“In this time of global health crisis, South Africans from all walks of life are confronted with new realities in a challenging and uncertain environment, requiring of all of us to work on building and strengthening personal resilience. Being resilient means to be psychologically flexible, to take hold of our minds in order to calm our emotions and face the new realities that confront us with clear sight and thought.”
Pic: Sandy Lewis, a clinical social worker and head of therapeutic services at Akeso mental health facilities.
So advises Sandy Lewis, a clinical social worker and head of therapeutic services at Akeso mental health facilities, who was commenting on the mental effects that the COVID-19 outbreak in South Africa could have on individuals, families and communities. Lewis provides the following insights and advice on how people can cope with the potential future challenges that the pandemic may hold for us as individuals, families and the country at large.
“Anxiety and worry are understandable emotions when looking into a future we simply cannot know. Our anxiety serves little constructive purpose and tends to erode our personal resilience in the face of challenges. However, what we should be trying to do is to accept our rapidly changing reality for what it is, and turn our minds to confronting the immediate challenges we face. In this way, we can solve problems in a more constructive manner that can meaningfully improve the situation for ourselves and others,” adds Lewis.
Building personal resilience
So what can we do to build and strengthen our personal resilience? Lewis says that one can start by not getting stuck in negative thinking and not dwelling on the past with thoughts like “I always expected something bad to happen to me.”, or “Why me?” Furthermore, worrying about the future and asking yourself questions such as “Am I perhaps going to fall ill and die?”, or “Will the economy crash and leave us destitute?”, tend to just lead to more anxiety.
“We should direct our energy towards focusing on what we need to manage today, and solving those issues. In other words, we should focus fully on the present, without any other noise and clutter from either the past or the future to stress our body and mind, and work towards dealing with the practical daily tasks at hand.”
Lewis says if you are worried about being at risk due to the spread of COVID-19, then you can practise social distancing and take all practical steps to safeguard your health, and if you are at home with your children, plan their day to provide them with the necessary structure and routine to keep them feeling safe. “Focusing on and addressing the practical aspects of today is much more useful than worrying about a future that none of us are able to predict,” she added.
Avoid your anxiety or depression triggers
By establishing what triggers anxiety or other distractive responses such as self-blame in you, you can try to either steer clear of those particular triggers or find ways around them that will stop you from feeling anxious or negative.
“Also, should you find you are having trouble stopping yourself from thinking about the past and/or being anxious about the future, you can consider distracting yourself in healthy ways. For example, rather than worrying, go for a walk, do gardening, listen to music, cook a meal, try a new hobby or watch a favourite movie or series.
“So staying present with the reality that you are faced with today, focusing on your current tasks and distracting yourself if you find you are having trouble coping, can all assist in developing greater resilience.”
“In the interim, strength, grace and tenacity are needed, so that we can all get through this together. We need each other, both to prevent the spread of this disease, and to offer each other the support to cope with it until it is over.
“Now is the time to be generous, thoughtful, kind and compassionate, with an attitude that embraces the well-being of all. And if the world is a different place after COVID-19, then we will face that new reality with renewed strength, coping with its challenges day by day, in the same way that we dealt with this pandemic,” concludes Lewis.
About the Akeso Group
Akeso is a group of private in-patient mental health facilities, and is part of the Netcare Group. Akeso provides individual, integrated and family-oriented treatment in specialised in-patient treatment facilities, for a range of psychiatric, psychological and addictive conditions. Please visit www.akeso.co.za, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact us on 011 301 0369 for further information. In the event of a psychological crisis, please call 0861 435 787 or 011 430 1890 for assistance.
For more information on this media release, contact MNA at the contact details listed below.
Issued by: MNA on behalf of Akeso
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville or Estene Lotriet-Vorster
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org