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5 things I've learned through research that I apply to my daily life

Dr Jenny Csecs is a Clinical Psychologist working with Dr Jessica Eccles and her team on developing a new targeted treatment for people living with anxiety and hypermobility.

Here are five things I’ve learned through mental health research that I apply to my daily life. There are many more, but I’m sharing with you the strategies I have found particularly useful living through the pandemic. Considering ways of managing mental health has been especially important given the significant changes experienced by most.

Now, in no particular order...

  1. Practise relaxation.
    Relaxation allows the body and mind time to rest and is a way to counteract the experience of anxiety. Anxiety is a natural and adaptive response to stressful situations, but too much of it can lead to all sorts of difficulties. You can get stuck in ‘fight or flight’ mode. Relaxation allows time for the parasympathetic nervous system to get back online and open the door to rest and digestion. Progressive muscle relaxation can be a particularly beneficial technique to do this, it involves tensing and relaxing muscle groups throughout the body. It’s worth noting that if you’re not in the habit of taking time out for yourself it can take practice to feel relaxed. I’ve worked particularly hard to apply this to myself as someone who likes to be on the go a lot; by starting small and building up gradually this has helped me to start feeling the benefits.
  1. Write down what’s happened during the day and how I’ve felt.
    Keeping track of how one’s feeling and what this is in response to can help increase self-awareness. When reading back over the entries it can often show people that they have coped with events better and more effectively than they may have predicted. I’ve noticed patterns in terms of how I feel on certain days and then consider and act in relation to what may help with this.
  1. Ask myself whether anything can be done about this right now.
    If you can do something practical to help, do it now, or if that’s not possible schedule a time in do this later. If it’s not a problem you can practically solve, acknowledge the worry, maybe note it down, and bring attention back to the task at hand. I’ve used this a lot in relation to all kinds of worries about COVID-19. 
  1. Regularly acknowledge how I’m feeling – both physically and emotionally.
    Checking in with yourself can help you acknowledge how you’re feeling, look at the options of how to respond to what you notice and then choose what to do next. See what helps and what doesn’t. I’ve been taking much-needed movement breaks whilst working from home which helps both my back and my brain! 
  1. Focus on changing one or two things at a time, including the tips on this list.
    Developing habits and creating lasting change can be challenging, start small and build up. Start with what you can do on a not so good day, focus on doing this each day, even if it is for one minute, before pushing yourself further. Try your best to be kind to yourself if you forget or don’t manage to do as much as you hoped, I find generally this self-criticism makes me feel worse and less likely to try again!

These strategies may help with some of the very understandable anxiety and worry most people are experiencing at present, however for people who get consistently stuck in ‘fight or flight’ anxiety mode, there are evidence-based psychological interventions which can help.

Overall, do what feels right for you and talk to others about how you’re feeling where possible, whether this be via text, email, instant message, phone call, video call, face-to-face, or through an online game. And if this involves thoughts of suicide helplines are available from this NHS page.

If you haven’t learnt a new skill or accomplished a big goal during this pandemic – that is absolutely okay, remember, you are enough as you are. 

Last updated: 31 July 2020

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