Psyche

Stay mentally healthy

Mental health
The World Health Organization (WHO, 2019) defines mental health as a "state of well-being in which a person can use their abilities, cope with normal life stresses, work productively and contribute to their community."

Stressful thoughts, emotions and behaviours, but also stressful relationships with others can be a sign that mental health is disturbed. We then speak about "mental stress" or "mental disorders". Examples of mental disorders are depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders or psychosomatic disorders such as unexplained pain.

 I feel different than usual. Am I mentally ill now?

Unfortunately, this question cannot be answered easily. But it is clear that human well-being is always changing. Everyone sometimes has days when they're feeling good and days when they're not feeling so well. At the moment, many everyday structures and important social contacts are disappearing, so it is normal for the mental balance to suffer as a result. After difficult events, such as accidents, the death of relatives, a job loss or a pandemic, we almost all react emotionally, but individually, differently. Grief, anger or fear are just a few examples.
The decisive factor is not whether I react emotionally or sadly, but whether I find a way to deal with my feelings and emotions and whether I can eventually return to my everyday life. For this, we want to give you some tips and information.

The current crisis with all of its uncertainties and limitations affects almost everyone. Here are 9 tips on how to better deal with this and other crises.

1. Acknowledge negative feelings and build positive feelings

Do not try to suppress your negative feelings. One can perceive and acknowledge negative feelings. Just don't leave it at that.

Underline positive feelings! That seems so simply said because many things that you would otherwise enjoy are dropped. But positive thinking can be trained. Maybe there are other small things that you can now enjoy. 

Tips and ideas:

  • It helps some people to write down their negative feelings (what stresses you, what scares you, what you miss, what you look forward to).
  • Capture and build positive feelings:

2. Maintain social contacts and talk to each other

Fortunately, in the age of digital media and telephones, it is no longer difficult to keep in touch despite exit restrictions. Talking to friends or relatives about dealing with the crisis, feelings and fears or other nice things can relieve and reduce stress.

You yourself know best what social contacts you need. Sign up with these people! Inquire with the people you care about or who might worry about you.

Perhaps it will help you to make regular appointments for the contacts. For example, once a day or once a week at the same time of the day a short call to good friends or every morning at the same time having a coffee with the neighbour on the other balcony, ...

Do not put yourself under pressure to maintain all contacts - above all, keep the contacts that are good for you.

3. Get help

Don't be ashamed that you need help!

  • Talk to Others (Step 2)
  • Find help for everyday life:
    Neighbourhood organizations offer help with shopping, errands and similar tasks. Ask your community, your neighbours or the local newspaper about it.
    Do you know little about the internet and cannot find an offer? Ask someone with experience to help you find it
  • Psychological and medical psychotherapists and psychiatrists are responsible for specific and professional diagnosis and treatment. 

4. Stay physically active

Activities, sports and fresh air are an important remedy for mental stress and against mental illnesses, especially for depression. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is limited by the current situation. Yoga in the living room, walking alone, gardening. There are many videos and instructions for exercises at home on the internet. You can also ask your local clubs and fitness centres. It can help to plan a fixed time a day for the sport, for example in the daily or weekly schedule.

Sit in the sun for a few minutes a day. 

“Sun refuelling” is an effective remedy for depression and negative feelings. If you are in quarantine and do not have a balcony or garden, hold your face out of the window in the sun!

5. Structure your everyday life

Routine is important, even in exceptional times and in the home office. Waking up in the morning, eating regular meals and taking breaks can give you a little more control over the situation. A daily or weekly schedule can help. Always plan nice things like walks or small rewards.

6. Get involved

Studies have shown that engagement and activities have a positive effect on our mood. When we actively work for something or work for something, it reduces the feeling of helplessness.

The current pandemic is frightening because we feel that we have nothing against it and even politicians and scientists often seem helpless. But there are many ways to get involved and show solidarity. Especially if you don't belong to the risk group yourself.

Inquire about the options available in your region (neighbourhood help, telephone calls, blood donation campaigns, ...) and talk to others (step 2) can change a lot.

Perhaps you are already indirectly or directly involved in fighting the virus through your work - remember that.

7. Stay informed - but correct

A lot of information about the coronavirus is circulating on the Internet and other media. Many of these are false reports. 

The news can increase fear and create stress. You may sleep poorly afterwards or think about it all day.
Therefore, reduce your media consumption. Inform yourself regularly, but do it consciously. When you use your smartphone or the Internet, you will always see news about the Coronavirus. Do not read all the information. Allow times when you follow the news in a targeted and focused manner.

8. Relax

Switching off thoughts and worries and relaxing the body can be practised.
Take your time. Breathe deeply in and out. There are many different relaxation procedures and mindfulness exercises. Try out what suits you best. The exercises are suitable, for example, to interrupt tormenting thoughts, brooding or fears or can help you fall asleep. But you can also easily incorporate them into your everyday life.

9. Believe in yourself

Do not put too much pressure on yourself and think about what you have already done these days and in your life. You deserve recognition!
Studies show that if we remember what we're capable of, we can do many things more easily.

Perhaps it seems to you that you now have to catch up on everything that has been left behind or learn many new things. That's not the case. You don't have to optimize yourself.

