There’s no doubt that this new lockdown will affect mental wellbeing for many of us.
We’ve been drawing on our inner resources for a long time already, and some of us may feel this is the last straw. Organisations that work with people affected by anxiety, depression, self-harm or suicidal thoughts have already seen a rise in enquiries.
I wrote last month about the importance of prioritising wellbeing as we go into a challenging winter, and I suggested a way to pinpoint one or two small positive actions which can improve things, no matter what our circumstances are.
But if you – or someone you know – is in deep distress, you need two things: instant help to manage painful feelings; and then to connect with support that will supplement and help replenish your inner resources for the longer term.
To deal with emotional overwhelm of any kind, use the STOPP exercise at https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/stopp.htm.
The getselfhelp website has a wealth of resources for managing emotional overload. many useful links are gathered on its pandemic page https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/pandemic.htm. Find the tools that fit best for you, but I suggest you choose no more than two or three to download and focus on.
Self-help ideas can provide instant relief from overwhelming feelings and help us build better-thinking habits, but what makes the biggest difference to our wellbeing is connecting with other people.
That can mean seeking help and support – or reaching out to offer it to others. The Bath Compassionate Community Hub (https://www.compassioncb.org.uk/resources-1) brings together many sources of practical and emotional support for people affected by the lockdown, as well as the opportunity to volunteer to help others.
Or you might just want a break from dwelling on Covid, lockdown and all it entails. You could call a friend to reminisce about better times; or book yourself on to an online course or club.
Sadly, when we are emotionally drained, reaching out to others can be the last thing we want to do. If we can’t imagine how it will help, that’s actually a sign that we really do need sympathetic human connection.
It is wise to avoid telling our troubles to people who will criticise or push their own solutions on us – if that’s the response we often get from those closest to us, then we need to look elsewhere.
And that’s worth remembering when we are offering support to others – it’s not necessary to have a solution for them, just an understanding and non-judgemental ear. If we are feeling drained by helping others, it’s often because we believe we have to fix their problem, cheer them up, or get them to follow our advice.
If we can step back from problem-solving and simply connect with them as a fellow human being, we feel less burdened – and they often find the energy to move forward themselves.
If you or someone you know is in crisis or at risk of harming themselves or others, get help immediately from one of the services listed on the B&NES mental health support site at https://beta.bathnes.gov.uk/get-mental-health-advice-and-support or call the samaritans on 116 123.
Karen Bray (MBACP) is a counsellor with a private practice in Bath. Her website is at www.karenbray.co.uk.