Pandemic Mental Health
It’s important to acknowledge that what we are going through right now with the pandemic is demanding and stressful. How can we sustain our wellbeing during times of crisis? Turning to a simple framework devised by Martin Seligman in 2011 from positive psychology we can focus on five areas proven to increase wellbeing. It’s referred to as the PERMA model. It stands for: Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment. By doing whatever feels manageable for you in each of these areas can help you incrementally to improve your wellbeing.
Here are some CATT ideas. You can do these yourself, with your family, with your class (and feel free to share them more widely if you find them helpful)!
Try to take a positive attitude about things in general. Dwelling on difficulties and problems will lower your mood.
Take some time each day to identify something that is going well, or you are grateful for. This could be as simple as a tasty snack in the afternoon, or that a child was able to complete a school task independently.
Try to plan something positive to look forward to, like watching a favourite movie, having an online catch-up with a friend, or a walk in the park.
Give yourself permission to turn off the news or social media if it’s causing you to feel worried or stressed.
Recognise that doing activities that are relaxing and restful is an important way of keeping yourself healthy and able to manage difficult events.
Exercise daily to help your body and mind boost positive emotions.
Watch or read something that makes you laugh.
Keep on doing things you enjoy, as far as you are able to safely and legally at the moment. Any activities you do that engage a state of ‘flow’ where you lose track of time because of absorbed enjoyment are best!
If you are not able to engage in your hobby or interest at the moment, perhaps you could spend some time planning or thinking about it. For example, if you’re missing travelling, why not research places you would like to visit or watch a movie set in that place.
Use pockets of time to have a mindful moment. Maybe you could hold a warm mug of tea between your hands and take some deep breaths. Noticing how you are feeling and how your body feels can help you to manage difficult emotions.
Find an activity that distracts you from your stress or negative emotions. Some people find playing a phone game, reading a book, or having a bath can be a useful way to switch off and have a mental break. Allow yourself to enjoy things that you find relaxing even if you’re not being ‘productive’.
Having constantly to access the outside world through the internet via screens during lockdown, can put a strain on our relationships and overall well-being. Try to have screen-free time as a family and engage in activities that do not require electronics, such as talking, board games, a walk in a park or interactive games like ‘Never have I ever’, ‘Charades’, etc.
Take time to focus on the important people in your life, this could be a family member, friend, teacher, or mentor. Think about what it is about this relationship that helps you to feel safe and happy.
Recognise that it might feel harder to stay connected during lockdown and think about what could make this easier for you. For example, perhaps sending a text to a friend rather than a video call or asking a close family member to check in when you are finding things hard, would be easier.
Make time to show your appreciation whenever someone helps you. Everyone wants to feel that their efforts are appreciated. Provide compliments to others when they do something well, make you smile or laugh, or feel fulfilled.
Set aside some time to give your loved ones one-to-one undivided attention.
Try to listen attentively and express empathy when talking to your loved ones. If they are struggling, try listening without falling into problem-solving mode or offering a solution. Sometimes hearing, acknowledging, and understanding is enough in itself to help someone feel better.
Think about how you spend most of your time and what it means to you. Whether it is work, school, or childcare, understanding the impact of your work and why you choose to ‘show up’ each day, may help you become more satisfied and fulfilled with what you do.
Take care of your ‘spiritual’ side by spending time in nature, mindfulness, meditation, or an organised religion if you belong to one.
Do something for someone else. We can all make a difference in enduring the current pandemic restrictions by helping each other. This could be by delivering some food to an isolated neighbour, volunteering to help in some other way or simply checking-in with a friend.
Discuss your family values and express appreciation for each other often to help with the feeling of belonging within your family.
Joining an online community can help you with a sense of belonging when you feel isolated at home.
Set positive intentions and realistic goals to achieve each day. Putting an effort to achieve these goals can give you a sense of satisfaction and improve your overall well-being.
Choose a small activity as a goal that you are able to do each day. This could be something like having a shower, eating a piece of fruit, or texting a friend to check in. Recognise that you are in a difficult situation at the moment, and sometimes small goals might take more effort than in normal times.
Set an individual or family exercise goal, such as 20 sit-ups per day, or jogging for ten minutes without stopping.
Practise adding ‘yet’ to the things you or your child cannot do to help your child understand that learning is a process and requires practise and repetition.
Plant something together and watch it grow!