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Keep calm and carry on

When the going gets tough, like it is with Covid-19, the tough get going, and one senior mental health counsellor says most of us are tougher than we give ourselves initial credit for.

She’s not advocating a harden-up pill, but she does advise getting in touch with your natural resilience.

Robyn McGill is a counsellor registered with, and former president of, the NZ Association of Counsellors (NZAC).

She understands the tourism and public transport industries are very hard-hit by this pandemic and jobs – and even large transport businesses – are on the line.

Bus drivers and bus companies are all doing it very tough and the stress this causes is massive.  And it’s not just limited to individuals; the stress also affects families, especially when everyone is supposed to be in a bubble with no chance of escape.

But Robyn says all of us have experienced tough times in the past – maybe not quite as tough as now – and it pays to remember that most of us have got through them.

Maybe it wasn’t easy and maybe it seemed impossible at the time, but we did emerge on the other side, she says.

“We have support structures, even if we don’t consciously appreciate them, and we know from experience, even if we don’t realise it, how to cope reasonably well with most things life throws at us.

“In situations like the current one, when people have had their lives turned upside down and are stressed and upset, we really have to look inside ourselves for some of the solutions,” she says.

“It’s natural to become emotional, even to catastrophise, especially if your livelihood is in jeopardy, but giving in to those feelings and responses isn’t helpful.  That just adds to the stress.

“It may take a bit of effort – in fact a lot of effort sometimes – but it’s far better – if a bit harder – to trust in the fact that, in all likelihood, you’ve been there and done that before, or something vaguely similar, especially if you have plenty of life experience.

“Think your way through.  Find a way of taking some control over what’s happening in your life – a feeling of no control can be very upsetting.”

Robyn says she relies heavily on routines to get her through.  “I know what works for me when I get stressed so I make a determined effort to stick to my ‘rules’ that help keep me mentally and physically healthy.”

Added to that, she avoids too much Covid-19 news, saying it’s good to know what’s happening in a general sense, but if you immerse yourself in all the bad stuff, you start thinking bad stuff.

And, lastly – and again, Robyn knows it’s hard to do – remember all the times you had good things happen, or did good things for others.

“Lots of us struggle to find the good in our lives, especially when we are in the middle of something bad, but it is there, often in larger quantities than we realise until we really stop and think about it.

“And taking the time to really think about your life, the good things in it, the good people in it, really does help to mitigate stress and emotional upset.

“And don’t forget the old saying that a problem shared is often a problem halved.  It’s a rare person who doesn’t have someone they can talk to, who can buoy them up and who can help them see a way through.”

Robyn says the government’s Getting through together campaign, which shares ways to help Kiwis cope with the stress of COVID-19 is a step in the right direction.

But so is looking in the mirror, taking a deep breath and carrying on.  Remember, you are tougher than you think 😊