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Coping through COVID-19 and beyond

Stressed woman

Here at the Bub Hub we’ve always made it our aim to provide sensible, practical and up-to-date advice to parents and parents-to-be so they can make informed decisions when it comes to fertility, pregnancy,  and raising children.

Now, more than ever before, parents need a clear voice amid the confusion. And with that in mind, we’ve consulted a range of experts to discuss the only thing many of us are thinking about at the moment — the coronavirus or COVID-19.

Here psychologist Amanda Lehman talks about how parents can manage their own mental health during this time.

As if becoming a mum and managing parenthood wasn’t stressful enough – throw COVID-19 into the mix and all of a sudden childbirth itself seems like a walk in the park!

So while we all know how to keep ourselves physically healthy during the pandemic, what do we need to do to look after our psychological health?

13 things you can do to look after your mental health during this crisis

Recognise that stress is a natural reaction

Firstly, it is important to recognise that heightened stress and fear is a natural response to uncertainty. It feels uncomfortable but consider for a moment what would happen if we didn’t experience fear? Would you be as vigilant about handwashing without a healthy amount of stress?

So rather than being worried about being worried or feeling anxious about being anxious, you could try to recognise and reframe some stress for what it is. Stress by and of itself isn’t a bad thing; it’s actually designed to help us rise to the challenge and do what we need to do.

It is important to recognise when you’re over-stressed and know when your stress levels are no longer helping.

  • What are your own individual signs and symptoms that you are over stressed?
  • What healthy strategies do you have in place to decrease your stress levels?
  • And, are you putting them into practice when you need to — this could be as simple as walking away and taking ten deep breaths or simply calling a friend.

Be nice to yourself

A key to preventing stress from negatively impacting our mental health is self compassion. How do you ‘talk to’ and treat yourself when things are difficult? Do you treat yourself with the same level of kindness, encouragement and support that you would a friend or loved one?

Manage your thoughts

Our stress levels are determined by our thinking or interpretation of an event; not the event itself … are you jumping to conclusions, making assumptions, over-catastrophising, worrying about worst-case scenarios?

Are these thoughts accurate? Are they helpful? If not, is there a kinder, more self-compassionate way you could think about it?

Practise resilience

One of the things which defines resilient thinkers is their capacity to recognise the temporary nature of setbacks. The most natural human response to trauma and adversity is resilience – we are designed to ‘bounce back’. Remind yourself that ‘this is tough right now, but this too shall pass’.

Ask for help

Asking for help early, reaching out and letting others know when you need help or simply someone to talk to is perhaps the most powerful sign of resilience. Ask without hesitation – we all need help at times.

Plan and Prepare

Stress often increases when we feel things are out of our control. So while accepting that some things (such as COVID-19) are largely out of our control, getting a plan around the things you can control helps.

  • Building some flexible routine into your day.
  • Having the conversations you need with the people at home to plan what you need (time out for yourself, help with household chores)

Managing exposure

There is a lot of news on COVID-19 and it’s easy to become preoccupied with frequent checking. Just like hand washing though, it’s best to be measured in doing so.

Limiting your access to the news or COVID-19 chat to once a day can be helpful in managing your own stress levels.

Stay connected even while physical distancing

Physical distancing is paramount, likewise is social connectedness. Try getting creative on ways to stay connected – virtual coffee dates, FaceTime catch ups with family and friends, WhatsApp groups where you can share photos and stories with friends. Even a girls night in can be done virtually!

Exercise

Exercise releases endorphins or ‘feel good’ hormones so finding ways to increase activity in your day can be a boost to your mood and reduce stress levels.

Make sure you get ‘me time’

How often are you giving yourself permission to prioritise ‘Me time’? Even inside the house – setting some time aside to paint your nails, read a book, do some yoga or just sit down with a cup of tea.

Make time for gratitude

Energy flows where attention goes… take time to recognise and appreciate the good bits in your day – expressing gratitude has been shown to improve mood as well as sleep.

Expose yourself to positive emotions

Do you have something you look forward to each day? Are you exposing yourself to things which bring about positive emotions on a regular basis? Things that make you smile, people who make you happy.

Celebrate achievement

Are you recognising and giving yourself credit for daily achievements? How are you celebrating successes – even the small ones!

 

We certainly wouldn’t choose the challenges, changes and uncertainty which has been forced upon us. We can however, make the choice to make the most of it. And part of that is building our resilience to help manage stress which we will all face at different times.

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