Struggling to find the positive?

How can we keep our heads above water when we’re stuck at home, surrounded by scary statistics in the middle of a pandemic?

 “It’s very easy to focus on the negatives or the restrictions or the risks, threats and inconveniences,” HealthWISE mental health clinician Sean Kijurina says of COVID-19. Whether it’s a simple as enjoying the nice weather or taking some time out to meditate, Sean says focusing on the silver linings is essential.

This what the #InThisTogether campaign is all about – practical tips for cultivating good mental health while our lives turn upside down.

One tip well worth remembering as we struggle to focus on the positive is the importance of checking in and being kind to yourself. Our minds can often exaggerate the negatives, and sometimes we need to take some time out to look for the light at the end of the tunnel.

“Talking of really high distress, I find that people run into serious trouble when they’re in a situation which has three elements to it. When the situation is unbearable, when it’s inescapable, and when it doesn’t have an end to it,” Sean explains.

“Even if two of those factors are met – maybe your situation at the moment is unbearable and maybe it’s inescapable – the fact is the third condition of having no end point is not met in this situation. We don’t know exactly what the end date is of the pandemic, but there is definitely an end to this. Even if everything else seems quite unbearable and inescapable at the moment, it’s definitely not going to carry on forever.”

The National Health Commission is running a campaign #InThisTogether providing practical tips to support the mental health and wellbeing of Australians during this challenging time.

Sean encourages those struggling to cast their minds beyond the pandemic.

“Think about either what you will enjoy getting back to, or what you will no longer take for granted and actually notice and appreciate.”

“I think even entertaining some thoughts about life beyond this is, in its own way, a positive thing. You can relate that to thinking of the next holiday you’ll be going on. You may not be there yet, but there’s something mentally exciting or satisfying or calming about thinking about positives that lie up ahead.”

For some, using the extra hours at home to slow down or finding a safe place to take some time out from family members could be valuable ways of coping. Sean recommends searching for online courses focusing on personal development for those who want to improve their inner lives.

For others, humour might be what they need to lift their spirits.

“I’ve really appreciated over the last couple of weeks just how powerful comedy can be. When we’re faced with adversity, comedy in all of its forms can be a powerful way of lightening the mood and having a laugh, but also just to connect with others and find a way to cope,” Sean says.

“I think it’s not necessarily what is happening that is always the problem. It is quite often how we look at it that makes the difference between whether we move through something adaptively or whether we’re negatively affected by it. So changing your mindset about what’s happening – and that may include some comedy – can make the difference whether something is bearable or unbearable.”

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