Emotional wellness during Covid-19: 3 tips to staying well

Finding COVID and lockdown emotionally demanding and taxing? Want to know how to look after your emotional wellness and wellbeing during the pandemic? Read further to find out 3 ways to look after your emotional wellness and wellbeing during this difficult and unpredictable time.

Hello all. Hope that you have been having a good week. If you have been following the Wellness by Greg blog, you will know that at the beginning of February I looked at wellness during the pandemic, and began to discuss how you can support yourself in 5 easy steps.

If you haven’t had a chance yet, here is the link below to the blog.

Wellness by Greg: wellness during a pandemic: supporting you in 5 easy steps

If you not had a chance to read the previous blog, I looked at the relationship between wellbeing, wellness and lifestyle. If you would like to know more about that relationship, read the blog 😉.

The blog did however did get me started on looking at the wellbeing journey. During a time like the global pandemic and COVID, as we are subject to conditions such as lockdown and isolation which are having a negative effect on our wellbeing and in turn wellness.

After doing some reading, I divided wellbeing into 8 separate parts:

  • Emotional wellbeing
  • Social wellbeing
  • Intellectual wellbeing
  • Environmental wellbeing
  • Physical wellbeing
  • Financial wellbeing
  • Occupational wellbeing
  • Spiritual wellbeing

Each month I will be looking at a separate part of wellbeing, bringing us to September / October of this year. So if you want to find out all about the 8 separate parts to wellbeing, stick around 😉.

That said, let’s explore the remainder of February with a look at emotional wellness and well-being, and how to stay well during Covid-19.

3 tips to staying well during Covid-19

1. Breathe

Now it may sound like common sense when I say to breathe, but sometimes this is the first thing that people forget how to do. Now I am not saying that people are forgetting how to breathe: far from that. Breathing is part of the many unconscious reactions that our bodies do, from the pumping of the heart to the beating of the heart to the electromagnetic messages that are sent along our nervous system that control our automatic responses to our surroundings.

What I am leaning toward is mindful and conscious breathing, for the purpose of breathing for stress reduction.

Woman breathing

Deep breathing is a great way to reduce emotional stress in your body. Breathing deeply and consciously sends a message to your brain to slow down, calm down, and relax. The brain in turn then sends the message to the rest of your body. When we are stressed, our heart tends to be beating faster, our blood pressure tends to go up, our breathing becomes quick and shallow. By breathing slowly and calmly, you are encouraging your body in turn to slow and calm down.

So how do I breathe, you may ask?

Well, there are several breathing exercises you can try. A starting point may be counted breathing, which can be done laying down or in the seated position.

With this exercise, start by placing a hand on your belly and another on your chest. Take a deep breathe through the nose your chest to your abdomen / belly, counting to 5 seconds. Hold the breathe and exhale with pursed lips from the mouth, counting down in your head to 6 seconds, or until your lungs have expelled the air. Repeat the process until you feel more calm.

Please note: if you feel dizzy, adjust your breathing, and take your time getting up. If you have any pre-existing medical or respiratory issues and if you have any concerns, please also discuss with a medical professional such as a GP prior to doing breathing exercises.

I have found a good YouTube link if you would prefer a visual guide:

YouTube video explaining breathing techniques during Covid-19. This video is property of YouTube.

2. Be compassionate to yourself

Looking after your emotional wellbeing and wellness is also about learning to be kind and compassionate to yourself.

Being compassionate to the self is recognising that we cannot do the things that we were able to do before, acknowledging that we are all in the same situation globally in terms of restrictions imposed by the pandemic, and treating ourselves with the same kindness that we would want from others.

Man reflecting in a garden

Being compassionate to yourself is also about showing gratitude.

Whilst it may be difficult to think of things to be grateful for during a pandemic, it may be easier to do a grateful exercise with another.

Find a friend or family member. You can do the exercise on the phone or by video call, whichever works better. Set yourself a time limit of around 5 minutes. Play some ‘grateful tennis’.

The idea of ‘grateful tennis’ is to say something that you are grateful for, trying not to repeat answers, and following you saying something, the other person says something which they are grateful for.

Being compassionate toward yourself is also about learning and recognising when you are being negative and overly critical toward yourself.

In a study run in 2020 by Hi-Po Lau, Lai-Wan Chan and Ng from the University in Hong Kong, 761 participants were asked to complete questionnaires on self-compassion, perceived threats and psychological distresses during the peak of the local outbreak in Hong Kong in the spring of 2020.

