Managing difficult feelings during Covid and beyond

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Managing difficult feelings during Covid and beyond (podcast episode 4)
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Although we can experience difficult emotions at any time, living and working through Covid-19 has been especially hard.

Many practice nurses describe having feelings such as guilt and helplessness. This podcast takes you through four effective ways of helping manage and regulate such feelings:

Self-compassion
Self-care
Speaking to someone
Celebrating success

Managing difficult and distressing feelings (1:00)

Given their role working on the front line, we know a lot of practice nurses report feelings of guilt and helplessness associated with their role, exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. Many of us are experiencing similar feelings, brought on by such a prolonged period of distress, fear and uncertainty.

The four actions we recommend to manage and regulate those feelings (at any time, not just in the aftermath of the pandemic) are to practice self-compassion and self-care, to share with others and to celebrate achievements.

Self-compassion (2:27)

Self-compassion is an active and effective way to calm our systems down and regulate overwhelming or distressing feelings, so that we can cope with them more effectively. 

When we practice self-compassion, we notice the harsh way that we speak to ourselves when we feel we have made a mistake, done something wrong or are just feeling down or anxious.  We often talk to ourselves in a way we wouldn’t dream of talking to other people.

When we beat ourselves up, it makes things worse as it just exacerbates the horrible feelings.  When we learn to change those messages by practicing self-compassion, we can reverse them by engaging the part of the brain that will release feel-good hormones that will actually calm us down.  We can then deal better with the feelings.

It’s not about pretending things are OK when they aren’t. It’s accepting that this might be a really difficult time and you’re suffering or struggling but that you need to be good to yourself in those moments.

This may mean taking time to do this – it may not come automatically. You might have to pause to do it properly.

Touch is also important – feel the warmth of your hand on your arm or your face and you can feel it calming your system down.

Self-care (6:30)

Looking after ourselves, both mentally and physically, is really important at the best of times. As healthcare professionals, we’re really good at telling other people what to do but perhaps not so good at taking our own advice.

If we’re already feeling low, depressed, anxious, stressed or grieving, we’re much more vulnerable to unwelcome feelings such as guilt, helplessness, anger and despair.  We don’t have the inner resources or resilience to fight them or get them into perspective.

If you’re starting to have thoughts and feelings which are hard to shift, it may be a warning sign that you do really need to attend to your mental health. 

You can end up in a vicious cycle, as the less you look after yourself, the more vulnerable you are to developing those feeling and the more you have those feelings, the less you’re able to look after yourself - especially if your sleep is being affected. It’s hard to look after others if you’re drained yourself.

So, it’s very important to pay extra attention to looking after your wellbeing. It’s good to experiment with self-care and find something that works for you and then keep doing it. Try to avoid looking at too many depressing news websites or social media. If you do use social media, remember it works on algorithms, so if you actively look at images that cheer you up and inspire you, the more will come your way, and the opposite is also true. Our brain chemistry changes when we look at things that make us feel good.

Share with others (10:28)

We all know the old saying, a problem shared is a problem halved.  This is now backed by research and neuroscience. We instinctively know this – people have turned to others for help since time began. Often just talking about how we’re feeling with someone else can make us feel so much better. It can give us perspective and validate that we’re doing OK.

Taking the risk and sharing how you’re feeling can open the door to others also saying they’ve felt the same. All of a sudden, you don’t feel so alone or that there’s something wrong with you. Again, that can mysteriously make it all feel better.  

Sharing with others can create energy to make changes – like putting support structures in place.

One problem is that when we get really down, we’re likely to withdraw or isolate ourselves or think we need to put on a brave face so nobody can guess how we’re feeling. Or we might be ashamed that we’re having these feelings. All the more reason to reach out to others and ask people how they’re feeling. If someone reaches out to you, do try not to brush them off – it might really help to talk things through with them.  

