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Focus on the positives. 

We are often told to shift our focus, aren’t we? To stop focusing on the negatives. We know it helps us feel better, more than that, it can completely re-wire our brains. Evolution has taught us to pay more attention to anything dangerous or scary in order to keep us safe. Which is great, and really important, up to a point. We need to remember that fire is hot and it can burn us. It is important to be wary in certain situations, such as when we are near a wild animal. All those situations require us to be cautious and we should remember the danger. 

It is this level of danger that our brain has been trained to focus on though, and it finds it difficult to scale down the reactions when the situation is something less life threatening, such as an interview or meeting that we are worried about.

We go into our primitive fight, flight or freeze response for these situations too, which unfortunately changes our body physically, preparing it for physical battle, not mental challenge. Our recall and problem solving ability are reduced and priority given to the need to run and hit. Not very helpful.

The last few months have been challenging for everyone. We have had a physical threat to our health, the emotional challenges of not being able to see our loved ones, financial worries… Many of us have spent the majority of 2020 in an almost continued state of fear and anxiety. 

This has impacted on our ability to sleep, eat and affected our mental and physical wellbeing massively. 

I am going to be completely honest with you, (because that’s what I do!) I was doing ok, I was focusing on the things I could control; caring for my loved ones, working, getting my daily walks in… then a couple of weeks ago something changed. 

I started reading lots of the articles shared by some of my friends on social media about the some of the darker aspects of this pandemic. I began to feel very scared and although I wasn’t feeling that way all the time, I did notice the impact it was having on my mental health.

Social media is a blessing and a curse. 

I am fortunate that most of the interaction I have online is positive and happy, because I don’t put up with anyone being any other way. The minute someone starts to be offensive or aggressive they are blocked.

 

At the moment though I have a different issue. The people I really love and align with morally and spiritually, are all sharing articles about the awful things which are happening and might be happening, disguised by this pandemic and the related consequences. This is all very plausible, almost impossible to prove or disprove – I mean, who can we trust for certain as an information source these days? As a result there possibilities are swirling and my head is spinning. 

At the start of this week I had a massive rant to my family. It was completely fear based. That was the point that I realised I had been sucked into a wormhole of fear and frustration. 

I made a conscious decision that day to focus on the things I can change. To focus on my family, my friends, making my life as positive and happy as I can. I started planning fun activities for Halloween and thinking more about Christmas plans (who knows what we will be allowed to do by then!). I am concentrating on spreading joy and happiness, not fear and anxiety. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are still aspects of what is happening nationally and globally that concern me greatly. Until I work out what I can do to really make a difference to those, I am going to focus on me and the energy I am putting out into the world. 

I know it’s easy for me to say, “I shifted my focus”, I have been learning how to do this for years. How do you actually change the focus of your thoughts? After all, it is out thoughts that control our thoughts, isn’t it? Firstly it is important to say that these are helpful tips for someone who has got stuck in a cycle of negative thinking, if clinical depression is causing the fear and negativity, this advice may be beneficial but it may not be enough. I would always recommend seeking a professional for help if you feel that you may be depressed.

Make a choice

Well, as with so many things, the first step is making a decision. decide that you aren’t going to allow the negative, fearful thoughts to dominate your mind any more. Whenever you find yourself thinking something negative or fear based just make the choice to think about something positive instead. Once you have acknowledged that you are in this thought pattern that is the first step. If necessary, decide upon something that you will choose to think about every time you have a fear based thought. Perhaps when you notice the thoughts you will think about your children, dog, an event you are looking forward to? Whatever it is make that switch as quickly as you are able to.

Be kind to yourself

We are all guilty of being more compassionate with others than we are ourselves. When we give ourselves a hard time that makes it even easier to amplify the negative thoughts. If you are feeling down don’t beat yourself up about it, treat yourself kindly. Make a hot drink, have a bath, put on your favourite Netflix show and give yourself time to move through the emotion. We are all going through a challenging time, many of us have had months of uncertainty and there is currently no end in sight. If you have put on a bit of weight, not been as productive as you wanted to be or been a bit short tempered with your loved ones, take a deep breath and forgive yourself.  

Surround yourself with positivity

This might sound obvious but if you notice that you feel anxious or even angry when you have watched the news or been on social media, stop paying attention to them for a few days. Give yourself time to reset. Equally if there are certain people who are making you feel frustrated or fearsome avoid them for a fews days, weeks if you are able, to allow yourself time to collect yourself. You can also prepare yourself for seeing them by protecting yourself energetically before you see or speak to them, this will reduce the impact of their emotions on you. (For full instructions on how to protect yourself energetically have a read of this blog.) Equally important is surrounding yourself with people who make you feel happy and calm. If you are fortunate enough to live with your loved ones at the moment give them a big hug and show them that you appreciate and love them. Watch a film together and snuggle under a blanket. Comfort yourself and enjoy the company of loving people.

Get outside

Never underestimate the power of nature to calm you down and help you forget your worries. Just going for a walk in the fresh air will make such a difference to your mood, if you can get outside to a green space full of grass and trees, even better. The combination of fresh air and exercise is really powerful for all things mental health, but particularly if you need reminding of your blessings.

The most important thing you can do for your wellbeing is acknowledging that something needs to change. It crept up on me and I am usually so careful about what I pay attention to; I avoid the news, negative people and keep my social media light, but at the moment it is difficult. We all have to find the balance between being informed and not allowing the fear in. 

If you need any additional help with your wellbeing or you are worried that you are past the stage of these suggestions being helpful please do contact your GP or consider contacting one of the many amazing mental health charities.

Samaritans

Mind

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