Mental health during stressful times

By Patricia Uí Fhlaithearta

We all feel stressed for a reason; never punish yourself for feeling what you feel. Life gets simpler the more you love and fully understand yourself. Building the self-awareness and finding the root cause of your negative emotions is the first step to helping you understand why you are feeling the way you are.

Sift through your emotions; write down what is bothering you. What can you control and what can you not control? We can all control our thoughts, words, choices, actions, reactions, and our future. We cannot control anyone else. We invest plenty of time in worrying and stressing over things that do not matter. Choose to spend more of your time chasing fun things in both big and small ways.

Negative emotions are not necessarily bad. The fact that you feel them is normal; it is part of being human. You know what would be abnormal? If you felt good all the time no matter what. For most people feeling stressed or down gives us the skills to pull ourselves up and stand tall again

During this isolation period many people have expressed loneliness, the opposite of loneliness is self-love. Loneliness begins and ends with the way we feel about ourselves and the inability to enjoy our own company. When being with yourself alone is enough for you, you’ll begin to feel true peace and far less lonely.

Make a list of things that bring you joy. What can you do right now that will make this feeling of stress and loneliness leave your body? It is very important not to ignore those feelings, make a list of things you love about yourself.

Positive self-talk

Do not beat yourself up if things you tried did not work out, be proud of the fact that you did try.

If and when you are feeling afraid or lonely do not underestimate the strength of your inner power.

Tell people how you are feeling, reach out to family, neighbours, friends, and even your GP if you need to. Never apologise to anyone or consider it weak to express how you are feeling. Feelings of doubt and uncertainty creep in when we least need them. Sometimes we just do not feel good about ourselves, and there is not always a good reason why. When this happens you need to dig deep and believe in yourself.


Many students, but in particular those who are waiting for a decision as to when they will be returning to school, if there will be a traditional Leaving Cert, calculated grades, or whatever, are feeling very anxious at the moment. Anxiety latches onto whatever you value and tells you the exact opposite of what you want to hear. You need to chase imperfect joy, soak up flawed moments, and accept both the question marks and the stumbles because that is all we have at the moment.

Anxious thoughts will always appear at some point, Covid or no Covid, lockdown or no lockdown. Be happy with your life and where you are right now. Create your own definition of happiness and run with it, and when the opportunities for progression appear you will be ready. When you grow bigger your problems grow smaller. We are constantly telling ourselves I have to... I should have... I should have done this, I could have done that. You need to keep telling yourself, “I am exactly where I are supposed to be right now.” All of those thoughts are taking away our energy and creating anxiety, the amount of time you are spending in the past and the amount of time you are spending in the future is what is creating your anxiety. Find a happy place every day and reconnect with that every day.

Practical ways to reduce anxiety

Create a happy place in your home. Find the best picture/affirmation and put it on your phone as a screensaver, find the best sounds, if you do not live near the sea find the sounds of the waves and listen to them in your home. If you are into nature there are up to eight hours of nature tracks on YouTube. Cook really tasty healthy food. The best disruptions of anxiety are sight, sense, and sound. Find ways to disrupt those patterns of anxiety. We are on social media daily and we are bombarded with negative notifications, the news is almost always negative, so we have to escape from all of this negativity. We can do this by reminding ourselves of more positive affirmations when we create a happy place in our home/bedroom.


Also do not forget the importance of exercise; it is one of the most important things you can do for combating stress. It lowers your body’s stress hormones, improves your mood, improves your sleep quality, and it will make you feel more confident in your body, which in turn promotes mental wellbeing.

Natural supplements such as green tea contain antioxidants. Smelling essential oils can be very therapeutic, carry them around with you; sandalwood, lavender, rose, and geranium are all very calming. We need to get out of our heads and create some external remedies to help reduce anxiety.

Laughing releases tension. Spend time talking to funny friends. Hugging is extremely important and as we cannot do this any more except in the home, please hug your family during this lockdown if you are not living alone. Drink water, your phone needs charging, so do you.


Pets, especially dogs and cats, can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve heart health. They also offer love and companionship.

Patricia Uí Fhlaithearta, career guidance counsellor


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