Psychology Month is celebrated every February to bring greater awareness of psychological services in our lives and our communities. Mental health issues have increased exponentially during the pandemic, with waiting lists for psychological consultations growing longer. Here, I'll be discussing the self-help measures you can take to assist you while you're waiting for your appointment.

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The pandemic has brought with it feelings of uncertainty and fear, leading to an escalation of your anxiety.

Additionally, everyone around you, your extensive network of friends and family, are all equally affected, some more so than others. No one has been left completely unscathed by the pandemic.

Thirdly you still have to deal with the ‘winter blues,’ feeling low at this time each year. Depressive symptoms or feeling down can include losing interest in activities you usually enjoy, sleep problems and social withdrawal. With the pandemic, these symptoms may become exacerbated as you cannot lead your everyday life.

Another fallout from the pandemic is hypervigilance or being always on alert for assessing previously benign objects as potential threats, which can cause burnout.

Your behaviours like prolonged, frequent hand washing or repeated disinfection of surfaces considered clinically significant are now in the normal range.

So, when is it the time to start worrying about your mental health? When you deviate from your routine, you skip meals, neglect household chores, or miss your favourite television shows.

Sleep patterns have changed in the lockdown, and again, if you find deficits in your overall wellness, then it’s a cause for concern.

Psychoeducation is self-empowering when accompanied by strategies for a wellness plan and protection against further deterioration.

You can start by adding more meaning to each day to have a brighter outlook, as per existential psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. It can be trying a new recipe or add a “unique” ingredient to an old recipe, my preferred choice.

You can plan for some quiet me-time. It can be being alone with your thoughts literally while gazing at a spot on the wall. It takes some practice; again, a session can be for a few seconds to begin. If you feel uncomfortable at any time, stop and take conscious, slow breaths.

With practice, you can use this activity as a prelude to a meditation session, where you sit with your eyes closed while concentrating on your breath. Again this meditation session can last for a few seconds or more as per your choice.

With a calmer mind, you can plan for your leisure activities as it’s essential to de-stress after a hectic day; if not, you’ll wake up tired and overwhelmed the next day.

Quick-fix, feel-good measures like social media can lead to a low mood when you see your friend posting happy pictures that remind you of your loneliness or lack of fun activities, even when you know about your friend having a tough time.

Here, the cognitive distortion of catastrophizing or minimizing one’s achievements does not coincide with a situation’s reality.

So, planning for leisure activities can be as easy as sitting down with your cup of coffee and a favourite book.

Gearing up to achieve immediate short-term goals keeps you focused as it gives you a sense of accomplishment, thereby bringing back some control in your life. This positive feeling may last only momentarily but can lead to a more robust you as feelings, thinking and behaviour are all interrelated, as per cognitive behaviour therapy.

In conclusion, I would say in your first session with a psychologist; you’ll be able to identify and voice your thoughts coherently with a solution-focused approach. Another bonus will be your de-stressing techniques will be honed, so you’ll be able to optimize each session.

This article was published in the Telegraph-Journal.
The picture is from Mind Matters A.S. Consulting;

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes and should not substitute for psychotherapy with a qualified professional

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