8 steps to staying mentally strong in tough times
With the current COVID-19 pandemic changing daily, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed, but it’s important to stay positive, remind yourself that things will get better, and be grateful for the things that are important.
If you need support, reach out to Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
We’ve developed 8 steps to keeping a positive mindset and staying mentally strong:
- Control what you can
Focusing on things outside our control can have a negative effect on our mental state that can affect your motivation to work, energy levels, thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It’s important to acknowledge there are things outside of your control, but treat them as white noise and stay focused on the things that are within your control.
- Develop a routine and take care of yourself
Try and maintain the structure in your day including exercise, healthy dietary choices, and healthy sleep routine. If you work from home get up at the same time, dress for work, don’t turn on the TV, keep your normal day routine Schedule in specific times to exercise (and exercise isn’t walking to the fridge), intentionally connect with family and friends (within the boundaries of the government’s physical distancing guidelines), and do things you enjoy or find purpose and meaning in.
- Know your strengths and values
Use your character strengths and core values to guide your decisions and actions. In a time of uncertainty, the most certain things you have are your values. Rather than being guided by worry or unhelpful thinking styles, think about what’s important to you (values) and ways to cope that you would be proud of (strengths). Be guided by the question “What is helpful right now?” And remember, mood is contagious. Think about what is the most helpful way of thinking and acting, it will be not only be beneficial for yourself but also for your family.
- Worry is normal, but use helpful worry strategies
Don’t stress about worrying. It’s ok to worry but use problem-solving (helpful) worry rather than unhelpful worry which goes around in circles and doesn’t reach a solution or conclusion. Problem-solving is structured, solution-focused and logical. Questions to help you apply a problem-solving approach to worry are:
What am I worried about?
Is the outcome, or any part of the outcome, within my control?
If yes, what can I do about it? (what actions can I take?)
What are the pros and cons to each possible action?
Which action makes the most sense and how/when will I implement this plan?
- Focus on short term goals
There are multiple reasons you feel uncertain at the moment – these include uncertainty about your career, finances, your own and your family’s health, the timeline of the pandemic, etc. In times of uncertainty, realistic short-term goals are important. Think about what you’d like to achieve over the next week and how you’re going to achieve that. You can have multiple goals across a range of areas including social/family, community commitments, physical, self-development
(e.g. learning a new skill, studying), etc. You may also write a list of things you’ve been putting off and start to tick them off (whilst still following the social distancing policies of the Government).
- Stay connected to friends and family
Social connection is important for your mental health, so think of other ways you can connect with friends and family whilst sticking to medical advice to distance yourself. This can include technologies such as video calling (e.g. FaceTime, Whatsapp, etc.) and instant messaging, but don’t be afraid to get creative in ways to stay connected throughout this challenging time.
- Practice gratitude
Experiencing a range of emotions is completely understandable at this time; but there are still ways to use gratitude to keep things in perspective. Paying attention to the things that we have can be a useful strategy at any time, but particularly in times of uncertainty.
Try following these gratitude practices:
List 3 things your most grateful about today
Tell someone how much you appreciate them
Do an act of kindness for someone
- Stay informed but don’t become obsessed
It’s important to get your information from reliable sources, which include your Doctor and the Department of Health. Set yourself reasonable boundaries and try not to spend too much time checking different information sources as this can increase anxiety and worry.
There are more useful things to do then watch COVID -19 unfold cough by cough!