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Looking after your mental health during a pandemic

THE stresses and strains of living through a pandemic and repeated lockdowns is having an impact on all of us. Coupled with the January blues, added financial pressure post Christmas and difficult weather conditions and life can feel very tough right now.

To try and keep our mental health in order there are some simple things we can all do, and Adrian Loughrey, manager of the Koram Centre in Strabane has some helpful advice.

He explained, “The first thing is to acknowledge that the circumstances we are living in can have an  effect on  people’s mental health. Acknowledge you may be experiencing changes of mood whether this is by an  increased low mood and depression, or increased stress and anxiety. These  are all  normal reactions to what we are going through, and it’s very important to normalise that because the next stage then is for people to be kind to themselves. If they are having a bad day or they are struggling then remember  it’s ok to feel like that.

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“There’s a tendency to think we should be doing everything and achieving all we set out to achieve and putting pressure on ourselves, but we need to remember that so much of what is currently happening is being enforced on us, it’s outside of our control. We have to observe the restrictions and the lockdown, but within that we need to be kind to ourselves. People can put themselves under a lot of pressure,

“And it’s  worse in this instance because people have no control over what we are currently dealing with,” he explained.

“At this time as well people may be under increased financial strain, increased family disruption with kids not going to school, and it has all happened so quickly. It’s such a major change and it just leaves people’s heads spinning. People are  trying to juggle being a parent, a teacher and a worker.

“Home-schooling children while trying to work from home is extremely, extremely difficult and people are feeling pulled in all different directions.

“It’s  about getting people to realise how extraordinary this situation is and to tell yourself that once you have done your best then that’s all that you can do.”

Mr Loughrey also outlined the importance of staying in touch and staying active as ways to boost our mental health.

“Remember the  importance of connection. Obviously we can’t go out and see our friends and family in the way that we would like, but connecting virtually or by the telephone is still very, very important. Keep checking in with people, if you can be a support to others then that helps you as well.

“Try and look after your physical health – the gyms might be closed but we can still try and get out for a walk or a run, and to watch  our diet and our alcohol intake.

“One of the things I’ve been trying to do as well is limiting the amount of news and social media that we take in.

“It’s important that we keep up to date with the news and find out what’s happening obviously, but it’s about keeping that in moderation. If you find it stressful knock it off, that constant bombardment of the negative things that are going on it does lead to people feeling overwhelmed.”

Turning to advice to help children Mr Loughrey advised parents to have open conversations  with the young people in their lives..

“Try  to explain to them what is going on and ask them if  there’s anything they want to discuss and let them know they can talk to you.

“Acknowledge the fear and anxiety the child may be feeling about the  uncertainty of the current situation, and reassure them that we will get through this, it will end. We will come out the other side of this.

“One online resource which we have found to be useful for parents at this time is: https://nosycrow.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Coronavirus-A-Book-for-Children.pdf.”

Concluding Mr Loughrey explained the Koram Centre is still offering  online and telephone counseling, and is open for referrals and support calls.

He added, “If people do feel particularly overwhelmed or are struggling with their mental health it’s important they do seek professional help through the Koram Centre or through their GP who can refer them on to specialist mental health services. Don’t let things bottle up and become overwhelming,” he urged.

“It’s a difficult  time, be kind to yourself and to each other. When your safety needs are threatened like this it’s very difficult to get through your to-do-list. Now is not the time to put yourself under additional pressure.”

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 4 Castle Street, Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland, BT82 8AB