Positive thinking. Optimistic attitudes. Open minds.
No matter how often you have encountered these three phrases, or how familiar you might be with them, when it comes to practicing and living by them there is not a single easy way to do so successfully.
This becomes far more difficult when people face hard circumstances, such as a lockdown due to the outbreak of the current pandemic. During such severe situations, it is of a crucial importance to distance yourself from all the possible negativity stemming from it.
Regardless of how difficult that may be, we here at Youth Time have decided to stay positive and see through all of the windows of opportunities to maintain our well-being during these tough times. In support of this, this article complements the previous one “Behind the Curtains: the Burdens of Reporting during a Pandemic”.
Merging these two topics, the author this time has consulted psychology experts who share their perspectives on how to stay calm during a global crisis. With the help of our experts, we will try to go the extra mile and add a brick to the wall of creating a healthy environment. In this article you can also read about advice from a Neurolinguistic Programming Counselor and Life Coach.
With the three of them we will discuss how to deal with any stressful situation, the impact of quarantine on mental health, as well as how to better use this time and stay optimistic. There is also a valuable discussion regarding the way our minds and bodies react in similar circumstances.
Days in quarantine should be spent practicing our communication skills and learning new tips and tricks
While we are constantly being advised by health institutions to maintain physical hygiene, Associate Dr. Natyra Agani, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Prishtina “Hasan Prishtina”, brings to light the importance of another form of hygiene – the mental one.
First and foremost ‘mental hygiene’ is as important as personal hygiene
“This concept implies proactive behavior such as an improved diet, especially with veggies and fruits; spending quality time with family members, especially kids, catching up on books, movies, and TV shows and most importantly contributing significantly to your emotional development by strengthening communication.”
Agani goes on to elaborate on the impact of quarantine on mental health, and how this unpleasant situation can best be managed, emotionally and psychologically.
Days spent in quarantine, she says, are a matter of the perspective and perception that individuals have. She also explains that for people dealing with mental health issue, the current situation might turn their world “upside down”.
“Specifically, some mental health disorders might experience an increase in the severity of symptoms, therefore worsening the individual’s mental health. On the contrary, someone who does not have a history of mental health issues may find that days in quarantine might serve to bond more with family members, catch up on work and other leisure activities, and engage in hobbies.”
Responding to Youth Time’s question about how much news content one should be exposed to, she notes:
“Media exposure should be moderate in quarantine, as the content is disturbing and often traumatic. Therefore, a set schedule for watching news and reading online newspapers is recommended during these times. Instead, apps that have content that includes games, hobbies, and other activities should be part of our iPhone, iPad, and TV.”
In conclusion, Agani asserts that good communication is always helpful.
“Therefore, these days in quarantine should be more about practicing our communication skills and learning new tips and tricks.”
It is a great time to work on your goals, take one day at a time, and trust the process
Anusha Somani, an American Board Certified Neurolinguistic Programming Counselor and Life Coach, asserts that at this point in time, it is crucial to be in a state of relaxation. Which, according to her, is attained when individuals accept the emotions that they are currently feeling.
Somani argues that indeed this is a great opportunity to learn about yourself and self-reflect on your thoughts and actions.
“In such circumstances, one can adapt certain strategies to divert one’s attention to more positive actions, such as doing meditation, reading a book, maintaining a gratitude journal, taking online courses or by simply engaging in positive affirmations or incantations, whereby you repeat to yourself statements like, “Hey, I know it’s just a phase. I know this will pass.”
Since Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) has been used to treat fear, anxiety and stress, Youth Time consulted Somani on how it can best be applied in this situation.
“NLP is the language of the mind or in other words, it is mind sciences. Therefore, in NLP it is fundamental that a person be consciously aware of his or her thoughts. It is okay to be afraid or anxious about what is happening in the world right now, it only makes us human; however, the important part is whether you are able to reframe or rewire your mind when negative thoughts form a cloud over you“.
Somani claims that questions such as: “What am I grateful for today”, “What is this situation trying to teach me?”, “What can I learn from it?” and “What do I need to believe in order to be at peace?” can prove instrumental in putting ourselves in a more peaceful state.
Such situations are better managed by expressing our thoughts and feelings.
“I would suggest first to start by expressing it to your people, could be a family member or a close friend. In doing so, please ensure that the people you are speaking to, themselves are at ‘CAUSE’ state or what we refer to as a positive state. […]”
As a life coach, she highlights the most important advice, which among others is the ability to take this scenario as an opportunity; a blessing in disguise.
“In the hustle and bustle of life, we often whine about not having enough time to work on our personal self-development or doing things or exploring our own hobbies. I believe it is a great time to work on your goals. […]”. However, above everything, take one day at a time and trust the process!”
Take out time for yourself, for your loved ones and appreciate the little things around you
There is one necessary skill for life which people seem to have forgotten – to be with and within ourselves
Kosovar psychologist Esheref Haxhiu, Doctoral Candidate in Psychology, University of Warsaw, is currently voluntarily offering free online therapy sessions. He explains the need of psychological support for mental well-being during these hard times.
“Due to the already known circumstances, the prevalence of pre-existing psychological disorders in Kosovo, like war traumas, anxiety and depression, are a bit high. The situation with the recent pandemic for sure will cause the symptoms of people who are already dealing with mental disorders to become more pronounced. Therefore, currently, I am trying to help some of them online, via my platform e-Mental.” he says.
Haxhiu explains that extended stress weakens our immune system, which consequently makes us more vulnerable toward any kind of virus. But, how can we control stress in these circumstances?
During our conversation with Haxhiu, we learned how our bodies and minds react when facing threats, including the threat from virus.
According to him, when we are exposed to any perceived threat or danger, our so-called physiological fight mechanism is activated.
“Neurophysiologically speaking, this means that our sympathetic nervous system is activated, which increases our heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, etc. In other words, our organisms are mobilized to fight or run away. This breaks down our cognition (our thoughts) by making us think more negatively and generally become more focused on the perceived threat.”
Behaviorally we try to ‘secure’ ourselves by systematically watching the news or by buying an extended amount of food so we can survive longer
Haxhiu adds that, paradoxically, this overprotective behavior induces further stress and anxiety.
In addition to doing what is necessary as we are asked to do by health experts, he advises the following:
“My advice would be to practice certain relaxation techniques (like meditation, mindfulness, progressive body relaxation, etc.) Neurophysiologically speaking, practicing these techniques would activate the other part of our autonomy nervous system (the parasympathetic part), which directly lowers the activation of our sympathetic system, and this results in keeping a physiological balance (haemostasis) in our body.”
Haxhiu quotes Viktor Frankl, who in his book “Search for Meaning”, written during his stay in the concentration camps in Auschwitz and Dachau, wrote, “Life has a meaning in any given circumstances.”
“Apparently the changes in our routine are causing further stress in this situation, but we could use this experience for further growth and self-development. There is one necessary skill for life which people seem to have started to forget – the skill to be with and within ourselves. Maybe this is a good time to practice that skill.”
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