Managing our mental health during COVID-19
Drawing on her varied professional experience as a qualified counsellor and in performing arts, as well as personal experience of surviving mental ill health, Sheila McMahon offers her tips for managing our mental health during these challenging times.
As the pandemic carries on, it’s no surprise that a lot of people are feeling deflated. Some people are lacking excitement and energy. Others are feeling dreary, bored and fed up. Add these feelings to external factors such as the weather getting colder and the nights getting darker, and it creates a massive cocktail for mental health issues.
When the first lockdown happened, there was a sense of let’s make the most of it – let’s do up the house and spend quality time with our family. I don’t think most of us expected to be heading into a second lockdown.
Then there is ‘Covid rage’. Scenarios of people being less tolerant and blaming others. This reminds me of the stages of grief, of which anger is one of the stages. We are all experiencing a loss, so it is understandable that so many of us are feeling angry.
It is important we allow that anger to surface, but in a healthy way like using what I call an 'anger cushion'. Set up a soft cushion to hit or squeeze to get anger and frustration out in a safe way. I have seen time and time again how bottled-up anger can turn into depression and suicidal thoughts.
Everybody's different, though, so use what coping mechanism works well for you that doesn't harm anyone else and get help from a professional if you need it.
The New Now
So here we are. The more we fight it the more it impacts our own mental health. Yes, for most people it’s a rubbish situation, and it is so important to acknowledge this.
If you are suffering long episodes of depression, then I encourage you to talk to someone, such as your doctor or professional support. Most of us are on an emotional roller coaster, riding through the five stages of grief.
One of the factors affecting our mental health is boredom. We are lacking our usual conversations. Many of us have not been out doing the usual activities that give us things to talk about!
Luckily, we don’t have to go ‘out-out’ to have experiences to talk about. We can have ‘out-ins’, as one of the attendees on my recent online mental health show called it.
I hold a disco in my cabin with a kick-ass speaker and lights and a few friends on Zoom. It's not the same as being out in a club, but it's better than nothing, that's how I see it!
Show on Understanding Suicide
With the second lockdown, I have noticed a rise in suicidal thoughts and intent. As a result, I am performing an extra mental health show this year on ‘Understanding Suicide’ on Saturday 28 November.
We Will Carry On
Remember a beautiful day during a pandemic is still a beautiful day. Regardless of what happens, we can still continue on. For me, it’s not about what’s happening, it’s about what we can do about it.
As mentioned earlier, it is unhealthy to take anger out on each other. Now more than ever we need to continue to support and work together. I honestly believe that our best support can come from each other. In years to come, there will be amazing stories of how we united together, adapted and used our creativity.
Sheila McMahon is a Qualified Counsellor RegMBACP, Post Grad Family Therapy Practitioner, Author, Award-winning Mental Health Educator, Singer, Songwriter, Comedienne and survivor of mental ill health.