Celebrate your achievements (12:24)

Celebrating our achievements is important. It fits in with self-compassion in that we’re often very good at encouraging others but we neglect to do this for ourselves. However, if we don’t give weight to what we’re doing well, how much difference we’re making to people’s lives, how much we’re valued and appreciated, we get a very skewed picture.  If we only focus on what we’re not achieving or the bits we don’t feel are going so well, we’re not getting the full picture. This will contribute to feeling helpless and guilty that you’re not doing enough when the truth is you’re probably doing plenty.

Think about what we can and can’t control – if it’s something beyond our control, it becomes completely exhausting trying to control it. Look at what we can control or change and focus our energies on that.

This is also where sharing comes in – we might need help from others to celebrate our achievements.  Make sure you and your colleagues give each other good feedback, compliments and express gratitude.  You could do it individually or as a team.  This might help you feel more supported, encouraged and valued.

There is a lot of evidence about the importance of team resilience and working together to support each other. Encouraging colleagues when they’re down and vice versa will help you in the difficult times.

Resources

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An emotionally healthy approach to GCSEs - A guide for parents

Packed with practical tips and ideas to support young people before, during and after exam time.

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An emotionally healthy approach to GCSEs - A guide for teachers

Packed with practical tips and ideas to support young people before, during and after exam time.

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Asking for help

Tips for young people on when it’s time to talk about their mental health, or if they want to help a friend

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Coping with self-harm

This guide includes information on the nature and causes of self-harm and how to support a young person for parents and carers

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Coping with self-harm (Welsh)

This Welsh language guide includes information on the nature and causes of self-harm and how to support a young person for parents and carers.

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Coronavirus: guide for line managers

A guide to help employers support staff mental health during Covid-19.

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Coronavirus: Quick tips for Line Managers

Tips to help line managers protect their staff’s mental health when working from home

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Depression booklet

Featuring useful facts, figures and information, this booklet also contains sources of help and what not to say to people experiencing depression

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Five Ways to Wellbeing posters

Five posters - one for each of the Five Ways to Wellbeing: connect, give, learn, be active, take notice

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Guide to depression for parents and carers

This booklet aims to help recognise and understand depression and how to get appropriate help for their child

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Guide to depression for parents and carers (Welsh)

This booklet aims to help parents recognise and understand depression and how to get appropriate help for their child

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Life after lockdown Wellbeing Action Plan

During the coronavirus pandemic, we have all been through enormous change and some of us may experience further uncertainty and change in the coming weeks and months

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Looking after yourself during your GCSEs - A guide for pupils

Packed with practical tips and ideas to support young people before, during and after exam time.

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Low mood poster

Poster created in partnership with Bank Workers Charity highlighting common causes of low mood, how to help yourself feel better and information on where to get more help.

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Patent and trade mark professionals

Protecting your mental health and wellbeing: A guide for patent and trade mark professionals

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Perfectionism

Aiming high can sometimes come at a cost. This eight page guide looks at ‘unhealthy perfectionism’ – how to spot it and advice on how to develop effective interventions.

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A practical guide for parents and carers of teenagers on using social media

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Starting University

This guide offers tips and guidance on how to get the best out of your time at university and maintain good mental health.

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Posters to be displayed in Higher and Further Education areas

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A guide for parents and carers to help understand anxiety more clearly and begin to address it.

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Guidance for parents and carers on how to help your child prepare to go back to school

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Talking about suicide

A guide for college staff developed in partnership with the Association of Colleges

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A booklet giving tips on how students can look after their mental health.

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Warning signs poster

A bold A3 poster showing the warning signs that tell you when someone may be depressed. This poster could save a life.

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Wellbeing Action Plan (aged 16+)

Our new Wellbeing Action Plan is for all young people attending sixth form or college.

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Wellbeing Action Plan (child)

A simple, resource to help young people keep themselves well and get them through difficult times

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Work from home wellbeing action plan

This is a personalised, practical tool that we can all use whether or not we have a mental health issue. There are sections for you to complete, including a positive daily plan.

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Young people who self-harm

Developed by researchers at the University of Oxford, this guide includes information on the nature and causes of self-harm and how to support a young person for school staff.

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