The Easing of Lockdown 9th June 2020
As circumstances with Covid-19 and the easing of lockdown continue to create uncertainty, we may all face difficulties and worries in our day to day lives. These worries and difficulties can be more difficult to manage if we have areas of our mental health that we may already struggle with pre Covid-19.
Whilst we are all in the same ‘storm’ of Covid-19 we all can face very different challenges that the storm presents us with. For example, some school years have re-opened, some will remain closed to pupils; others may be waiting for surgeries which have been delayed, or waiting for much needed dental care. Some can work, others not; some are confused about whether they can or can’t return to work. Some people will have financial worries and some of our most vulnerable adults and children may find themselves isolated or in harmful situations. Adults and children across our country may be trying to manage grief from the loss of a loved one.
The suffering Covid-19 can bring shows up in a multitude of ways. It can take its toll on any of us.
While the current circumstances can make looking after our mental and emotional wellbeing more challenging, there are small steps and actions we can take which may make a difference. There are some useful resources below which may be able to support you if you feel you need it:
- Guidance for the public on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of Coronavirus -Public Health England
- Guidance for parents and carers on supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic - Public Health England
- Mental Health Support for Key workers - Frontline
- Housing advice including rent, benefits and money problems - Shelter
- Support and advice for children, young people and adults when someone dies - Cruse Bereavement Care
- Samaritans - If you need someone to talk to, they listen.
Counselling and psychotherapy is another resource of support available through and beyond Covid-19. Individual counselling/psychotherapy practitioners and agencies may be working online, over the phone or in person depending on factors such as, but not limited to, their own policies and procedures, professional body guidance and taking into account and managing risks for all through Covid-19. Directories such as www.counselling-directory.org.uk can be a helpful place to search for therapists or you can contact your gp who can refer you to NHS counselling services.
Helplines and Crisis Contact:
If you’re in crisis you can call the Samaritans on 116 123, NHS direct on 111 or contact your gp. If you’re in an emergency situation please call 999.
It can be overwhelming and scary to take the first step into seeking help. What you’re experiencing is never too heavy or messy to find appropriate support for. People want to help. What you may be carrying alone, can perhaps be lighter to carry, manage and heal with the right support.
Overwhelmed? 25th May 2020
What can we do if we feel overwhelmed or we suspect our young people/children do? Whilst this article’s focus is on what we can do if we feel overwhelmed, the suggestions can be very helpful tools for managing anxiety also.
The experience of feeling overwhelmed can be described as being overcome by thoughts and emotions. Being overwhelmed may suggest there is a lot going on for you which entails many uncomfortable feelings, whilst finding it difficult to manage them and/or find answers to what to do in situations. It may even feel a little like emotional drowning. Being overwhelmed can be a very difficult experience to navigate; it may feel disarming, distressing, and stressful or you may not know what to do with yourself, as examples. Whilst this blog isn’t intended as advice which you should rely on, my hope is if you’re feeling overwhelmed in the current situation of Covid-19 and the easing of lockdown, that this may provide you with information from which you can begin to explore finding ways to support yourself, if you want to.
What can we do if we feel overwhelmed or we suspect our young people/children do? Whilst this article’s focus is on what we can do if we feel overwhelmed, the suggestions below can be very helpful tools for managing anxiety also.
Grounding can have many interpretations and different ways of being described. For me grounding is to bring yourself into full contact with the here and now moment. Another way of saying this is bringing our attention to our physical bodies and what immediate surroundings we are in e.g. our living room. This can be helpful when feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious, as when we feel grounded or present in the here and now, it can gently move us into a space of feeling less overwhelmed. Ways to reground your body include noticing your feet on the floor, or your body sitting on the sofa. In other words, focusing on the physical touch of your body, on whichever surface you’re on, can be tender steps towards grounding us. It can be helpful to close your eyes as you do that and to be mindful of your breathing. Body scans can be helpful and you may wish to do breathing techniques or use a guided meditation or breathing tool to guide you. Internet searches** can provide you with information or tools on body scans, meditations and breathing techniques.
https://www.headspace.com/meditation/body-scan includes a guided, 3 minute body scan meditation, whilst apps such as Calm or Stop.Breathe.Think offer a range of techniques. Stop.Breathe.Think have created ‘missions’ specifically for 5 to 10 year olds to help create a ‘force field’ of calm, you can find out more information on the following link: https://www.stopbreathethink.com/kids/ Please be mindful to check out the terms and conditions involved in any apps you use for yourself or children, any costs involved and ensure they are safe to use.
