Written by Dr Caroline Marlow, a Chartered Psychologist specialising in wellbeing and performance psychology and Director of L&M Consulting Ltd.
We are all living a different ‘new normal’, with many differences amongst us and within our own daily living. This brings new concerns, pressures, challenges, opportunities and questions, some of which we have in common with others, some we don’t. Here, we have a simple look at some of the ‘Is It OK?” questions that these new experiences and contradictions in our lives have raised. The aim is to enable you to say, “Yes. It is OK for me to look after my psychological wellbeing.”
Is It OK to …
Feel Anxious, Stressed, Out of Control? When life takes a bad turn or is different to what we know, expect or hope, feelings like these are normal. Further, life is about experiencing all emotions in both good times and bad; they make us stronger and better able to engage with others and our world. So yes, it is OK to experience negative feelings. But when you are ready, you should do what you can to address them. Also, if negative feelings continue for a long time or have a severe and immediate impact on your mental health you should seek informal or professional support as appropriate.
Feel Positive? Positive emotions are good for our psychological wellbeing and are socially contagious. So yes, you can feel positive and you should not feel guilty for feeling it. Use your positivity sensitively and wisely with others, and use it to optimise your now and future.
Grieve? There are many things that can lead us to experience grief. Alas, it could be the loss of a someone special to us, or the loss of your job, goals or dreams. Grieving is a natural process that enables us to process information in a way that is healthy and best allows us to move forward appropriately into the future. So yes, it is OK to grieve. Expect to feel different emotions, e.g., denial, anger, sad, in control, positive, etc., and expect them to change throughout the day and over time. Again, seek support if the feelings are severe or long-term.
Feel Lucky? Whatever the situation, there is always something to feel grateful for. Whether it be the small things, e.g., opening the curtains to a sunny day or hearing your child laugh, or the large things, e.g., living in a relatively safe, wealthy nation. Gratitude is a key dimension of our psychological wellbeing, so yes, cherish and reinforce it.
Ask for Help? Whether it is for a quick bit of advice, an introduction, or professional legal, financial or mental health support, yes, just ask. You may well typically be self-sufficient, know what to do, and be able to cope, but we all need help sometimes. Remember, people like to help, it gives them wellbeing benefits. Further, many professionals are currently offering support at reduced rates, including many FMPA partners who will understand your situation.
Connect? We are social beings who thrive when we feel valued, supported and part of a reciprocating community. People therefore connect to both give and receive. So yes, connect – especially if you are feeling isolated and lonely. Connect with those you know well and those you don’t, but be respectful of any demands you place on them and appreciate any replies. Remember connecting can be quick – telling someone that you are thinking of them, thanking them for how they have helped you, sharing a positive memory, as well as long for a proper catch up or to seek company and solace.
Disconnect? The news, social media and emails can come into our lives too easily. With time on your hands, the feeling that you should be ‘in the know’, or the need to look for that opportunity, it is easy to become overwhelmed with information. So yes, consider how often and when it is most appropriate for you to look. Be aware of how you are feeling, why you are engaging, and what you are likely to come across; this will enable you to properly decide whether connecting or disconnecting is best for you at that moment.
Laugh and Celebrate? Normal life should go on, and whilst scientific support for laughter may be limited by current convention, laughter as medicine has a long social history. Yes, be respectful of others, but the good times recharge us and help us connect positively with others. Celebrate events that you would normally celebrate and enjoy opportunities to laugh and smile.
Say “Not Right Now”? You normally give everything, so yes, it is OK for you to say “No.” Follow this with an explanation as to why it is important for you and them that you have time and space right now. If you are able to help with the request, set their expectations by giving a realistic timeframe and probable level of support. Thereafter, keep them up to date with any changes. Very typically people understand.
Pause… Stop… Properly Stop…? Yes, for 30 seconds, for an afternoon, for however long you need. Breath… Breath again… Notice your environment, how you feel. Do what you need to do to adjust. Take perspective. If it helps, complete fuller reflections on; how you are doing, what you want in the future, and how to best make it happen.
Most of All … It Is OK That Sometimes You Need To Take Care of Yourself. Whether we are alone or with others, our lives are entwined with others. Our natural tendency is often to support others and not to think of ourselves, but sometimes we need to do what is best for us if we are to cope and move forward. This brings benefit both for ourselves and others in the near and more distant future.
Caroline writes for the FMPA magazine and specialises in providing wellbeing and performance psychology support for organisations, teams and individuals. If you want to get in touch with her, please do so via LinkedIn, Twitter, the L&M website or on firstname.lastname@example.org.