Marc Hamilton - Human Perspective
Chartered Psychologist - St Albans & London

Coronovirus

When our minds are consumed by the spread of Covid 19 and its impact on our health, loved ones, economy and work, with the abrupt transition to online working, furloughs and redundancies, how do we maintain our own mental health and well-being and that of our community and workplace?

Do not underestimate the cognitive and emotional load that this pandemic brings, or the impact on you.  Difficulty concentrating, low motivation and sometimes feeling distracted are to be expected. Adapting will take time. Go easy on yourself.

2020 has been about settling into this new rhythm of remote work and loneliness. Planning for a managed return to work we need to be realistic in the goals we set.  

Managing your stress threshold can be achieved by laying down a solid foundation for your mental health and well-being. You can do this by prioritising your sleep (e.g. maintain a routine around your sleep and wake times), eating well, being aware that you might be inclined to use alcohol to manage stress – which is understandable, but potentially damaging in the long run and; exercise (which will lower your stress levels and help you better regulate your emotions and improve your sleep).

There is only so much we cannot control right now, but how we talk to ourselves during these challenging times can either provide a powerful buffer to these difficult circumstances or amplify our distress.

As we take the first steps to resume our day to day lives, renew our normal social contact beyond our video calls, we will continue to face unknown risks of infection and, we continue to share a sense of anxiety over the economic hardship that may be with us for years to come.

In this new normal, we can choose to embrace a different narrative that can make a real difference as to how we continue to manage risk and uncertainty.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal and healthy reaction. Anxiety describes the physical, mental, and behavioural changes that allow you to deal with threat or danger.

Anxiety may begin at a time when you are experiencing a high level of stress. Making important decisions, meeting deadlines, changing jobs or routines, or dealing with others in our lives all require constant adjustments. At times a single major problem or several smaller problems may exceed your normal powers of adaption. When high levels of stress occur, anxiety can result.

Psychological therapy can help for a range of anxiety related issues including panic, compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, assertiveness, social and other phobias

Depression

Most people feel sad or depressed at times. It’s a normal reaction to life’s challenges, loss or drop in self-esteem. But when these feelings become overwhelming, cause physical symptoms, and last for long periods of time, they can keep you from leading a normal, active life. 

Depression can vary greatly in the feelings that it brings, its severity and, the effect it can have on the individual.

There has been a considerable amount of research into developing effective treatments and therapies for depression: psychological and medical.

For some individuals, psychological therapies are by themselves enough to deal with resolving a person’s depression. In other situations, psychological therapy and medication can be an effective combination.

I sometimes find collaborating with other professionals, often medical professionals, will lead to the most effective solutions tailored to you.

Relationships

The pressures of modern life can put a huge amount of stress on us. Relationships are important for psychological health. Supportive and fulfilling relationships with family, friends and work colleagues are associated with increased wellbeing and decreased levels of depression and anxiety symptoms. Healthy, good relationships are also important for your physical wellbeing. Research into support networks have found that there are biochemical benefits that can help protect against disease and a variety of physical health problems.

Relationships can be complex. Building and maintaining healthy relationships over time can sometimes be difficult. I have found that relationship counselling is one issue that brings people to see a psychologist.

Psychological therapy for relationship issues can be useful, either individually or as a couple to identify problems in a person’s relationships. Talking to a psychologist can provide space to explore and understand patterns and causes of relationship problems.

Work related stress

Interest in work stress, employee satisfaction and health has grown considerably over the past two decades. Stress may be caused by time limited events, such as the pressures of examinations or work deadlines, or by ongoing situations, such as family demands, job insecurity, or long commuting journeys. Potential stressful situations are those perceived as unpredictable or uncontrollable. They are seen as uncertain, ambiguous and unfamiliar. Perhaps they involve conflict, loss, performance expectations or isolation.

To meet the pressures and demands faced at work would include recognising personal characteristics such as coping skills (e.g, problem solving, assertiveness, time management) and acknowledging work situation such as a healthy working environment and social support.

Psychological therapy gives you a space to analyse your workplace and assess the coping skills required to sustain healthy living, encourage you to reflect on how to build the appropriate coping techniques etc.