With coronavirus forcing us to shift our way of living so profoundly and so quickly, it may feel stressful and it may give rise to anxiety. To help keep you happy, healthy and resilient, during self-isolation or social distancing (depending on where in the world you are), check out these science-backed tips. You can easily implement them into your everyday life and you can easily share these ideas with family and friends and engage in them with your family at home whilst you self-isolate. I will share one tip at a time to make it manageable rather than overwhelming as too much information overload can itself be overwhelming and cause anxiety. Also, this way, with one tip shared at a time, you can really think about each one and put it into practise easily, notice how it changes your emotions and resilience, and then just keep adding to your good mental health habits repertoire, one by one.
I would also like to thank you for being so socially responsible by keeping yourselves at home to help us all tackle this pandemic together. We are one. And clearly you recognise that and care about that by practising self-isolation or even just social distancing. So a big thank you from me to you, for that. Now, let’s look at these tips to help you, your loved ones, and all of mankind, as we’re in this together.
Tip 1: Think and communicate helpful thoughts that serve you and mankind
There is a lot of negative reporting. People are panicking. Others enjoy the hysteria. Others are a beacon of light bringing useful information and optimism.
But here’s the thing, research demonstrates that emotions are contagious both online and offline up to three degrees of separation . For example, we can spread depressive symptoms and happiness up to three degrees of separation, that’s all of us spreading our emotions to our friends, our friends’ friends, and our friends’ friends’ friends. So (a) we all need to be thoughtful and helpful with our communication and (b) we need to protect ourselves from the spread of unhelpful communications that lead to negative emotions that can impact our mental health and well-being.
Repetitive negative thinking such as worry and rumination are also linked to mood disorders such as anxiety and depression  and so it’s crucial we don’t allow ourselves to dwell on too much negative thinking or for too long and that we don’t communicate too much negativity to others through phone calls, text messages and social media.
A wealth of research also finds that thinking positive thoughts, when those thoughts are focused on desired emotions, behaviours and outcomes, actually help us to achieve our goals . For example, thinking, ‘I feel confident about home-schooling my children’, can actually help you to be a great teacher for your children.
Become aware of the impact of your thoughts on your emotions and behaviours and thus on your own happiness, health, and goals. Here are some basic facts you can test for yourself; this common sense approach underlies both the cognitive behavioural therapy approach and some coaching approaches:
- Your thoughts affect your emotions.
- Your emotions affect your behaviours.
- Your behaviours affect the outcomes you achieve.
- Those outcomes you achieve then affect the subsequent thoughts you have.
When you start with a negative thought it will usually lead to negative emotions, behaviours and outcomes, all influenced by your initial negative thought. On the flip side, when you start with an intentionally positive thought, even about something you are scared of or feeling down about, you’ll find that intentionally positive thought results in positive emotions. Those positive emotions then result in you carrying out behaviours that help produce positive outcomes for your mental health, well-being and goals.
Basically, your thoughts usually become a self-fulfilling prophecy, regardless of whether you start with a negative thought or a positive thought. Plus, it doesn’t even matter whether the thought is realistic or not, it will still affect your subsequent emotions behaviours and results in life. So focus on positive thoughts and use positive communications wherever possible because our thoughts alter what our mind pays attention to, how resilient we feel, how mentally healthy we are, what we do, and what we ultimately achieve in every part of life.
Whether the goal is…
- better communication with family members whilst self-isolating;
- healthy eating whilst stuck at home daily;
- becoming disciplined about exercising at home;
- ensuring our careers/businesses stay afloat;
- staying mentally healthy and resilient in the face of all the coronavirus information onslaught;
- spreading information that serves rather than sabotages other people’s mental health and well-being;
…we must all use thoughts and words that help rather than hinder. So affirm thoughts like:
- ‘Other countries have flattened the curve with self-isolating and lockdowns, we can too, regardless of whether the government is ordering a lockdown.’
- ‘I find it easy to do some form of cardio every (other) day to stay healthy.’
- ‘We eat healthy every day and we enjoy it.’
- ‘I only read as much news as is helpful and then switch off from it for a while.’
- ‘My elderly parents are increasingly listening to my advice on how to stay safe.’
And guess what, research also suggests that when we are already in a positive emotional state before a challenge hits, we face that challenge with much more resilience than we do if we are in a negative emotional state .
In fact, negative emotions can put us into fight-or-flight  which means we will not be able to think as clearly, problem-solve as well, or make good decisions easily as our prefrontal cortex responsible for these tasks (at the front of the brain) doesn’t work to its optimum level when we are in fight-or-flight mode. At that point we are simply ready to fight a threat or flee from it, and in times of imminent grave danger it’s helpful and even life-saving to not think too much and instead react instinctively, rapidly and sometimes aggressively, but if it’s just that your kids, partner or elderly parents are being annoying, you really do want to use good thinking – (a) because you love them and (b) because you don’t want to be arguing in such a contained environment if you can’t flee from them, ha ha.
So, as much as possible, whether communicating with yourself at home, or over the internet or phone, let’s keep ourselves and others in a positive thinking zone.
Thank you so much for staying home.
Lots of love, Sam xx