Covid and Mental Health – Therapy for 2020
Why We Need Therapy for 2020
This year has been somewhat of a write-off. We are in need of therapy for 2020, a year we are ready to see the back of. Covid and mental health problems have become akin as our world has been thrown into upheaval and chaos.
If someone had told me a year ago that 2020 would play out as it has, I would have said “Don’t be ridiculous!”. In some ways it still feels incredibly surreal.
Covid and Mental Health
I know for many people, myself included, the uncertainty and the unknown has caused a lot of emotional turmoil. The corona virus itself has caused so much pain but the ripple effects on peoples lives and mental well-being has been even greater. Feelings of being overwhelmed, fearful, sad, angry and helpless. Stress, anxiety and depression have been heightened across the board.
“Although the COVID-19 crisis is, in the first instance, a physical health crisis, it has the seeds of a major mental health crisis as well, if action is not taken.” From the United Nations policy brief on ‘Covid-19 and the Need for Action on Mental Health.’ To view the full brief click here.
One of the effects of our current situation is a feeling of paralysis. That we are all in this time-warp of waiting, that life is on hold for now. A sudden loss of momentum which translates to all areas of our lives. This can be work, a project you were working towards or your momentum towards your fitness goals. All of a sudden you wonder, what for? The focus has been pulled from what we knew as normal life to issues far bigger than we can grasp.
Therapy for 2020
I’m talking about the sort of therapy I love the best – green therapy! Now, more than ever, I feel it’s time to get back to nature. What can you do and where can you go to instantly alleviate the feelings of anxiety and stress?
I’ve always known that trail running was a perfect sport for both physical and mental wellbeing. And right now, it’s needed more than ever. The effects of ‘green therapy’ are scientifically proven. Just five minutes in nature are enough for the magic to start happening. Get out there, breath deep and exhale any troubled feelings to the trees.
According to a study by the University of Essex, just five minutes of “green exercise” can produce rapid improvements in mental well-being.
Benefits of Time in Nature
Other known benefits of time in nature include:
- Exercising or just being in natural environments is associated with greater feelings of positivity, revitalisation and increased energy.
- Known to decrease tension, anger and depression.
- Enhanced creativity and imagination.
- The feeling of awe. Awe is a powerful emotion that provides tremendous benefits to our psychological well-being.
- Increased mindfulness – being in the present moment.
- Meditation – many runner’s claim their running time is very meditative, which is enhanced in the natural environment.
Another special thing about being in a forest is that it is a win-win. Whether you’re breathing hard from the run or just wanting to vent some frustration, the trees will love it! Yell, scream, talk or just pant hard getting up that hill. Our toxic carbon dioxide exhales are much appreciated by the trees! They will take that burden from you more than willingly and will give back clean oxygen and pure vibes.
Related post: “Trail Running – What is your Why?”
Dealing with the Anxiety
I love the idea that like attracts like and I have found it to be so true in my experience. What we can manifest in our mind has significant effects on our lives and those around us. Positivity attracts more positivity just as negativity attracts more negativity.
But how to break the negative cycle?
The human brain processes a huge amount of thoughts every day. And we are intrinsically wired to follow the negative thought pattern. It is just the easier path for us to take. Stress, fear, anxiety, doubt. They can build on each other and start a domino of spiralling thoughts.
The Mountain and Wind Analogy
I like to use a little analogy which has helped me many times. Imagine this scene: A big beautiful majestic mountain beside the ocean, with a high peak reaching to the sky. Traditional weather patterns have rain clouds forming and gathering around the mountain which are sometimes just blown out to sea in the natural cycle of nature.
I like to think of my mind as the mountain top. It is constantly faced with changing weather and clouds gather often. The clouds are negative thoughts. They can begin as a few wispy, light, fluffy clouds that don’t affect the brilliance of the day much at all. But allowed to gather they can continue to attract more clouds. And those clouds can become dark and heavy and threaten to rain down on the mountain.
What can we do to prevent this from happening? Use our breath (the wind) to blow these clouds away and out to sea. Allow the sun to shine bright and light up a brilliant blue-sky day once again.
Put it into Practice
And the wonderful thing about this analogy is that you can not only mentally do this but you can literally do this. I have done it many times and I promise you it works. Ideally you will find yourself a mountain top or a beautiful look-out over the sea. But really it can be done absolutely anywhere (I’ve done this little exercise out the car window as we drive along).
Inhale deeply, visualising all the troubling or negative thoughts that are weighing you down. Breathe deep down in to your belly. Now, while visualising these thoughts going with it, exhale them with gusto, through your mouth, out to sea! Or out to the sky, out on the wind, out far away from you. Let the wind take them from you and take their burden away.
I’m sure it’s most likely the therapeutic deep breaths that do it, but it certainly feels amazing! Do it as many times as you feel you need to. Usually around 4-6 big, deep and mindful breaths will do it. Make sure you are thinking about the particular stresses/annoyances/thoughts that are weighing on you as you inhale. Feel the burden lift as you exhale them away.
The natural weather cycle around the mountain top will go on. Just as in life, there will always be more clouds coming to form. The secret is to be aware of them and not let them gather and linger and affect the best day you could be having.
Covid, Mental Health and 2020
“This too shall pass”. It might be hard to believe right now, but we will get through this crazy time in our world. Although it is easier said than done, it is important not to focus on the negatives. Make sure you take the time to look after yourself and in particular your mental health. Don’t over complicate it or overthink it – just get back to nature. And if you don’t have easy access to nature at the moment then close your eyes and visualise being there as you use your breath to release some of the anxiety of 2020 from your body.
Right now I am in hotel quarantine. I’m missing real nature and the trails terribly, but have been enjoying going through past photos of being there. I’m using the breath technique every day and it definitely helps. Wherever you are and whatever you’re going through I’m sending good thoughts and good vibes out to you. Here’s to 2021 🙂