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The more flexible we are in accepting change the better

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Comment by Joanne Reid-Rodrigues, founder of Slimming Together, author and therapist in nutrition and cognitive behavioural therapy

Joanne Reid Rodrigues (28314725)

As we’ve been adapting to compulsory changes to our way of life, many people are dealing with the loss of structure and direction. Some have felt overwhelmed.

Obeying strict measures on physical distancing has no doubt slowed the spread of Covid-19. Yet, we’ve seen an increase in cases of stress, anxiety, and depression. While our collective goal is to avoid catching and spreading this virus, we can take simple steps to monitor and protect our mental health.

Stress and anxiety are natural reactions to dangerous life situations. Even in less serious circumstances, we all get stressed at times. The mind produces thousands of automatic thoughts every day. Once you tune into the automatic thoughts racing through your mind, you’ll notice there’s an inner dialogue that never seems to stop. Whatever we focus on mentally is replicated in our emotional state. In other words, the body expresses our thoughts as equivalent emotions. When the inner dialogue is mostly negative, the corresponding emotions make us feel stressed or depressed.

An effective exercise to regain emotional balance is the practice of observing our thoughts. A characteristic of anxiety is the tendency to overthink situations. The mind then produces mental images, often depicting a catastrophic outcome to current events. Whenever we feel anxious, sitting down, taking a few deep, slow breaths, and anchoring our awareness in the present moment is effective. Dealing with life one day at a time helps bring more peace.

Other simple, but helpful coping strategies include talking to a confidant. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a doctor or mental health expert. Having a heart to heart with friends or family who have your back can be cathartic. The worst thing we can do is bottle everything up. Our fears are nothing to be ashamed of.

Another coping skill is acknowledging any positives that will help you through the hardest times.

For instance, losing a job doesn’t mean we’ve lost our work ethic or our desire to work. Losing a business doesn’t mean we’ve lost our skills or our knowledge. Balancing your thoughts by recognising all your accomplishments, your skills, your drive, and your talent helps you stay confident.

In life, we have very little control over external circumstances. But if you trust yourself to handle life as it unfolds, day by day, and remain open to new possibilities, you’ll feel more assured.

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As restrictions slowly begin easing, it’s entirely understandable that some people fear going out. In the passing of time, these fears will eventually soften. It might not feel that way right now, but a shift will come.

Change is inevitable. It’s the nature of life. The more flexible we are in accepting changes and moving with them, when necessary, the more quickly we find ourselves able to recover emotional stability.

Developing resilience and flexibility are the essential coping strategies. Through lockdown and the easing of lockdown, we’ve all been forced out of automatic pilot living, rethinking priorities.

This might yet prove to be lockdown’s hidden gift.

- Joanne Reid Rodrigues is currently conducting Slimming Together classes and private coaching on Zoom. Joanne can be contacted at JoanneRR.com.

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
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