Don’t let your worries take over your life!

Whether you’re plagued with money worries or you’re afraid of catching Covid-19, counsellor and psychotherapist Niall Greene tells the
Herald’s Jodie Curran there’s so much you can do to manage your mental health.
“It is understandable that people are feeling overwhelmed and anxious during this time due to fear of the unknown, financial stress, anxiety
of being confined as well as death anxiety which includes fear of our own death or that of our loved ones.
“In order to protect ourselves from the worst case scenarios our minds focus, or hyper focus on what is threatening. If we focus too heavily on things that are outside our control it increases anxiety even further creating a snowball effect. One way of managing thoughts and emotions when your mind becomes overwhelmed is to practice mindfulness. Instead of worrying about a future that is so uncertain or ruminating on the regrets of the past, mindfulness helps us experience the present moment fully.
“Taking things a day at a time is also very useful, not worrying about tomorrow are next week, asking yourself in the morning what can I do
today to make things better for myself and my family. For many people the last few months has been a real eye opener in relation to how fragile mental health can be. It’s one of those things that unless you haven’t struggled with mental health yourself it can
be hard to see what people are talking about when they say they are struggling.
“I certainly have seen an increase in depression and anxiety in people that previously had never experienced mental health issues before as a
result of Covid-19. People are feeling hopeless and full of despair. This can result in lack of motivation, loss of interest and becoming more irritable at times. If you are concerned about a family member especially if you can’t meet face to face, give them a call or arrange a talk via video chat and let them know you are there for them to listen if they wish to talk. 
“If a family member opens up to you don’t try and fix or give advice, just listen, ask relevant questions showing that you are listening and
through this active listening show that you care. If you feel the person is at risk of harming themselves then you should contact professional help such as a GP or emergency services. There are also counsellors offering sessions via Telephone/Skype/Zoom/ WhatsApp to help manage mental health and stress during the Covid-19 outbreak and I would encourage people to reach out and avail of these services.
“For some young people that may have been struggling with mental health due to the pressures of school, may in fact be doing better in relation to their mental health while other young people are struggling due to the lack of actual social contact. Warning signs such as sadness, low mood, not interacting with family, irritability and not being interested in things they used to enjoy should be cause for concern. Due to Covid-19 normal routine has been disrupted and although for young people not having to deal with school pressure can feel great to begin with the lack of structure and daily planning begin to cause feelings of stress, depression and anxiety.
Young people especially find it difficult to communicate these feelings so the feelings get expressed through anger or are suppressed and internalised and as a result cause depression. I would suggest planning a structure for your day with family members and try and agree on a reasonable structure that works. If you find yourself in a rut reach out and ask for help, there are supports available, such as online support groups or you could start your own. Stress, depression and anxiety at such an uncertain time is very common and can be managed through creating structure, daily exercise, meditation, mindfulness or counselling.
“I would also suggest getting up every day and getting dressed, this will make you feel better. Set tasks or a goal even if it is to walk a little longer, clean out your wardrobe or even pen down your thoughts, keeping a diary is very helpful. Practising gratitude is also another way of keeping on top of your well-being, this takes a while to get used to but being mindful every day and grateful for all that is good has a positive impact on your well-being.”

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