Managing your mental health during and after the pandemic
Psychologists around the world have been putting together advice and guidance as well as free resources to help us cope with the current pandemic. Take a look in case there is something useful to you, but remember that there are as many angles to this as there are people, so if you don't find something related to how you are experiencing the situation, this doesn't mean what you are living is odd or unimportant. The general self-help page on my website might also have useful information for you.
It is important to remember that a pandemic doesn't make any of the difficulties you had been facing before it happened go away. It may even make it feel worse. Or prevent you from doing some of the things that really helped you before. There may be aspects of the current pandemic that trigger difficult memories for you, like feeling trapped, worrying about your health or struggling with loneliness. It may put additional strain on your relationships or cause financial worries. We are all facing the same stressful situation, but how it affects each one of us will be different. Give yourselves permission to notice what is particularly difficult for you in this situation and don’t compare it to what others may or may not be facing. Be as kind and compassionate to yourself as you no doubt are to others. Breathe deeply, eat well, sleep and move your body. At this time, more than ever, looking after yourself is also how you can do your bit to fight the effects of the pandemic.
Worries about coronavirus & coping with lockdown
EMDR Europe has put together a short information leaflet about common reactions to critical events, in both English and French. I find the 'what we can do' section particularly helpful in reminding us to acknowledge our own feelings as well as those of others, with respect and compassion.
Printable self-help ressources based on CBT and adapted to the restrictive conditions of quarantine, collated by trainee clinical psychologists from UCL. They also have a regularly updated Facebook Page that you can follow.
CBT specialists have created webinars available for free discussing health anxiety and obsessional difficulties in the context of covid as well as the experience of covid and mental health in the BAME community.
A short video called 'FACE COVID' has also been made explaining how to manage your reactions to the pandemic through the lens of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). It is accompanied by a freely available ebook. A series of videos answering questions related to maintaining health and wellbeing in the pandemic by the Institute of Psychiatry, including health behaviour, anxiety, sleep, emotions and uncertainty, children, relationships and sex.
In addition to a guide for supporting children and young people's mental health, there are a number of neat websites with comic strips and workbooks for children explaining the coronavirus as well as helping them identify their 'super powers' to feel better. In English there is The Story of the Oyster and the Butterfly. In French, Julie et le virus Corona. The Coco Virus website has various comic strips and creative activities, all available in multiple languages.
In addition to the ressources provided in the guides outlined above, there are some specific tools you may find helpful during this time.
For those used to EMDR, this page summarises how to go about Self Treatment for Intense Stress, with protocols in French and in English as well as a short video showing alternate bilateral stimulation. A word of caution: don’t use this to try and treat yourself for experiences of trauma that you may have experienced in your life - this is better done together with a therapist.
This very simple smartphone app called RespiRelax+ uses a visual guide to calm and control your breathing, available on Google Play and the App Store.
If you need a little more help then ‘just’ breathing, the Calm Harm app offers many ideas to help distract, calm or ground you when you need to surf a wave of strong feeling. It was developed to help people who self-harm to ‘surf the urge’, but I find this app really helpful to prompt you with ideas of things to do to manage any emotional surge (which is what can trigger the urge to self-harm in the first place).
Smiling Mind is a free mindfulness meditation app, which has a specific mindfulness programme called Thrive Inside for managing extended time at home.
Free helplines in France
Action EMDR Trauma are offering free online or telephone EMDR for anyone who is badly affected by the pandemic, whether you are a front-line worker, person suffering due to confinement or due to having caught the virus, or because of financial worries.
The Centre Pierre Janet is also offering free tele-consultation for anyone suffering with the current situation, including children and adolescents.
For Valbonne residents, there is a local telephone number you can call to access psychological support for free: 04 93 12 32 10. presumably other towns have set up similar services. Check your town's website.
For some Covid can end up causing longer-lasting difficulties that can be hard to make sense of. Post Covid NeuroPsy is an international web-site explaining some of the symptoms you might be experiencing and pointing you towards solutions, and is available in English and French.