Stop what you’re doing and take some deep breaths.
It’s a piece of advice that I give to people on a regular basis, especially if they are feeling a bit overwhelmed, an is the first step to building up our resilience. At the moment it serves a double purpose, because it’s a really good idea to increase the amount of oxygen in our lungs. Dr. Sarfaraz Munshi from Queen’s Hospital in London demonstrated some breathing techniques that could help those with Covid-19 symptoms, but they may also be beneficial for your mental resilience.
In stressful times something as simple as remembering to breathe can make a lot of difference. There are other things we can do to help us survive, and get ourselves back onto the front foot.
One of the most important things to consider is your “Locus of control”, quite simply understanding what we can control and what we can’t. Worrying about things we can’t change won’t achieve anything, and will raise our own stress levels. It’s much better to focus on changing something we can control, even if it’s a very small positive action like loading the dishwasher or going for a walk.
Some people have a tendency to over generalise and catastrophise. A minor setback can make it feel like the whole world is stacked against us, whereas it’s often only one person acting thoughtlessly or one thing that doesn’t go to plan. Global pandemics are not a personal attack on you, and you can’t control a virus. You can control what you do in the situation it presents.
We certainly can’t control other people, we can only control our reaction to them. Other people are often the cause of stress, be that family, work colleagues, or that stupid person standing too close to you in Morrison’s. We react in a certain way that might not always be in our on best interest, we might be made to feel sad or angry and this can echo into other areas of our life. In this case it’s best to stope, breathe and “choose your action, don’t nurse your reaction”. It’s OK to be angry, but don’t let someone else dictate your mood, work out what you’re going to do about it.
If you are really struggling now or in the future, seek help. No one is an island, and help won’t come to you. Just as others can affect our mood negatively they are also often the key to lifting ourselves out of it. There’s an old saying that some people are radiators and some people are drains. Find someone who radiates energy and snuggle up next to them. Metaphorically of course. Unless that is an option, in which case never underestimate the power of a hug.
One final exercise, now that you are fully oxygenated, is to practice “Grounding”. This is a really useful and very quick technique that can snap you out of a negative mindset and allow you to start taking that positive action. The idea is to use all of your senses and you can do it right now:
- Look around and mentally note five things you can see
- Now four things you can touch
- Notice three sounds you can hear
- Think of two taste sensations you’ve had recently
- And finally one smell
You are now fully present in the room. Take another deep breath and commit to a positive action right now. I hope this makes you feel a little better and a bit more able to handle whatever it is that’s currently threatening to get you down.