Top tip: When your feelings are overwhelming, ‘Name it to tame it’
It’s easy to blame ourselves for how we feel or even tell ourselves we should be feeling a different way, but shaming or squashing our feelings makes us feel worse. This is because when we’re feeling lots of emotions, especially anger, fear, tension or anxiety, our brains start pumping out stress hormones and that becomes overwhelming and hard to ignore.
What can we do about this? Dr Daniel Siegel says, ‘Name it to tame it’. Just name what you’re feeling - out loud, by writing it down, or just in your head. This really works! It tells your brain to switch off those stress signals and helps you to start feeling calmer and either a bit more able to focus on solving the problems you can solve, or just able to find other sources of joy.
‘Name it to tame it’ isn’t always easy at first, especially if you’re not used to thinking about your emotions. But it’s a simple trick you can try any time to help you feel a bit better in difficult times.
Try to have some compassion and talk to yourself as you would talk to a loved friend. Life might be difficult right now, and we’ve been living with a lot of anxiety and uncertainty for a long time. However you’re feeling is normal and human. Remember: if you’re not feeling great right now, you won’t feel like this forever. Our brains are very good at making us think that what we’re feeling right now is how we will feel in the future, but these challenges will pass. Talking to trusted friends and whānau about how you’re feeling can really help, too.
If your feelings are overwhelming, very distressing, or stopping you from living your life as you’d like to, you may need extra support. See the helplines page for advice about where to get help.
Supporting your mental health when you have COVID-19
If you’ve received a positive test result telling you you have COVID-19, you’re probably feeling heaps – shock, stress and worry for yourself and others, or maybe ka pai/all good – all of these feelings are normal and expected.
While your physical health and doing what you can to minimise your chances of spreading the virus are important, it’s also important to look after your hinengaro/mental health throughout this time too. Here’s how:
Coping with isolation and being at home
Relaxation exercises for home isolation
Finding a sense of calm in our day-to-day lives can feel hard when things feel a bit out of sorts, but relaxation exercises can help to calm the mind and body and help us to cope with the ups and downs we might be feeling.
There are lots of types of relaxation techniques, like breathing exercises, mindfulness exercises and physical activities like yoga you can do at home. As with lots of things, the more consistently you do them, the more helpful you’ll find them to be. Try a few out and see which ones work for you!
Breathe in, hold, breathe out
Try this popular technique called ‘box breathing’
Colouring is a relaxing and mindful activity for people of any age and has proven benefits for our wellbeing. Simply find a template online, grab some pens, pencils or crayons, take some time for yourself, be present in the moment and enjoy bringing your unique scene to life.
Research suggests that when we intentionally practice being mindful, we feel less stressed, anxious and depressed, and more balanced and in tune with what’s happening inside and outside of our bodies.
Try this simple mindful exercise:
Stop for a while; take 10 mindful breaths in and out, calming the body and mind, then simply rest where you are noticing everything that is going on around you.
This practice incorporates four key aspects of mindfulness training: Stopping - Calming - Resting - Noticing. Together, these four steps are innately healing.
Use an everyday environmental cue (the phone ringing or an email alert) as a reminder to pause and breathe for three breath cycles and take notice of the world around you.
Tips for supporting whānau who are isolating at home
If your whānau or friends are having to stay home, there are plenty of ways you can support them through. Here are some tips from Rachel Nelson, an Aucklander who’s ‘been there done that’ and has some wonderful wisdom to share.
When Auckland locked down in August 2021, Rachel and her whānau closed their bubble tight. As the mother of two boys with compromised health conditions, Rachel knew if COVID-19 made its way into her whare, it would have a devastating impact. Rachel and her husband did everything they could to stay safe at home for the entirety of the long lockdown.
“COVID is frightening,” Rachel says, “But my belief is if we work together, if our voices are heard, we know what we need to do to look after our people.”
Rachel knows some of the sacrifices we all need to make to keep our whānau safe from COVID-19 are a real challenge. “But, if we really love our whānau, if we really love our kaumatua, our kuia, our tamariki and our mokopuna, we have to do whatever it takes to protect them.”
Rachel’s tips for supporting whānau who are staying home:
- Really stick together and look after each other.
- Stick to the rules and keep it simple.
- If you’re getting frustrated inside the whare, go outside and sit in the sun or the rain, put your feet on the grass or the whenua.
- Ask for help when you need it. From health services or other whānau – tell people what you need.
- Karakia, karakia, karakia. Prayer is powerful.
- Take care of yourself while you’re taking care of your whānau. Do what you need to do to reset every day.
And, if someone in your extended whānau has COVID-19, Rachel says you can help them by staying in touch however you can, dropping off kai, and advocating for them to ensure they get the support they need. Rachel knows COVID-19 will continue to be a challenge for whānau for some time to come. But, she says, “all of us together doing a little bit makes a massive difference.”
Kei roto i te pōuri, te marama e whiti ana.