Other ways to help reground include focusing on our immediate surroundings. This can include looking around the room we are in and thinking about what we can see, hear, smell, feel or even taste. This helps to draw our brains attention into the immediacy of the current moment which in turn can help towards soothing overwhelming feelings. A combination of all the above can be helpful. There is no particular order you should do it in, no right or wrong way. You could test different techniques out and see what ones are helpful. Practicing is encouraged!
Covid-19 and the easing of lockdown may bring anxious or overwhelming feelings up for you and is a time to emphasize self-care. Going for a fast walk, or exercising in your home are also ways to help towards calming your body and mind and may help settle you from being overwhelmed into a clearer place. Tackling being overwhelmed on your own or for a child or young person can be, well, overwhelming. A good place to start can be to acknowledge how you or they feel, reaching out and looking for appropriate support and soothing techniques, whilst identifying small steps you can take to help gently move you/them back to calm.
**There are many different apps and websites designed for adults and children in regards to promoting our wellbeing and using different guided techniques. It is important to check out their authenticity and genuineness before use, this includes apps/websites mentioned in this article and my other articles, as they are not intended as recommendations but ideas for you to explore. It is not my intention to, nor do I, suggest that they are compliant with GDPR (data protection laws) or that they accommodate safe online security. You will need to check this out for yourself. It is important to be mindful of your children’s or young people’s internet safety. The following link to NSPCC provides helpful tips and advice for parents and significant caregivers for internet safety for children: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-we-do/about-us/partners/nspcc-o2-online-safety-partnership/
Anger, Confusion, Fear 18th May 2020
"There have been many responses to the recent government announcement and I’ve noticed a surge of anger, confusion and fear. This is a scary time for many and a time for us to continue to tend to our wellbeing."
Lockdown Reflections 11th May 2020
Lockdown is an experience that has given the opportunity for many emotional responses. For some it may have been a time for reflection on their life, perhaps brought some areas of life into sharp focus or made other areas of life more fuzzy; perhaps a mix of the two or other things also. How has Covid-19 and lockdown impacted you as a person and parent or significant care giver? How has it impacted your children and family? And what does that mean for you all?
When we reflect it can give us insight into ourselves. For some it may have highlighted areas of life that they are unhappy with, or they recognise need their attention. It might also have brought into focus gratitude, love, connection and togetherness. Nothing has to be singular about reflections, it doesn’t have to be ‘just’ one thing, for example, you may feel gratitude and warmth for one area in your life but can now recognise another area of your life you’d like to change or an area of your life that perhaps isn’t so ok for you. Reflecting may promote the space to begin to think about making changes.
You can invite your children/young person into reflecting also. Asking open questions can help your child or teen to reflect upon this time, communicate that with you and can encourage them to think about their own emotional health and develop the skills to understand and verbalize their thoughts, feelings and experience. Questions such as; what do you feel about lockdown? What do you think about lockdown? What has made you happy, sad, scared etc may be helpful. Even if your child or teen doesn’t know the answer, or doesn’t want to respond, that’s ok and letting them know that’s ok can be important. Perhaps craft, such as drawing, may be a way of exploring the answers with them to help them find the words, or if they do not want to then asking the questions has given them the opportunity to think about it within themselves privately if they wish.
As I write this we, as a nation, are waiting to hear the government’s news on next steps regarding lockdown. As this is announced, reflecting on what you think and feel about it, and inviting those around you too, can support your emotional wellbeing. It may also help you make decisions about how you and your family want to manage the lockdown lifting process as an individual family unit. There is no right or wrong way to feel or think regarding the lift of lockdown. It may feel overwhelming or you may feel relief. Get to know your feelings and thoughts around it and gather the right support for you around you if you need to. By my next blog we will know the next steps the government intends for managing covid 19/lockdown and I will explore this and emotional wellbeing further then. Until then, continue to take care of yourselves.
Wellbeing Check 27th April 2020
As we begin week 6 of lockdown it can be helpful to consider a wellbeing review, not only for yourself but for those in your house with you. A wellbeing review lends itself to ‘checking in’ with what is and isn’t helpful for you and your family. You may wish to consider what you might do that you are perhaps not and what things you are doing that may not be helpful. Reviewing this may be a way of reminding yourself about things you can do to support both you and your family’s wellbeing and allows you to consider what is helping and gives the opportunity to discard what is perhaps not helpful.
You could involve your children and teenagers, or those you care for or live with, in this process. Ask them what is fun or happy about being at home all the time? What is difficult or sad for them? What would they like to do more of? Less of? What would you like to do more of or less of? You may not be able to meet all of their wants or desires, for example they may want to do less school work, but it does encourage communication, listening, being heard and connectivity which encourages emotional and mental wellbeing.
