Protecting Mental Health in Uncertainty

July 10, 20200 CommentMental health , Wellbeing

These are uncertain times. There are many unknowns.

When we face times of great uncertainty, as individuals, teams and organisations, we are increasingly susceptible to mental ill-health and less likely to prioritise mental health support. 

Feeling anxious and worried right now is completely normal with these events unfolding here and overseas and the possible impact they will have on you, your family and friends. 

Uncertainty about what will happen next and disruption to our usual routines can make it difficult to stay grounded and can increase feelings of helplessness.

Human beings are hard-wired to want to know what is happening when and to notice any threats.  When things feel uncertain or our safety is threatened, it’s normal to feel stressed.  This is the fight or flight response and it is there to protect us. While this response is normal it causes havoc when there is a sense of uncertainty and conflicting information around us. The body does not respond well to long periods of uncertainty and stress.

Right now, many of us are worried about COVID-19, and may feel helpless about what will happen or what we can do to prevent further stress.  The uncertainty might also connect to our uncertainty about other aspects of our lives.

If left unchecked mental health can suffer.  Know the signs of your mental health decreasing like feeling on edge, angrier than usual, helpless, sad or no longer enjoying pleasurable activities. 

We are not helpless in these current events and can always do things that support ourselves or others. It is important to have a positive mindset and choose the most appropriate response,  in light of current news events.  We can always choose our response. Here are some things you can do to strengthen your mental health in uncertain times:

  1. Separate what is in your control from what is not. There are things you can do, and it’s helpful to focus on those.  Wash your hands.  Remind others to wash theirs. Get your daily exercise. Limit your consumption of news.
  2. Do what helps you feel a sense of safety. This will be different for everyone, and it’s important not to compare yourself to others.  If you don’t feel safe going into the workplace even if allowed speak with your manager.
  3. Get outside in nature. When in lockdown it can be very easy to spend all day sitting in an artificially lit room. The sun has a powerful effect on mood so make sure you get outside each day. If possible exercise outside also.  Exercise helps your physical and mental health.
  4. Stay in the present. Perhaps your worry is compounding—you are not only thinking about what is currently happening but also projecting into the future. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened, gently bring yourself back to the present moment.  Engaging in mindfulness activities is one way to help stay grounded when things feel beyond your control.
  5. Stay connected and reach out if you need more support. Talk to trusted friends about what you are feeling. If you are feeling particularly anxious or if you are struggling with your mental health, it’s ok to reach out to a mental health professional for support.  You don’t have to be alone with your worry and it can be comforting to share what you are experiencing with those trained to help.

We are in this together and help is always available.  If you’re feeling alone and struggling, you can also reach out to Beyond Blue on 1800 512 348.

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