Managing your mental health and dealing with stress during unpredictable times

Managing your mental health and dealing with stress during unpredictable times

To have an understanding of how to manage your mental health and stress during unpredictable times, it is important to have an understanding of trauma and, the physiological and psychological effects this can have on the body and mind.

The event industry is going through what can only be described as an unprecedented period of time. There are many of us who have lost jobs, businesses and livelihoods. Some are under the threat of losing their sense of purpose, and even worse their homes and sense of security. There are also those of us who are or have been poorly, have someone they love who is poorly, or even worse have lost someone very dear to them.

In effect what a lot of people in the event industry are experiencing at the moment is in fact trauma.

What is trauma?

It is a response to a terrible and distressing event such as an accident, loss, bereavement or a natural disaster such as Covid-19.

Psychological trauma is damage to the mind that occurs as a result of a distressing event and this can manifest itself physiologically in the body.

Trauma is often the result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds a person’s ability to cope, or to manage the overwhelming emotions that can be involved with that experience.

Trauma can be extremely distressing and disturbing and, immediately after the event or experience, shock and denial are typical and then longer-term reactions such as unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea.

There are 3 main types of trauma:

  • Acute Trauma – results from a single incident
  • Chronic Trauma – repeated and prolonged, such as violence or domestic abuse
  • Complex Trauma – exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events over a long period of time, often in an invasive way.

The effects of trauma can cause intense physical, mental and emotional reactions in the body, including extreme emotional fluctuations, unhappiness, anxiety, loneliness, anger, and irritability.

Multiple traumas or repeatedly being exposed to traumatic events can have a further impact on your body and mind such as the onset and trigger of complex mental health disorders and physical conditions.

People react differently to trauma and take different amounts of time to come to terms with what has happened.

From a psychological perspective you may feel:

  • Frightened

That this may happen again or that you may lose control of your emotions

  • Helpless

That you could do nothing about the situation or to help

  • Angry

That this has happened in the first place and, towards those you may feel are responsible

  • Guilty

That you are ok and that others may have suffered.

  • Sad

Especially if you know people who have become ill or who have or are currently suffering

  • Ashamed or embarrassed

That you have feelings you can’t control, and need the support of others

  • Relieved

That the ‘threat’ or ‘danger’ is over or gone away

  • Hopeful

That your life will return to normal

From a physiological perspective you may find:

  • You cannot sleep
  • Feel very tired
  • Dream a lot and have nightmares
  • Have poor concentration
  • Have memory problems
  • Have difficulty thinking clearly
  • Suffer from headaches
  • Experience changes in appetite
  • Experience changes in libido and sex drive
  • Have aches and pains
  • Feel that your heart is beating faster

So, what should you do to deal with trauma and in turn take care of your mental, emotional and physical health?

Give yourself time
It will take time, weeks, maybe months for you to comes to terms and accept what has happened and to learn to live with it. You may need to grieve for what (or who) you have lost. Allowing yourself to go through this process is incredibly important.

Find out what happened and accept it
It is better to face the reality of what has happened and accept it rather than wondering about what might have happened.

Ask for support or help
Talking about what has happened to you is an important part of the healing process, and especially with like-minded people who have gone through a similar thing, or a friend or family member who is happy to just listen. Bear in mind that some people may not know what to say and this is OK.

Take some time for yourself
At times you may need some alone time or just to be with those close to you and this is ok too.

Talk it out
Bit by bit, let yourself think about the trauma you have experienced and then talk about it with others. Talking about our experiences is a natural release system, it helps us to let go of things. Don’t worry if you cry when you talk, let it happen as this is also part of that natural release and healing system and, can be really helpful. Take things at a pace that you feel comfortable with.

Get into a routine and create rituals
Even if you don’t feel much like eating, try to have regular meals and to eat a balanced diet. Taking some exercise can help – but start gently. Try and get some rest and sleep. The 3 pillars of health are incredibly important at this time. Try and incorporate some simple daily rituals that will give you a sense of accomplishment and positivity, such as making your bed every morning and, opening the curtains.

Do some ‘normal’ things with other people
Sometimes you will want to be with other people, but not want to talk about what has happened, just to feel normal again. Allow yourself to do this and don’t feel guilty as this can also be part of the healing process.

Take care
Believe it or not, after a trauma, people are more likely to have accidents or incidents due to a lower cognitive capacity, especially if they are still feeling vulnerable. Watch out for hazards and take care.

Remember that trauma is a normal part of life and that many of us experience it at least once in our lives.

Having an understanding of what trauma is and how it can present itself, as well as those important practices for helping you deal and overcome it, is essential to managing our mental health and wellbeing, and to building resilience and mental strength.

This post was written by mental health influencer Helen Moon.

If you want to learn more about managing your stress and mental health during this uncertain time, sign up to attend Helen Moon’s webinar on Wednesday 15 April at 3pm GMT.

Register to attend here.

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