Negative indicators of of self-compassion (self-coldness / self-criticism) was found to intensify the impacts of threats on psychological stress. Similarly, the positive indicators of self-compassion showed to help build resilience through encouraging and self-compassion and lessening the harmful effects of self-coldness.

The study highlights several things, including acknowledging that we cannot be positive all the time, acknowledging our bad days and being sympathetic toward ourselves, as well as cautioning mental health professionals of the negative effects that a critical self view and lack of self-compassion may increase psychological stress and distress.

If you would like to read the article in full, I have included a link below:

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.585270/full

Something else that will increase our anxiety of perceived threats is watching the news all the time. A lot of the time, with the pandemic going on, the news is about how many have been infected, how many have died, and so forth.

Limit your daily news / media intake per day. Find something else to do. Go for a walk. Call a friend. Listen to some music. Practice some breathing exercises.

3. Keep a journal and write yourself a letter

Keeping a journal of how you are feeling day to day is also a good way of being able to explore and express how you feel in the moment. We may find that it is difficult to express how we feel, and having that moment to write and reflect may be therapeutic and cathartic in helping you to manage and acknowledge how you are feeling at that given time.

After writing, practice some breathing exercises and allow your time to come out of that moment. Should you wish to look back and reflect on the writing at a later point you can, but for that moment, try to use it as an opportunity to explore and express how you are feeling.

Writing yourself a letter is also important and can be useful.

As per the ‘grateful tennis’ as mentioned above, writing yourself a letter for what you are grateful for is also an idea. This may help when you don’t have anyone to talk to. Write yourself a letter of your good and positive qualities and things which you are grateful for. Send it to yourself.

Getting a positive and grateful letter from yourself will be as though you are getting it from a dear friend.

Show the love to yourself that you would want from another.

An ink pen on a desk with stationary and drink

Finally, there are other techniques, such as meditation, which I have looked at before on my previous blog site. Please have a read if the subject interests you. I may be exploring meditation in future blogs, but in the meantime if you would like to know more, please see the blog articles below for more details:

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and if you know of anyone who may benefit from / appreciate the blog, please recommend it to them as well. And if you are feeling low and struggling with your mental health, please know that during this difficult time of the pandemic, that there is still help out there and help available. Talk to your GP. Free phone Samaritans 116 123.

There is help out there. You are not alone.

Remember: it’s a journey. It will take time. Have patience in the process. You will get there. Until then, stay happy, stay healthy, and have a lovely time wherever you are on the planet.

And remember: love yourself. And others.

Greg

References:

Hi-Po Lau, B, Lai-Wan C, C, Ng SM. (2020). Self-Compassion Buffers the Adverse Mental Health Impacts of COVID-19-Related Threats: Results From a Cross-Sectional Survey at the First Peak of Hong Kong’s Outbreak. Frontiers in Psychology. 11 

A bit about the author:

I am a guy who just over 40, who is sharing a journey of wellness and wellbeing. I am also a mental health professional with a wealth of years of experience in supporting individuals who have challenging mental illnesses and personality disorders. 

Prior to my current professional role, I spent several years supporting members of the community as a fitness professional, assisting individuals with weight loss and health improvement programmes.

I completed a PGDip in Mental Health Nursing in 2013, and an MSc in Advanced Practice in 2016 in which I looked at improving nurses’ level of engagement with patients with challenging personality disorders. 

In 2018 I successfully undertook a Clinical reasoning in Physical Assessments course, and in 2020 I commenced further training in Nurse Prescribing to train toward becoming an Advanced Nurse Practitioner, and will be looking forward to supporting those in the community with mental health support and medicinal support.

In 2015 I also undertook a Mentorship for practice (BSc Hons) course and have been supporting future nurses with their training and development. I have also recently supported a Healthcare Assistant Staff toward training in and successfully passing and achieving a Foundation Degree in Mental Health Nursing.

In my current role I am a person looking to support the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the individual. Don’t think of me as a motivational coach or speaker. Think of me more as a wellness guide, as I use my mental health training and experience to suggest and advice ways to enhance your wellness and wellbeing. If you are struggling with your mental health though, please seek advice from a medical professional such as your GP.

I believe that it is a journey. It is a process. It will take time. But we will get there.

Remember: it’s a journey. It will take time. Have patience in the process. You will get there. Until then, stay happy, stay healthy, and have a lovely time wherever you are on the planet.

And remember: love yourself. And others.

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