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The Covid-19 virus makes for an apprehensive time for us all, with much uncertainty and heightened anxiety. The following page is an aide memoire to support emotional and mental wellbeing and is split into 3 sections: Change; Anxiety & Emotional Regulation.
To tackle Covid-19 we have introduced significant lifestyle changes. Change results in the death and loss of the old, familiar way. The Grief Wheel is usually referenced with regards to the death of a loved one however, it is equally applicable to any changes that we go through either willingly or reluctantly. There is often heightened anxiety throughout these stages.
Physiology. Physical, bodily reactions – heart racing and breathlessness are very common.
Cognitive. Thoughts, irrational worries and catastrophic thinking. The prefrontal cortex (rational part of the brain) becomes impaired thus we cannot think straight.
Emotional. How we feel, e.g. panicked, frightened, as a result of being anxious.
Behavioural. What we do as a result of being anxious. There are five defence responses to anxiety: fight, flight, freeze, attach and submit.
- Focus on and slow your breathing. Count in for 4 and out for 7. Do this for a minimum of 4 minutes.
- Track your breath within your physical body.
- In your mind’s eye think of a memory, person, photo, scene which you find uplifting. Hang out in the positive vibes this mental image stimulates.
- Use distraction techniques. Focus on your environment and describe what you see, focusing on all the detail (minimum for 4 minutes).
Neuroscience research has shown that it takes a MINIMUM of 4 minutes for the prefrontal cortex to come back online thus allowing rational thinking. Get ahead of the game by practising the above during periods of calm, at least once a day so as to become familiar.
This Model and extract is taken from the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioural Science (NICAMB).
The drive, threat and self-soothing systems are how we regulate our emotions. Many of us spend the majority of time in threat and drive, which can lead to imbalanced emotions and distress. It is important to notice if your self-soothing system is underdeveloped. With a situation like Covid-19, our threat system can go into override and our drive system feels thwarted.
Imagine how big each of your circles is?
Ideas to improve self-soothing:
Mindfulness. A useful technique to help with grounding in the physical body and living the present moment. A way to experience life through all the senses rather than living in the head. Examples are taken from www.studentsagainstdepression.org, ‘Taking Care of Myself’ worksheet:
Sight: Tidy room with plant and soothing colours, pictures of friends or nature scenes, funny or light-hearted TV/movies, create an uplifting mood board. Positive visualisation – imagine the world you want to live in.
Touch: Snuggling up in a warm duvet, stroking tactile fabrics, practise kindness and compassion, tell someone you love them, find spiritual meaning in your life.
Hearing: Playlist of uplifting and/or energetic music, recordings of natural sounds, meditation or relaxation tapes, favourite radio programmes, podcasts, comedy, using earplugs (if you are being disturbed by unwanted noise), open the window to listen to garden birds.
Smell: Having clean clothes and bed linen, aromatherapy or incense in your room, spring in is the air – open the window.
Taste: Savour your food/ eat mindfully.
Write a list of 10 self-soothing distractions and focus on an idea for at least 20 minutes. Examples are: sewing, cooking, yoga, reading, meditation, tai chi, laughter yoga, journaling, focused breathing, painting. It’s a time to get creative.
NICABM has produced a ~6 minutes You Tube video clip on steps to tolerate uncertainty.