We are all currently experiencing highly unnerving times, during which we are likely to be worried about our own and our loved ones’ safety, whilst also feeling physically and financially challenged. Our mental – and physical – health depends upon meeting our emotional needs in healthy ways. This helps keep stress levels low and allows our immune system to fight back and work to promote recovery from illness. To ensure we maintain as good as an emotional health as possible we need to try and keep meeting our emotional needs.
According to Human Givens theory we have nine emotional needs:
- Attention (given and received)
- A sense of control
- Emotional intimacy
- Feeling part of a wider community
- A sense of status within social groupings
- A sense of competence and achievement
- A sense of meaning and purpose
Right now, probably the most challenged emotional need is likely to be a sense of control.
SO HOW CAN YOU GAIN A SENSE OF CONTROL?
The first thing you can do to feel a sense of control is to take maximum control over protecting yourself from catching and spreading the virus. So rather than thinking you have been ‘told’ to wash your hands and that you ‘have to’ keep a social distance etc., you could instead tell yourself that you choose to do these things because you choose to protect yourself and those you love.
In fact, even if you aren’t a front line key worker, though are one of the many of us who have been told to stay at home, you are actually also ‘saving lives’ – a powerful and meaningful thought, and you certainly are not doing ‘nothing’!
Start to notice all the small things that you do, in fact, ‘choose’ to do in your everyday life.
We may not be able to choose to go to work or not, but most of us are lucky enough to be able to choose whether we have tea or coffee, whether we make our bed or not, whether we brush our teeth or not, or whether we listen to the radio or watch TV.
What’s harder, though possible with practice and awareness, is to notice that we can also choose how we react to things.
Right now the worst thing we can do in the circumstances is to catastrophise and panic.
Instead of worrying and frantically trying to fight the situation, accept it is what it is, accept what you can’t control and then resolve to do your best within all that you can control, whilst acknowledging that ‘this too shall pass’.
If you feel anxiety rising, practise some deep slow breathing:
- First acknowledge the feeling and thank it for alarming you to the fact that things are not as they should be.
- Then, because worrying about our future is not currently helpful since none of us know what it will look like, or when the situation will change, start deep breathing into your belly.
- Make the out-breath longer than the in-breath, letting the belly fill up and expand on the in-breath and contract on a longer out-breath.
- It maybe useful to count to an in-breath of about 7 and an out-breath of about 11.
- Do this about 6 – 10 times, feel your feet on the ground beneath you and notice all around you.
- Get back into the present moment. Then make a choice to turn your mind onto getting on with other things that you enjoy doing or need to do.
Savour and notice all the little moments and things in your day like the smell of coffee, the feel of the water on your body as you shower, the bed that holds you through the night.
It is also really important to avoid feeding the anxiety with sensationalised unreliable information. Limit screen and online time to set times in the day.
We are social creatures and remaining in touch with others is hugely important. Doing acts of kindness is good for our physical and emotional health, so:
- Do check up on others. Maybe offer phone support to people who are isolated and on their own, and if you are able offer more physical support too, such as shopping or gardening.
- Get creative and join an online class, have regular contact with friends and family via the phone, Facetime and Skype etc.
- If you are living with others cook together, work out a rota of jobs so everyone has a sense of purpose and play together.
LOOK AFTER YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH
Finally remember to look after your physical health too. Our emotional and physical health is interconnected, so do get outside if you can and enjoy some daylight on your skin.
Exercising in some form or other is more important than ever and it needn’t take up a lot of space.
Finally remember that what we eat and drink directly affects how we feel, so choose to make some wise, health supportive choices throughout your day.
Author: Helen Prosper, livewellandprosper.uk