Managing Your Mental Health: Never Give Up Hope

Carolyn Barber of Portsmouth’s Good Mental Health Cooperative, and local researcher and social entrepreneur, reflects on the new Covid-19 restrictions and the ways we can manage our mental health during this tough period.

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the
right thing, the dawn will come.     Anne Lamott

We’ve now reached another turning point in the Covid-19 pandemic with the re-introduction of further restrictions on close contact with others. So it seems timely to revisit the idea of psychological resilience, and in particular the principle of hope.

What do we mean by hope? It’s about believing in a positive outcome for ourselves, the feeling that events will turn out for the best, anticipating a good change in circumstances, looking forward with confidence. Hope is important when things are not going well, when there’s a lot of uncertainty, confusion and negativity.

Hope is the antithesis of despair, but it doesn’t mean that everyone should remain ‘hopeful’ at all times, even in the face of insurmountable difficulties. Hope is not the same as naive unrealism. It’s always useful to look at potential pitfalls and risks in a situation, and sometimes face the possibility of failure or disappointment. Challenges and difficulties need to be acknowledged.

But research has shown that people who are hopeful tend to be more psychologically resilient and cope more effectively with obstacles, while more pessimistic individuals tend to shut down. Pessimism often leads to a sense of powerlessness and inability to take action.

So how can we foster hope in ourselves and in others during hard times?

  • Practice Appreciation – build an ‘attitude of gratitude’ by noticing what you’re thankful for in your health, your family, the natural world around you
  • Be Kind – helping others makes a difference, maybe to someone else who’s struggling, and also to yourself
  • Take Care of Yourself – get sleep, eat right and exercise. If you feel stressed, overwhelmed and negative, take a break
  • Set Goals – think of something you’d like to work towards. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. A goal helps you to get up and face the day even when all seems pointless.
  • Ask for help – this can feel scary but can also make the world of difference. Help from someone else can see you through those rough patches when negativity rules.
  • Engage in meaningful action – the antidote to despair and anxiety is action. Focus on the small things you have control over that you can change. Work with what you have, one step at a time.

Click here to find out more about Resources for Resilience – online links to help you take care of your mental health, and local services if you’re based in our home city of Portsmouth.

Find out more about this online Festival through September and October – Connections in Creativity – organised by Sarah Haskett of Creative Mental Health to showcase creative talent and raise funds for the Good Mental Health Cooperative.

In the Resources section of the Good Mental Health Coop website, there are a wide range of resources you can use to build your mental and emotional resilience during these testing times. The Resources are divided under 4 themes – Meet, Relax, Learn, Create – please take some time to browse and check them out.

You can also find information about local support and services available if you’re feeling emotionally or psychologically distressed.

Click here for Resources for Resilience

This article was originally published as a newsletter. Check out the Good Mental Health Coop website, where you can sign up to receive Carolyn’s weekly mental health updates by email, and find out more about the amazing work the Coop do. You can also follow the Coop on Twitter and Facebook, and you can read all of Carolyn’s articles for S&C here.

Image by Tama66 from Pixabay.

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