Barnsley psychotherapist’s top tips for surviving another lockdown
Written by Rother Radio News on 05/11/2020
A psychotherapist in Barnsley has offered some essential advice for those struggling at the prospect of another lockdown.
Heather Howard-Thompson runs Yorkshire Psychotherapy in Maplewell, Barnsley and has worked in the mental health sector for over 20 years.
As an accredited cognitive behaviour therapist, Heather helps people who are struggling with common mental health complaints such as anxiety, depression and trauma.
She said that, when Covid hit, she and her team noticed that many people were either returning to therapy or booking appointments for the first time.
Heather said: “What we found was that people were midway through therapy and really struggling with the uncertainty of what was happening so they got back in touch asking for appointments again, so we started offering telephone or online appointments.
“Loads of research has been done about how people respond to pandemics, they’ve looked at the mental health impact and a big problem with pandemics is the uncertainty about what’s going to happen.
“Things are changing all the time, as a therapist I’m finding it difficult myself and I know all about anxiety but there’s also the impact of isolation which is having an impact on people’s mood.”
To meet some of the demand for additional mental health support during the pandemic, Heather launched an online workshop called ‘Coping with Covid’ and she has had lots of businesses book block sessions for their employees.
Where to get help if you’re struggling
You don’t have to suffer in silence if you’re struggling with your mental health. Here are some groups you can contact when you need help.
Samaritans: Phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, in confidence
Childline: Phone 0800 1111. Calls are free and won’t show up on your bill
Platform 1 men’s community group: Support for issues including mental health problems and addiction recovery. Visit the website or call 01484 421143.
Andy’s Man Club: email@example.com
PAPYRUS: A voluntary organisation supporting suicidal teens and young adults. Phone 0800 068 4141
Mind: A charity offering support and advice for people with mental health problems.
Students Against Depression: A website for students who are depressed, have low mood, or are suicidal. Click here to visit
Bullying UK: A website for both children and adults affected by bullying. Click here
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For young men who are feeling unhappy. There’s a website and a helpline: 0800 58 58 58
MindOut: Provide support and advice on mental health for members of LGBTQ communities. Phone 01273 234839
But for individuals who may feel that they are stuck at home worrying about the impact of a second lockdown, Heather has offered some helpful mental health tips.
The first is to be mindful of the content that you are engaging with and be conscious not to overwhelm yourself.
Heather said: “I’ve been advising clients to manage sources of news, so I might recommend that people watch local news instead of what’s happening all over the world – because too much can make people feel anxious.”
She also said that it is important for people to pick up new routines, now that their usual ones may have been disrupted.
“People may have stopped doing things they normally do so it’s really important to do things that bring you comfort”, she said.
Heather said that this could be anything from a new hobby to an occasional activity that helps to relax you. She said: “For example, I like making jam, so the idea is to pick something up that you can do which maybe makes you feel a bit calmer and gives you a focus.”
One of the things that Heather has noticed is causing increased anxiety is people worrying about things that are out of their control – such as whether or not others are obeying Covid restrictions.
She said: “People are at different stages as to how they respond and react to what’s happening, it can confuse us as to why some people take advice and why some people don’t.
“Usually, it depends on what stage the person is in – whether they are in denial about what’s happening or whether they’ve accepted it and adjusted their life accordingly.”
Heather continued: “That can cause lots of animosity because if you know people at a different stage – it’s a bit like a grieving process really – you question why they are not at the same stage as you.
“Just try to focus on what’s best for you and keeping yourself and your loved ones safe, instead of getting caught up on what others are doing.”
Heather said that she has noticed issues around the working from home set up that many people have been forced into, as that has unsettled their usual routine.
The lack of physical contact with colleagues and friends has a tendency to leave people feeling very isolated, which in turn can “ramp up” anxiety levels, Heather said.
“We’re social animals, human beings, so not being able to mix with people is causing problems with depression, I think. Also, going over what is happening and why is making people angry and if someone’s focusing entirely on all the negatives of the situation it’s understandably going to affect their mental health.
“People may feel really hopeless and think that it is never-ending, but I feel like there’s a bit of light at the end of the tunnel as they’re talking about the vaccine trials, so if we can just get through winter, which is a difficult time anyway.”
Heather said that it is important not to underestimate the impact that winter can have on our mood – as they do not call it the ‘winter blues’ for nothing.
She said: “It’s important for people to get some fresh air and some light, try to get outside and get some vitamin D. Hopefully, the Spring – along with all the bulbs and flowers – will bring some hope to a lot of people.”
If you are struggling with your mental health, Heather said that it is crucial you reach out for help: “Services are still running, albeit differently, but that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t reach out and seek help.”