I was sent a report recently following research around the impact of Lockdown on young people in the UK. It makes worrying reading. Here are some quotes:
“it feels suffocating being inside the house and not seeing friends”
“I hate it here, would very much like to go outside”
“Loneliness, sadness, isolation, feeling afraid when I go out”
The human brain is a social organ. We stay sane through interaction with other human brains. So I am becoming increasingly concerned about the mental health crisis that is inevitably coming our way.
Others feel the same. This has been reflected by the recent applications to enrol on the Therapeutic Coaching Distance Learner programme. Coaches, counsellors, mental; health workers and teachers too, are realising the demand for help will far exceed resources, which were dreadful anyway.
Professionals are telling me they feel it’s time to upskill. Long term, reflective therapy simply won’t provide people with what they need in the unique circumstances in which we find ourselves. If we’re not proactive, sadly, many of our clients, young and old, will end up on antidepressants prescribed by well-meaning GPs.
So often the appropriate reaction to life circumstances that are not working is… depression. In most cases mind management skills, not pills, are the answer.
My article this week is designed to shed some light on the root cause for low feelings in Lockdown. There is an assessment form to help identify what is going on..
I hope it helps…
How to tell if it’s depression or just Lockdown Syndrome
What do you do if you’re feeling anxious and depressed in Lockdown and you don’t know why?
The physical symptoms that go with low mood can be worrying. Here are some of the things you might notice:
- You feel distracted, confused or find you have trouble concentrating
- You are tired in the daytime
- You have sleep disturbance at night or find you want to stay in bed in the morning
- You’ve lost your appetite or started over eating
- You’re smoking, drinking or using recreational drugs to make yourself feel better
- You move slowly or perhaps feel fidgety and agitated
- You’ve got more aches and pains than usual
Chances are, if you’ve been feeling low, you might have called your GP and been told you are depressed and need medication to rebalance the chemicals in your brain. You might well have been given a prescription for antidepressants with the hope that the pills will ‘fix’ the problem somehow and put you back on an even keel.
Sadly, the medical model of depression is flawed and based on bad science. When previously unpublished trials are put alongside published trials, it turns out that around 30% of people make some improvement when taking the antidepressants. That sounds quite good, doesn’t it?
Not when the same studies show a similar improvement for those who were given a placebo, or dummy, pill instead.
And think about all of the potential side effects of those specific serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) They include:
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
- Dry mouth
- Insomnia or nightmares
- Nervousness, agitation or restlessness
- Sexual problems
- Impact on appetite, leading to weight loss or weight gain
- Increased suicide risk in the first 3 weeks
- ‘Letterboxing’ or numbing of emotions
The same set of studies also show the best long term results are for those who seek out talking therapy. There’s a good reason for this…
The Fusion Therapeutic Coaching Model views emotional wellbeing through the lens of innate human needs and the simple understanding that our emotions have evolved to push us towards getting those needs met. Our emotions are our very best friends, even when some of the feelings they send us are uncomfortable or distressing. Here’s why…
It turns out we ‘extract’ happiness from our environment.
If you are living a life that is not working for you and your needs are not being met, your emotions will tap you on the shoulder with sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety or any of the painful feelings designed to catch your attention and send you an important message:
‘Please make some changes…’
But how do you work out what areas of your life do you need to make changes in?
Actually, it can be surprisingly easy with a visual prompt like the Coaching Wheel of Life used by life coaches or with a wellbeing indicator like the one attached to this article.
Here’s how you use it:
The Fusion wellbeing indicator
The Fusion wellbeing indicator has sections relating to all major areas of life.
Working with a Fusion Coach is an ideal way to work out what changes you might need to make but it is also something you can start to do for yourself, by scaling each area of life and adding the totals up to place a mark on the wellbeing slider. The higher the score, the more likely you are to be feeling ok and that life is good.
The lower the score, the more likely you are to be feeling stressed or distressed in some way. These are the areas of life the indicator assesses.
We can get so many of our needs met from our working environment, by having work we find meaningful, rewarding and fulfilling. Bearing in mind many of us spend a considerable amount of time at work, it’s a good idea to focus on your job, role or career and wonder ‘Is work actually working for me?’
Consider, if you could have any job you wanted and failure was not an option, what would that job be? Are there dreams and aspirations from your past that you’ve boxed up and put away on the shelf?
If you could have the perfect year at work, what would that look like? Break it down. Make a list of goals. Do you want to stay in your current job and make changes or get promoted? Do you want another role in your current organisation or do you need to look for other employment? If you’re self employed, what changes need making? Is your work/life balance all you want it to be?
Do you actually prefer working from home or is that making you feel isolated? Do you need to work smarter rather than harder? Are you managing your schedule so that you are making the best and most efficient use of your time?
Having an idea of your perfect work life will also give you an idea of how near or far you are from that now.
