Under the Hood

3 Essential Things To Do For Your Mental Health During The Quarantine Period

Mental Health Awareness Month falls on a May. And this particular May is a tough one for many of us who are spending the last few months stuck at home in fear of a getting infected by a potentially lethal virus that has affected everyday life around the world. New challenges, responsibilities and daily routines have caused us to have little time to get a full sense of what we are going through. As a result, anxiety is at an all time high and the worst part is that many of us are not even aware of it. In spite of this, there are paths for us to go through it, helping us cope with our emotions, take care of our minds and enhance our resilience.

To keep you calm and collected every day while in the confines of your homes, Psychology Today has listed 3 essential expert-recommended things to do for your mental health during the quarantine period:

Name Your Emotion/s And Tame It 

Dr. Daniel Siegel wrote in his book "Brainstorm" that "in the brain, naming an emotion can help calm it." Psychology Today called this "name it to tame it." It sounds simple, but the idea of identifying and naming an emotion is powerful enough to calm us down and for us to take control of our actions. More often than not, we let our feelings take control of us and are prone to letting them spill out every day. Yet we take no time recognizing what is happening inside of us. 

Moments such as snapping at your partner or spouse and beating yourself up all involve enough emotional energy to assign meaning to our reactions, causing us to label ourselves or others often through a critical filter. 

As a result, we often accept our thoughts and emotions as fact, causing us to react to stories that we tell ourselves to. As Siegel put it in "Parenting from the Inside Out," "when you are feeling stressed or find yourself in situations that trigger past unresolved issues, your mind may shut off and become inflexible. This inflexibility can be an indication that you are entering a different state of mind that directly impairs your ability to think clearly. We call this a low mode of processing... or 'the low road' where you can become flooded by feelings such as fear, sadness or rage. These intense emotions can lead you to have knee-jerk reactions instead of thoughtful responses."

By pausing for at least a moment and reflecting on your emotions, you can not only understand yourselves better, but also be thoughtful about your actions. This can be done by taking timeouts to SIFT your minds. SIFT is an acronym Siegel used to identify any Sensations, Images, Feelings and Thoughts that you are experiencing. You can either simply acknowledge whatever comes up, or can write it down. These sensations, images, feelings and thoughts

help you fully understand the stressors that are being triggered in you, such as the fear fueling the pressure you are feeling, or the sadness behind your irritability.

Should you feel isolated or overwhelmed by your emotions, you can reach out and express what you are going through. "Sometimes these low-road states can go beyond being unpleasant and confusing - they can even make life feel terrifying. If that is going on, talk about it," Siegel wrote in "Brainstorm." "Sharing your experience with others can often make even terrifying moments understood and not traumatizing. Your inner sea and your interpersonal relationships will all benefit from naming what is going on and bringing more integration into your life." 

"Name it to tame it" is important when you are feeling sensitive or reactive as a result of stress and uncertainty caused by social distancing and staying at home for months.

Feel Your Emotions

Let us not mistake resilience for emotional suppression. Telling ourselves to "keep calm and carry on" in the face of adversity may not do much since we fail to realize how much our feelings guide us. Over time, the process becomes more complicated when they have been buried or misplaced. During this intense moment in life, it can be liberating to allow ourselves to feel what we really feel.

Emotions are "an adaptive form of information processing and action readiness that orients people to their environment and promotes their wellbeing," Dr. Les Greenberg, the originator of Emotion-Focused Therapy, argued. Greenberg warned against avoiding or glossing over our emotions.

"People often experience emotional flooding as dangerous and traumatic, which leads them to try to avoid feelings altogether," said Greenberg. "At times emotional avoidance or numbing may be the delayed result of trauma, and this is one of the key forms of post-trauma difficulty. Emotional over-arousal also often leads to the opposite problem, maladaptive attempts to contain emotion."

Many of us can relate to the unpleasant results of avoiding or over-attending our emotions, which leads to what Greenberg called "emotional dysregulation" and impulsive actions. For instance, instead of facing a primary emotion such as sadness, we end up reacting with irritability towards our loved ones. 

Feeling an emotion such as anger, fear and grief helps center you. This makes you feel more relieved, more clear-headed and free once that emotion has passed.

Mindfulness Meditation 

The idea of meditation can cause many to feel daunted. A mind that is racing is like a wild animal that we are too afraid to tame. It is hard for us to slow down, especially if we feel anxious, but mindfulness meditation actually requires taking small yet easy steps.

"Meditation is not about getting to this state of always being able to be right here right now in the present moment," Dr. Donna Rockwell, licensed clinical psychologist and mindfulness meditation expert, said. "What meditation is about is training the mind how to come back." One of the ideas behind mindfulness is that you do not have to let your thoughts or feeling control you. Anxiety causes things to be thrown at you, hoping they will stick. Mindfulness allows you to acknowledge those thoughts, but letting them pass instead of entertaining them. "What meditation teaches us is how to return from all that discursiveness to this breath, to the here and now of this very moment," Rockwell said. 

By setting aside time for practicing mindfulness (at least 10 minutes a day), it becomes more easy for you to remain calm the whole day, helping both your mental and physical health in the long run.

Mental health The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in every four people in the world is at risk of developing mental disorders. The risks have increased during the pandemic, where people are isolated and social distancing. Pixabay

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