With the outbreak of the novel coronavirus many of us are experiencing unprecedented states of stress and anxiety.

The events around us are triggering and can set off a chain of negative emotions if not managed in healthy ways. Here are some simple ideas that can be used to ease the stress and provide helpful ways of coping with this unique challenge right now.

Think empowerment, not fear.  In essence we are powerful; our thoughts, feelings and emotions constitute our inner world. You could say this is our ‘mind’. And you get to choose if you lead your mind or it leads you.

With some simple strategies, practised regularly, you can lead your mind in a direction that is calm, focused and purposeful.  This is the mind that will help you make good business decisions, and will enable you to be there to support your children through this crisis in mature ways.  This empowered mind will also help you sleep at night.

Every thought releases some type of chemical. When positive thoughts are generated, when you’re feeling happy, or optimistic, cortisol decreases and the brain produces serotonin,  creating a sense of well-being. When serotonin levels are normal, one feels calmer, less anxious  and more emotionally stable. When positive thoughts occur there is brain growth through the reinforcement and generation of new synapses. What wires together fires together.

If you let your mind take you where it chooses, it will likely take you somewhere negative as your brain has a built-in negativity bias, which was designed to help us survive many millennium ago. But things have changed over time and we don’t need such a sensitive barometer to threat as our ancestors once did.  Being rational and calm, using your pre-frontal cortex will be much more helpful in these challenging times, than relying on your reactive survival brain.

When we are anxious, under stress or angry the brain draws energy away from the prefrontal cortex, the opposite of what you need. And, with the bombardment of negative thoughts the brain can’t perform at high or even normal capacity. When stressed or scared, it’s difficult to take in and process new material, yet alone think creatively.  So, your thoughts are so much more powerful in supporting you than you may realise.

IDEAS TO MANAGE STRESS 

Understand that everyone reacts differently to stressful situationsIf you feel relatively unaffected by the Covid 19 crisis, count yourself lucky, and offer support , in any way you can, to those who are feeling the strain more.

  • A growing body of research shows that giving a gift,  volunteering or donating your time to charities has a positive impact on your physical and mental health and can mitigate against the feelings of anxiety and stress.  Helping others can distract us from our own worries, and help us gain perspective,  They also promote healthy social connections and a sense of purpose.
  • In times of crisis connection and community support go a very long way. Connect with your family, friends and neighbours. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling but don’t dwell on the negative. Flip the conversation and talk about all the acts of kindness we are seeing around us, the speed with which we can adapt and implement new support structures in society.  Look for the good news stories.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. Put your phone away and disconnect from all  social media. Hearing about the Covid 19 pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting and retriggering.  Yes, the news is changing moment by moment, it’s important to be up to date, but just as important not to get caught up in the fear.  Less is more when it comes to being glued to the news.
  • Knowledge and preparation can go a long way, so understanding the facts around Covid 19, including the actual risk to yourself and people you care about, can make the outbreak less stressful as it arises.  There is a lot of reliable information available so make it a priority to be informed, and take a slow and steady approach when it comes to adapting to the changes.
  • Develop a set of tools to help manage anxiety. Some helpful strategies include deep breathing,  stretchingmindfulness and meditation.  All of these require practice and repetition in order to be helpful.  Maintain a healthy and robust routine that includes healthy meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to relax and unwind.
  • Talk and listen to your children. They look to you for support so being a solid role model is key.  How you manage in times of crisis is what they are learning and taking into their future.

If you find that you are suffering chronic stressanxiety or depression then get in touch with The Melbourne Counselling Centre to find out how counselling can help you work through and resolve your stress.  Phone 1300 018 255 or click here for bookings.