COVID -19

The Crisis!

A worldwide phenomenon towards introspection.

We cannot stop this virus because science does not have the weapons to fight it. It is novel – we are in completely uncharted waters.

The uncertainty of the unknown, the absolute helplessness, combined with the health risks and the added risk to life create the conditions for the perfect storm. We feel it swelling up inside of each one of us and around us.  Building momentum and gathering speed especially via well-meaning social media. Thankfully it is not as deadly a virus as we have seen in the past, but it is more contagious than we are accustomed to. If science cannot help us and if this is bigger and faster than we are, what do we do? What can we hold on to? What have we left to manage ourselves and our loved ones? 

According to all the “scientific” advice we are left with our own immediate spaces, our very own thoughts and beliefs. Cliché after cliché pops into my mind.

As above so below

Every little bit count

The mountain is conquered one step at the time

How to eat an elephant…

I have no power over others

One Day at a time

… And so on.

All of these are true yet when faced with this truly global threat like COVID-19 it seems all too simplistic. There is a possible permanent change ahead. We have no way of knowing if our norms will stay the same. And all we have left is to sit with ourselves in self-isolation, forced quarantine or in simple contemplation about these times we live in.

The changes we can make seem minute yet every institution in the world is asking us to do these very simple and basic, seemingly unimportant things.

Wash our hands!

Be conscious of what we touch and who we have been in contact with.

Be kind to others and think for the greater good.

Governments, The World Health Organisation, science, medicine, the pharma industry EVERYONE who we have put our trust in for so long is telling us the same thing.  “Manage this crisis on a MICRO- LEVEL.”

“What I do today in my home in my environment WILL make a difference.” That is what they are saying. They are in fact telling us to go back to basics and focus on the space we occupy right now.

So, what about my environment my thoughts and my beliefs?  We have been running in circles cutting our time short because we are obsessing about social media posts, work, finances and what the people on the other side of the planet feel is good, pretty and appropriate. 

This global crisis is indeed an opportunity. An opportunity to self-isolate on a completely new level. A chance to do some introspection about life here and now.  I challenge everyone to take this opportunity and for us to look at our own values, beliefs and environment. We no longer can travel and run away from our own environment. We can no longer flood our senses with distractions because everything is closed.  We are forced to use our waking hours to be truly present in the now.  This crisis is an opportunity to engage in a global prayer session. Turning our thoughts towards ourselves and that which we believe in.  Ultimately this is all that we ever had, we just thought that there was more, but when it comes down to the essence of a life worth living this is what we have.

The only way that we now can be pulled away from ourselves is by sending, reading, posting creating social media posts that promote anxiety and hysteria. No doubt, many of these posts are well-meaning. I too am guilty of exactly this overloading of information.

Know that fear-based posts are like COVID-19 infected door handles. A festering point of ill health. Make sure you clean your devices regularly, be aware of what you read and hear. Encourage the spread of positive interactions. Protect your thoughts and your beliefs from the infestation of the very contagious negativity. Consider the greater good and stop the spread of fear.

Crisis, a chance to change!

I have no doubt that this too shall pass, and we will find new norms. We will look back and remember a time before COVID-19 like we remember the world before 911. There will be many changes, we will get used to them and learn to live life with those changes. Eventually, we will go on and happily do life.

I ask you – what would YOU like to take from this crisis. What change would you like to make in your environment, in your beliefs and in your thoughts that can honour this crisis – this profound, novel and global crisis of biblical proportions?  

What can You do differently to change this world?

What is Your belief?

Do your thoughts haunt you or do they encourage you?

Behaviour is an expression of our deepest thoughts and beliefs. Behaviour changes when we allow our brain to consider new ways to be. The brain can only consider new ways of being if we change our minds about what we truly deeply believe.

More clichés bubble up:

Be the change you want to see| Are you part of the solution or part of the problem| Lead from the front| practice what you preach| Be the change…and so on

Stay safe, Stay healthy Stay positive as you turn inwardly to change the world one step at a time.

Lifting The Veil

Anxiety, Depression & Mental Health

Despite the stormy weather we had a good turnout for our “Let’s Get Talking” event on Tuesday 30th July 2019. Participants found the evening interesting and informative. The majority felt that the environment was relaxed, comfortable, compassionate and safe. We had a healthy discussion about a difficult topic, and everyone contributed. Thank you to all who made the effort to come out, it was truly wonderful and humbling.

During the introductions it became clear that everyone in the room has had their own experiences with anxiety and depression. The evening therefore focused mainly on anxiety and depression and we only touched briefly on other mental health issues.

What is anxiety and depression?

Andrea started the conversation with a simplified introduction to what anxiety is.