Other areas which may be helpful to consider are routines. Do they work for you? Did you have one but things have slid? What ‘things’ in the routine are working for you? For example, exercise; is it helpful to do that every day at 10am or does it suit you better to be flexible with the time, on a day to day basis? Give yourself a day off? What might you change or not change about your routine? You may want to consider what foods you’re eating, how much news you’re listening to and whether you’re keeping in contact with friends and family enough for your wellbeing.
Isolation due to Covid-19 doesn’t have to be a picture perfect cycle of cake baking, exercise, family activities or fun all of the time. It’s okay if it’s messy, difficult and includes pj days. We are all doing the best we can, and there is no wrong or right way to do this.
Everybody has a right to feel and be safe in their home. If you feel unsafe in your home due to the behaviour of others or any kind of abuse then please click on the following link for information from the government on how to get help and support: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-and-domestic-abuse/coronavirus-covid-19-support-for-victims-of-domestic-abuse
If it feels too risky to click on the above link in case you are seen, the following two numbers and email are included on the government website above as sources of support and help: The National Abuse Helpline; free to call and available 24/7, on 0808 2000 247. The NSPCC, who have trained helpline counsellors to get advice from or share your concerns with for your own family or a family you are worried about, on 0808 800 5000 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are in danger please call 999.
Support for you and your family. 20th April 2020
In these continued uncertain times, the threat of the Coronavirus can trigger stress and fear in any of us. Fear is a natural human response to anything in our environment which may threaten us. Adults and younger people may be able to identify and name their experience of stress or fear with more certainty than a child, as we may know what the feeling of fear feels like. It is also possible that a child can name their feeling with certainty just as it is possible that adults and young adults might not be able too. There are no hard and fast 'rules' around this and no right or wrong way of being. If you are worried or concerned that your child/young person, or one you care for, is afraid or stressed at this time it may be helpful to get to know what they do or don't know about their feelings in response to Covid-19 and isolation.
Sometimes experiencing fear or stress may manifest in behaviours which can be our brain's way of trying to help us manage the feeling, or give a clue as to what we may be feeling. For example, if someone experiences fear or stress, they may begin to touch objects repetitively or may pull at their hair, to name two. Different behaviours may be seen in adults or children, which may cause worry for loved ones or may be a worry if we experience them ourselves. If you are experiencing behaviours in your child or yourself due to Covid-19, which are worrying or concerning you, you can contact your GP, a relevant health professional or counsellor to find out more about what you can do, what it may mean and to seek support.
Alongside reaching out for support and advice from relevant professionals, it can be helpful to have an age appropriate conversation with your child or young person to gently explore what they may be thinking and/or feeling. It can be a confusing and fearful time so paying careful attention to what they say, think and feel can be helpful in supporting them to manage their experience. If appropriate the use of feeling cards or games might be supportive, you could make your own or look online for ideas and products already available to buy. Get to know your child's thoughts and feelings in different situations, as what they may be feeling might be different to what you think they are.
Information and resources which can give you ideas/support around what may be helpful for you and your family and your individual needs/experiences, can be sought in a number of different ways. Reaching out to relevant professionals is an option, perhaps your child's school has support or guidance or contacting charities such as Young Minds (www.youngminds.org.uk) can give you guidance. This can help parents/caregivers in gaining an understanding and insight into what may be happening for your child; this can help support you with any worry or concern you have whilst giving you resources and tools to go forward with. It can be upsetting and scary to see someone we love experience behaviours which confuse or worry us. Equipping yourself with knowledge, insight and tools from appropriate sources can help support you to support your child. You're not alone in this; don't be afraid by yourself for yourself or someone you love. Please know that support is there in many forms if you need it, for you and your family.
How are you? 14th April 2020
As we draw a close on the first three weeks of isolation and enter the next stage of government guidelines, I wonder if you have asked yourself how you are? This may seem strange but it can be an important question to ask ourselves. As humans it seems to me that it's the 'norm' to ask others how they are but do you ever ask yourself? And if you do, or do right now as you read this, what is your true answer?
There is no right or wrong in the answer to this question. You may be genuinely ok, embracing the situation, being creative, resourceful and positive. You may also not be ok, you may be missing family/friends, everyday life as we know it, you may feel overwhelmed, fearful, have money worries, have a lack of personal space in your home, or have too much space. You may also be a combination of those things or have experiences of things I have not mentioned here. No feeling is final, they can be fluid, so you may find from day to day, or moment to moment, you or the people around you switch between a number of feelings.
Below I have gathered a few links which may be helpful for further support and information for a variety of ways that you may be feeling. Please be aware I wouldn't have covered all experiences or you may find the ones I have put are not helpful for you, so please do your own research if helpful. There are many websites out there which offer help and support so you are not restricted to the below.