Idea:

  • Can't you just believe in yourself? Then ask friends or acquaintances to name three positive qualities that the person values ​​about you.
  • The Corona crisis is not the first time that you have to adapt to changes. Think about how you have mastered previous changes in your life (change of school, change of job, partnership, the birth of children ...) and what has helped you.
    You can cope with changes


Depression

Everybody gets angry or sad from time to time and feels feelings like joy or fear. People without depression, these feelings fluctuate and depend on what we are doing. Often negative feelings and thoughts can be broken off by positive activities or experiences. Sadness usually goes away after a while and most of the time there is an explanation for it.
With depression, the negative feelings or the absence of feelings usually last longer than in people without depression and those affected experience several of these negative symptoms at the same time.
Do you suspect that you or your family have depression? On this page you will find some explanations, tips and hints.


Origin of depression

As a rule, external and social factors such as stress and difficult life events play a role; one also speaks of emotional stress and traumatic factors. The “corona crisis” is also such a stressful external factor.

Also physical illnesses like stroke, severe heart diseases or hypothyroidism.

But things you can't see can also be responsible for depression. In the case of a (severe) depression, “messenger substances” in the central nervous system are in imbalance.

Most of the time, several of these possible causes come together. Experts, therefore, speak of the "vulnerability-stress model" or the "bio-psycho-social model".

 

How does depression “work”?

Depression affects feelings, thoughts, behaviour and body. These influence each other:

One story that makes this interaction clear is the story of the man with the hammer by Paul Watzlawick (2015) in "Instructions for being unhappy":
“A man wants to hang up a picture. He has the nail, but not the hammer. The neighbour has one. So our man decides to go over and borrow him. But there comes a doubt: what if the neighbour doesn't want to lend me the hammer? Already yesterday he greeted me so fleetingly. Maybe he was in a hurry. Maybe he was just protecting the hurry and he has something against me. And what? I didn't do anything to him; he imagines something. If someone wanted to borrow a tool from me, I would give it to them immediately. And why not? How can you refuse such a simple favour to a fellow human being? People like this guy poison your life. And then he imagines that I need him. Just because he has a hammer. Now it's really enough for me. - And so he storms over, rings, the neighbour opens,
On the other hand, under “What can I do about depression” you will find the exercise “Mind stop”.

Posture and mood also influence each other.
Under “What can I do about depression” you will find the exercise “Posture”.
A "vicious circle" can develop between the loss of positive things in everyday life and depression:

 

Do I have depression?

Typical thoughts, feelings, physical changes, and behavioural changes that can occur with depression

With depression, these symptoms usually last longer than in people without depression and those affected experience several of these negative symptoms at the same time.

Here's a quick test to find out if you may have depression. This test does not replace diagnostics by experts. Perhaps, however, it can help you to better assess your emotional state.

 

What can I do about depression?

General tips for maintaining or restoring mental health can be found in the 9 steps. These tips also apply to depression or depressive mood.

Are you likely to have depression? Then seek professional help. Experts can help you receive psychotherapy and / or sensible medication and make extensive diagnostics.

Ask your family doctor. He can refer you to experts.

 

Exercises

Exercise: “Pleasant and positive activities”

Deliberately incorporate positive activities into your daily or weekly schedule.
Example: take a walk every day at 5:00 pm; always bake a favourite cake on Saturdays;

If you find it difficult to implement these positive things: reward yourself for the implementation afterwards! Think about the reward in advance.

Example: You have decided to call a good friend as a positive activity. You haven't spoken to her in a long time. The call will cost you a lot of effort, you'd rather just lie on the sofa and watch TV. In the basement, you still have a pack of your favourite cookies that you have long wanted. After the phone call, treat yourself to a few of these cookies as a reward.

Exercise "Thought freeze":
Do you think about negative things all the time and cannot let it go? Perhaps you are brooding all the time and don't even notice it yourself. To be able to concentrate on positive things again, it can help to interrupt this brooding. First of all, you have to realize that you have a lot of negative thoughts right now. Here are a few tips:

 Glue a red dot or a post-it in a place in the apartment that you often come across. Stop for a moment when you see the point. What are you currently thinking about? If there are negative thoughts, try to focus your attention on something else now.

Also, mindfulness exercises can help in such moments.

Exercise "Posture":
Negative postures reinforce negative feelings. Conversely, positive postures reinforce positive feelings.

Stop consciously several times a day (perhaps with the help of a red dot).

Take a deep breath.

Get up.
Get up, bring your shoulder blades back, straighten your back and stand-in front of mirror your head being gently pulled towards the ceiling.

Try to smile. You might even smile at your reflection.

How are you now

How can I help as a relative or friend?

Do you have no depression yourself, but read here for someone else? Here are some tips on how to behave correctly as a relative.

Participate in education about the illness. Talk about depression.

Show an understanding of the situation of the sick person.

Do not try to cheer up the depressed person. This can make the person feel even more like they have failed.

Do you live with a depressed person?

Make sure that the person takes their medication and makes appointments with doctors and therapists.

People with depression can perceive this as a great burden, especially if they do not believe in their own healing.

Support the person to have a regular daily routine.
Please don't patronize them. For example, you can make regular appointments to go for a walk at a fixed time (currently, if you do not live in the same household, at a distance of 2 meters).

Don't overwhelm the person.

Are thoughts of suicide expressed? Absolutely take seriously!
Talk to the person and call the attending doctor. Is the person acutely suicidal? Then you can also call the emergency number.

Supporting a mentally ill person can be stressful for the helpers. Take care of yourself, make room for yourself and take advantage of support offers such as family groups. You can find tips for your own health in the 9 steps.