Coping in Trying Times
APRIL 09, 2021

By Patrick Psaila, Psychologist & Training Consultant, Co-director of PsyPotential Ltd.

Just over a year ago, many were talking about our hectic, frenetic, fast-paced, and overly stressful lifestyle. Enter COVID and suddenly our stress levels have skyrocketed to unprecedented levels as we are forced to respond and adapt to the current reality. Life as we know it has changed. Social distancing, working from home, isolation, fear, and uncertainty have become the order of the day. However, there is much we can do to keep physically and emotionally healthy and cope effectively during these trying times.

When we are immersed in a threatening environment it is easy to get sucked into a spiral of negativity and pessimism. Practising self-care is critical and it may help us survive and even thrive. The following are some self-care tips we can practise in the four dimensions of wellbeing.

The Physical Dimension

  • Stick to a healthy diet, rich in fruit and vegetables and resist the temptation to snack on sweets and processed food as a quick mood fix. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Get your seven hours of sleep. Sleep stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which helps to calm our internal stress response.
  • Exercise daily to help you stay strong and healthy and release those positive endorphins.
  • Take regular stretch breaks from sitting and looking at your monitor. Practise some daily form of guided deep relaxation such as progressive muscle relaxation, whereby you tense each muscle group as you inhale, and you release the tension as you breathe out.

The Cognitive Dimension

  • Try to keep your anxiety and worry in check by limiting your daily dose of COVID-related information. Be selective and get your information from reliable sources.
  • Keep your mind occupied by learning something new. This could be an opportunity to learn a new skill or to start working on a qualification you always wanted.
  • If you are working from home, try to establish a sense of structure that resembles a normal working day. Avoid stretching out your workday just because you are working from home.

The Emotional Dimension

  • Maintain regular connections with friends, colleagues, and family and find practical ways of helping others by reaching out to those in need.
  • Start to learn or practise meditation. There are various forms of meditation and you will need to find a style that works for you.
  • If you feel depressed, worried, or anxious reach out for professional help. These are normal emotional states in the current circumstances and can be managed.

The Spiritual Dimension

  • Practise your spirituality. Spirituality takes various forms and need not be religious. It is an important source of emotional and psychological strength.
  • Use this period as an opportunity to revisit your values and your lifestyle. Reflect and take stock of your life, your priorities, and your direction.
  • Try to regard this challenge as an opportunity for a deep learning experience. Times of crisis can often serve as wake-up calls for profound transformation.

Every crisis is an opportunity for growth, and this is no exception. While organisations have the responsibility to safeguard our wellbeing in the best way possible, there is much that we can do to make sure we weather the storm and emerge as wiser and better people. As humans, we can adapt to the changing reality of our environment. By supporting each other we can increase our sense of safety and security and face the challenge together. This is a time for maximum collaboration and teamwork to overcome this serious challenge.

Patrick Psaila is a registered Psychologist and Training Consultant. He is the co-director of PsyPotential Ltd., a company that specialises in Human Factors, Leadership and People Development in organisations.