                “Anxiety (and depression) is a coping mechanism that has taken over control. Fear and sadness are essential to our biological and social survival. These emotions originate from deep within the “survival brain”.

The survival brain has only three responses – fight, flight or freeze. During times of crisis and trauma the survival brain takes over and we start operating with “limited capacity” i.e. the brain withdraws from accessing learnt information and reasoning. This is a healthy and temporary response to crisis and trauma. Some people call this “survival mode”. If the brain for some reason perceives the world to be a dangerous place, it operates more and more in survival mode and eventually this may become a permanent state of mind, which may lead to a diagnosis of anxiety or depression.” 

“Historically anxiety and depression were treated as separate diagnoses. Now we see them more as being on a continuum” says Deborah Rutenberg, co-facilitator and counsellor at The Family Counselling Centre. Andrea Nettel added that “anxiety and depression are two sides of the same coin”. The causes are often similar and so is the treatment, some symptoms seem miles apart, however there are many symptoms that apply to both.

The group identified anxiety symptoms as feeling unsettled, “butterflies in the tummy”, heightened energy, hyper vigilance, unable to focus and memory loss. Depressive symptoms were characterised as feeling “lazy or bored”, unable to do things and sleeping too much. Andrea and Deborah added panic attacks, avoiding things and disassociation to symptoms of anxiety. Emotional outbursts and moodiness, they said, could be symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Aggression and anger in men can often be misunderstood symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Another symptom of anxiety or depression is known as self-medicating behaviour.  This essentially means if you regularly have a drink, smoke a joint, eat chocolate or if you regularly engage in excessive or prolonged gambling, pornography or gaming, to “deal with life”, you might be medicating yourself.

If you can’t wait for “wine-o’clock” or if you find yourself checking if the “Boeing has flown over” then you might be using a habit to deal with overwhelming feelings of dread or hopelessness.

What causes Anxiety?

The cause of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, can be situational, environmental, biological, medical or genetic. It can also have its origin in culture, society and upbringing. As counsellors we focus more on the now and “where to take it from here, rather than where it came from” stated local grief counsellor Karin Grobler who was part of the conversation.  Hormonal fluctuations when experiencing PMS, during Menopause and Andropause (male menopause) can make coping with latent or hidden issues more difficult rather than being the cause of anxiety and depression.

What to do?

Anxiety is a well-meaning but overactive coping mechanism, therefore re-training the brain to change its perception of the world is very helpful. Bringing the brain back into the NOW, as a first aid, is one way of managing anxiety levels says Andrea. Here some ideas on how to do this:

  • Gentle bilateral (left, right, left, right) tapping (drumming) on thighs assists the brain to focus on the current surroundings. It engages the sense of touch and hearing.
  • Find 5 things in the room that have your favourite colour and audibly name them. This engages sight, hearing and focuses the brain on the current SAFE surroundings.
  • Singing or humming a song you really like.

These little exercises are by no means a cure but can assist in managing “hamster wheel” thought patterns that may lead to anxious or depressive episodes.

It was suggested to start seeing a counsellor when noticing anxiety or depressive thoughts BEFORE they become overwhelming. This might assist in keeping the dread and hopelessness at bay. Most people only seek help once their life has become unmanageable. By that stage anxiety and depression might have escalated to actual mental health diagnoses and may need to be treated by a medical professional in addition to counselling. 

It was mentioned that there is a stigma associated with the diagnoses and even more so with taking medication. Most people seem ashamed to be taking medication to “cope”.  During the discussion it was mentioned that there is still the belief that taking medication means “I am weak” or “I am giving up” or “I am escaping”. We briefly discussed the myth that medication “makes you into a zombie” and that they are addictive. Some do and some are, however, great strides have been made in the development of psychiatric medication and we see them working very well as temporary assistance to recovery, regaining health and, if needed, as a chronic medication.

What to do for someone else?

If you know someone that seems to be slipping down the slippery slide of anxiety or depression and if you have serious concerns about their wellbeing, then “go over their head” and book an appointment with their doctor asap. No matter if they are asking you not to do so.  If they become very resistant you always have the possibility of calling medical emergency services like CMR, to check up on your dear one. Also, if you are fearing that they might hurt themselves you can report this to the police, and they have the duty to follow up on this. These might seem to be severe measures, however, is it worth taking the risk NOT to do anything. If they are really struggling, they are unable to decide on their own and they need loved ones to guide and help them to find the appropriate help.

They might be “looking for attention” or acting like a “drama queen” and you might feel their threats are not real. Remember they are calling out for help in the best way they can.

If you have any questions about this topic, or if you are looking for assistance, please Whats App or call us on 072 375 6089, and we will assist you with making an appointment to see one of our counsellors.