Written: July 2020
Although we wrote this article early on in the coronavirus pandemic, it will still be helpful for your family as things continue to develop.
Managing our mood can be difficult, especially during uncertain times. We can often become overwhelmed, and sometimes find it hard to know where to turn for support.
The pandemic has thrown us all into challenging situations, so it’s totally normal to feel this way. It can be helpful to try and understand our mood to establish if we might need support, and what type of support it is we need.
We can understand the way we feel by reflecting on our day to day lives. When we experience changes in our mood what we find is that the way we feel physically impacts the way we behave (what we do or do not do) and the way that we think. These three things interact with each other in a cycle and maintain the way we feel:
It is common to notice changes in our mood when facing difficult circumstances. You might start to notice you are feeling sadder, upset, angry, and irritable. You might start to notice that you feel different physically because you are scared – you feel tenser, more nervous, shaky, breathless, like your heart is beating faster than usual. These are all normal things we experience when our mood changes. Here are some examples:
In this example, we have someone that has been feeling down or lower than usual. They have been feeling different physically, like they have no energy, not sleeping well and a lack of appetite. Because of these physical symptoms, it impacts what they feel they have energy to do, such as socialising or grocery shopping for example. Because they are having difficulties achieving these tasks, they start to think negatively, like ‘what is the point, I am useless’ – and it goes around in a cycle. The person thinks negatively, therefore does not feel motivated to do much, so they continue to feel tired and like they have no appetite. This can bring on emotions such as sadness or anger.
Sometimes the way we feel can even have the opposite effect – for example, we might want to eat more than usual, and gravitate towards more sugary or oilier foods.
We can even find that we sleep too much (or not enough) to get away from our day to day problems, which can make us feel just as tired as if we were not sleeping enough.
In this example, this person is experiencing anxiety. They are feeling worried and scared about various things, and it is impacting their cycle of mood. They start to feel more tense and shaky in general; they start to avoid going out, out of fear that they will catch coronavirus. Because of this, they start to make predictions about things that could happen in the future, and they worry about lots of different things. Anxiety can cause a range of emotions; you may feel scared, fearful, uneasy, and nervous.
As demonstrated, the three areas interact with each other and can cause distressing emotions. It is important to remember that it is okay to feel like this.
These are normal things people will experience in their day to day life, and can be especially difficult during challenging times, but there are things we can do to help ourselves. Here are some helpful tips:
- If you recognise signs of any of the above symptoms, speak to your GP in the first instance. They can talk to you about how to keep well and discuss whether you would like a referral to your local therapeutic service.
- Have open and honest conversations with those around you if you have experienced any of the above symptoms, if you can, so they can support you too
- Stay in touch with friends and family and any networks you have – it is important to keep strong social connections to support your well-being
- Try to keep a schedule of activities – remember when we feel low, we might start to feel withdrawn, so it is important to keep up with our day to day activities to keep ourselves motivated and well; but don’t be hard on yourself if it doesn’t always go to plan
- Try to regulate your sleeping pattern; for example, try to cut down caffeine and sugary foods, try not to eat too close to bedtime, and if possible, go to sleep and wake up around the same time everyday. Again, be flexible on yourself, its okay if you can’t always stick to this
- Incorporate some light exercise in your day to day – using online videos, or short brisk walks if you feel you can
- If you are concerned about your child, you can also discuss this with your GP.
- If you feel you or your child are at immediate risk, always call 999 in emergencies, or 101 in non emergencies.
Remember, things don’t always go to plan, and that’s okay. What's important is that you are okay, and that if you aren’t, you are given the support you need and deserve.
For further support
- If you are concerned about your child, you can discuss this with your GP
- If you feel you or your child are at imminent risk, contact 999 in emergencies, or NHS 111 in non-emergencies.