We are only too aware of the physical, social and economic effects of this current pandemic, but it is also widely acknowledged that the psychological effects on individuals will be possibly our biggest long term challenge.


Mental health and the pandemic

The burden of mental health disorders following disasters and previous viral outbreaks is well documented. A recent report for mentalhealth.org.uk  [1] looked at the effect of the pandemic on our mental health;

‘Resilience enables us as individuals, communities, nations and as a country, to cope with the stress of the coronavirus pandemic. Whilst 64% of people say that they are coping well with the stress of the pandemic of those who have experienced stress almost nine out of ten 87% are using at least one coping strategy. People have used a wide range of strategies to cope; these most often included going for a walk, spending time in green spaces, and staying connected with others whilst some people are resorting to potentially harmful ways of coping, including increased alcohol consumption, substance misuse, and over-eating, putting their mental and physical health at greater risk’

The Health Foundation’s findings [2] show that when you take into account the effects of social isolation, job and financial losses, housing insecurity and reduced access to Mental Health services you can begin to imagine the sheer numbers of people that are potentially affected.


What can we do to stay psychologically well?

Well, one of the best things that we can do is to manage our emotions. Managing our emotions during this pandemic will increase our resilience. The RQi Resilience Model developed by Dr Matthew Critchlow at the University of Westminster [3] shows that managing our emotions is crucial.


A word on avoidance strategies

‘Avoidance strategies’ are things that we do to remove ourselves from the ‘now’ and our current situation. We choose to spend time avoiding what’s happening. Avoidance strategies can be useful short term but no more than that. Avoidance strategies include Use of alcohol (Too much too often) Distraction (Watching a box set compulsively) and Venting (Lose your temper with others)


Positive strategies to manage our emotions


Our ‘contentment’ depends on radical acceptance, focusing on gratitude, and resonating with the positive. It’s really possible to improve the quality of your life with acceptance… Try an exercise in experiencing the five senses. Focus focus on your sight, what can you see around you? Really look at what is in front of you. Next, think about what you can hear what sounds are around you at this moment. What can you smell?  What can you feel? How do clothes feel against your skin?  What can you taste? This exercise will help you to really experience the present moment and focus your attention on what is really happening now.

Think of how you’d retell this event as a funny story in the future.

When something has gone badly or not as well as you would like when you’ve had a disappointment of some kind its understandable that we might struggle. In order to positively reframe your experience, try to imagine how you would describe this incident in humorous way to a group of friends in the future

Give and receive support from others.
Someone who provides you with Emotional support is able to help you to see your way through a difficulty. It’s the person that you can rely on when the chips are down. Emotional support from others is protective for health. Who do you turn to when you need to talk something through? Be open and unguarded with someone you trust and allow them to do the same.

Use humour.
Laughter – especially a hearty laugh – exercises our lungs and has been shown to benefit our circulation and muscles. Studies also show that humour helps people deal with pain and physical adversity. It can change our emotional state. When you’re in a funk watch something that makes you laugh or spend time with friends that you can laugh with and that can help you to find the humour in the situation. Try laughter yoga online or watch something that you find funny.

Four strategies to try that will help you to manage your emotions through the pandemic.

Managing our emotions is just one of the ways that we can increase our resilience.


[1] Coronavirus; Mental health in the pandemic. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/research/coronavirus-mental-health-pandemic/

[2] The Health Foundation https://www.health.org.uk/news-and-comment/blogs/emerging-evidence-on-covid-19s-impact-on-mental-health-and-health

[3] RQi Resilience model, Dr Matthew Critchlow. https://thisisthrive.com/


Read more about Janette Kirk-Willis and her other articles HERE


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