Is money causing you stress? Did you have to defer your mortgage payments? Are you currently furloughed and worried there will be no job to go back to? Do you owe money you can’t pay back? Just how much money do you need to stop you worrying about it? Do you need to win the lottery to be happy?
Many people say they only need enough to give them choices about the kind of life they live. If you had enough money, how would you be living? Have a clear picture in your mind. What would you be doing that you don’t do now? Where would you be? Who would you be with?
What would your work/life balance be? Would you give up work or make other changes?
# Emotional health
How’s your sleep? Many people are saying they are dreaming more at the moment. Do you wake up in the morning feeling tired? Can you focus and concentrate? How’s your appetite? Are you smoking or drinking more than usual?
And how about your relationships? Are you missing family and friends or have you stopped checking in on the Zoom calls?
These can all be indicators that you are stressed.
So how will you know when you are feeling better? What will you be doing that you are not doing now? What would other people notice about you? Be clear in your own mind about what the happy you looks like and what is missing from your life. Often we want to wait until we feel better to start doing something about it, but it’s doing these things that actually strats to lift the mood.
# Physical health
Even though you might be feeling emotionally stressed, you might be physically well and thankful to your body for keeping you going. Hopefully you have a fitness regimen in place? Perhaps not.
Or you might be noticing more aches and pains than usual; perhaps there are headaches, back ache or stomach upsets? When we ignore what our emotions are trying to tell us for long enough, the body sends an even stronger message… or can bring us to a halt altogether!
Twelve months from now, what would a perfectly healthy you look like? Do you need to lose weight, stop smoking or cut down on the alcohol?
When you consider a 100% healthy you, think about the lifestyle that would support that? And what do you need to do to get you there?
Write down as much detail as you need to construct a clear picture.
You may not have a partner and that’s ok by you, or you may have a partner who is causing you a lot of stress. In Lockdown, pre existing tensions become more noticeable.
If you don’t have a partner and would like to have one, consider the kind of person who would make your ideal partner and construct a picture of their personality. Do they need to be gregarious and outgoing or would you prefer someone quiet to spend time at home with?
What qualities would you value in your ideal partner? If you do have a partner, consider how you would like that relationship to look by the end of next year. Do you need to make changes? Is communication an issue? Are there problems which need addressing?
The family situation can be a complicated picture for many. Do you yearn for more…or less contact? Don’t confuse quantity with quality.
Some areas of your family may be working better than others. Chances are, it’s the parts that are not working that catch your attention and make you feel bad.
Be clear about how much stress you experience in your family unit and what changes you might need to make. Some relationships feel toxic or controlling and can cause so much distress that, if things can’t be improved, you might have to give yourself permission to just let go of them.
As the old saying goes, ‘you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends.’ There are likely to be people you are missing right now; some more than others. How many ‘friends’ do you have?
Try drawing a spiral on a piece of paper.
At the centre, write down the names of those you are closest to and, as the spiral winds out, other names of those you are less connected to. Are you in contact enough with the people that really matter to you or are you seeing too much of the others?
What would make you happy if failure was impossible and you could have anything you wanted?
To have good friends we need to be a good friend too. Are you there for others? Do you put energy into nurturing your friendships?
The human brain loves to learn. Just being bored can create lethargy and depression in itself. It can feel like the less we do, the less we want to do.
What are you doing to learn new things? Do you have a Lockdown project that’s stretching you? Remember, just outside your comfort zone is where the real growth happens. All too often we confine ourselves with fear and maintain the status quo to avoid risks.
Consider this time next year. What new experiences would you like to have? What new skills would you like to be learning? How would that affect your life? Would it lead to new employment or a new hobby? Would you be travelling more or meeting new people?
Are you happy where you live? Do you feel safe and secure there or are you being bullied, confined or controlled? Do you have neighbour problems?
Are there changes you would like to make inside or outside the home?
Or would you rather be living somewhere else? What would your ideal home look like? Where would it be? How would it feel to be in your perfect home and how would that affect the rest of your life?
When we work towards a goal and get to the finishing post, we experience a real sense of achievement that sends feel-good hormones flooding into our brain.
And when we make efforts to ensure the major areas of our life are really working for us, we have positive inner feelings that connect us to the outside world. Our life has a sense of meaning and purpose.
The happiness algorithm
Happiness is a temporary state of mind that comes and goes. As the saying goes;
‘Happiness is like a butterfly. The more you chase it the more it eludes you. But, if you turn your attention to other things, the butterfly of happiness will come and rest gently on your shoulder.’
Happiness may be transient, but wellbeing is something we can start improving for ourselves by turning our attention to what is working and what needs to change.
It all starts with making friends with our emotions, inviting them to come and ‘sit alongside us’ for a while.
Then, all we have to do is listen to what they are saying…
and think about what our choices are.
Stay safe and well.
Frances Masters MBACP accred GHGI
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