Information regarding financial government support (and support packages) can be found on the government website below:
Follow the link below to Mind where you can find information and advice for Coronavirus and your mental health/wellbeing. This includes but is not limited to, staying active at home, managing stress, loneliness, grief and bereavement and young people and coronavirus:
The below is an article in Psychology today where the author explores the importance (in my view) of mourning the losses that isolation may bring. The article is titled 'It's ok to feel overwhelmed and be unproductive:’
Please note that I am not affiliated in any way with any website that I suggest in any of my blogs for Kyra. I use the links provided as a guide for what may be helpful, if you feel you need it. Please remember the Samaritans are available 24/7 if you need to talk, find yourself in distress or in crisis: https://www.samaritans.org/ or call them on 116 123.
There is no right or wrong way to feel through this pandemic. My sense is we will all feel a number of different ways as we endure what is happening to us. As much as it is important to look after each other, our young, vulnerable and old, it is important to look after everyone who doesn't fall into those categories as well.
By Claire Blackburn BSc (HONS) dip couns BACP (reg), Counsellor Private Practice.
For information about the support available through Encompass Counselling visit: https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellors/claire-blackburn
Coping with anxiety. 6th April 2020
As we enter another week of government-advised isolation you, or someone you know, may have experienced anxiety or are experiencing anxiety due to covid-19. As humans we can have many different emotional responses to our current lockdown and the threat of the virus. There is no right or wrong in how you, your children or others may feel, even if it differs from person to person.
The NHS website describes anxiety as: '[sic] a feeling of unease, like a worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.' (https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/anxiety) Anxiety is the brain's way of trying to protect you when it perceives a threat by releasing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline into your body. These hormones may give people experiences such as heart palpitations, sweating, feeling sick, upset stomach, feeling unsettled and not being able to 'switch off' excessive thoughts, to name some. In my experience, within my profession, we need different ways (tools) to sooth anxiety alongside verbal communication. These tools can be helpful if you're on your own or with other people in your home and can include visualisation and breathing techniques. These tools may encourage your brain to calm anxiety. Below are some links/suggestions to help you explore what may be helpful for your toolkit, no matter your age.
1) The NHS advises the following ten tips for helping you if you're worried or anxious about Coronavirus:
2) Bernardo's suggest the following three methods for coping with anxiety for children, please be aware they can be very helpful for any age!
3) You may wish to try mindfulness and meditation as a tool. Helpful apps include Calm and Headspace which might help manage anxiety.
If you want to find out more about anxiety the following two websites can be helpful for further information and resources:
You may find some tools more helpful than others. It can be just as important to find out what doesn't work for you as to what does. Practice (even when not experiencing anxiety) and patience with learning new tools can also be helpful in my view. There are many great resources, charities and counselling services available online, for all ages, if you feel you need extra support or information. Anxiety during covid-19 and isolation is a normal reaction to the situation. If you feel it would be helpful please reach out to professionals who will be able to offer you help as we adapt to and go through the impact of covid-19.
Looking after our mental health. 30th March 2020
Collectively we are working together for the health and wellbeing of ourselves and others in our country. We may all experience challenging times, difficult moments, feelings and thoughts and to me this is all in the realms of being a human in a crisis. Even though we are apart in our own homes, we are together in our aim to overcome the coronavirus. Reach out if you need to and I believe people will reach back.
Looking after our mental health in government-advised isolation is as important as looking after our physical health. As our regular daily lives have faced disruption and restrictions to our connections with others, let's focus on what we may do from within our homes.
Talking to your family members or friends can really promote space for managing and processing how we feel and what we are thinking during this time. This can bring a sense of togetherness, emotional wellness and support. Online video platforms for connecting with others can be helpful. No matter what age you are, seeing your friends in this way can promote wellbeing. If you have preteens/teenagers, invite them to show you apps they use for keeping in touch with their friends and take suggestions from them, as well as sharing your own suggestions. Building connections with others as part of your isolation routine can become an integral part of your temporary new way of living. As we focus on our children and young people, I remind you to remember to look after yourself too.
If you find it hard to talk to others, or you notice your teens or children are finding it hard to talk to you, the following websites may help:
A charity for teenagers that helps them manage difficult feelings using online resources.
Offers support and advice for parents with children on how to talk to your child about Coronavirus, as well as giving tips for parents isolating with children.
If you need someone to talk to, they will listen. Day or night, via phone (dial 116 123) or email (if you feel unable to talk), they are there for you.
Alternatively and as well as verbally talking, keeping a 'Pandemic Dairy' can be a helpful way of supporting our emotional health. The use of pictures, drawing, collages or writing can all be used for your diary, promoting its inclusiveness for any age or ability.