the turning point was for you when you realised things had changed and your life wouldn’t be the same; a story that also includes the most challenging aspects of this change for you. You can imagine yourself as a hero going on a journey, struggling with obstacles, meeting teachers and mentors and making use of your inner resources.
So be the narrator and see how you as a character react and overcome during this time.
Use the body as much as you can in this time. Anything that helps you move the body is great! Exercise or dance to your favourite music in your living room, for example. Active meditations can also provide a great support at the moment. I am a big fan of Osho’s meditations, which I use regularly and that can be accessed from here.
Also, let your body move by itself. There may be some spontaneous movements or gestures your body wants to make. For example you may be feeling a little trembling inside – give it space and make it bigger, move it until it releases its energy. Or you may find yourself rocking back and forth, a little like how children do – that is a beautiful self-soothing way the body instinctively knows.
Remember that moving your body may affect you emotionally so it’s important you allow yourself to feel whatever comes up, whether it is joy, or sadness or grief – so keep moving and use your body to explore those feelings, emotions and energies.
Did you know the word courage comes from the Latin word cor, which means heart? We need all the courage we can muster these days so let’s tune into our hearts.
The heart also has its own neurobiological intelligence and creates a potent electromagnetic field that has the ability to influence the state of our whole body-mind system and bring us back to balance.
The best way to connect to the space of the heart and its intelligence is through breathing.
Focus your attention on the area of the heart – it may help to place your hand in the middle of your chest. Feel your heart inside your ribcage, behind your lungs. Imagine every breath is flowing in and out of your heart. Imagine it brings sensations of safety, protection. leaving your body feeling secure, nourished and purified. Breathe a little slower or a little deeper than usual and try to feel the energy in your head slowly descend down into your heart. This is called Heart-Focused Breathing.
Keep breathing and linger in the space of heart for a while.
So there you go, the first five ways, five strategies in this care package to support your mental health in these challenging times.
For the next five, check out Part 2, which will be posted in the coming days.
ANIMA TV (2020, March). Erica F. Poli – Ben-Essere nell’emergenza 1 to 14 [Videos]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OnLDssb6Ds&list=PLjYsTkYeO2BteVrc_XkEBcslDRwMTu85A