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Managing Stress & Covid-19 (Section Two)

Distraction Skills

When our emotion or stress runs high, in the short term, we can use distraction as a way of turning down the volume on these emotions. Our wise mind will tell us that dwelling on negative thoughts will fuel emotions. A useful way to remember how to distract ourselves is to remember that wise minds ACCEPTS something needs to change. Check off what might help you.

Radical Acceptance Skills

There are times when things are not as we want them to be. But despite us wishing things to be different at the moment it doesn’t change the reality of the situation. Telling ourselves “I don’t like this” and “it should be different” also does not change the situation.

Why do we need to accept reality?

  • Rejecting reality does not change reality.
  • Changing reality requires first accepting reality.
  • Stress and emotional pain cannot be avoided; it is nature’s way of signalling that something is wrong.
  • Rejecting reality turns short-term emotional pain into longer-term suffering.
  • Refusing to accept reality can keep you stuck in unhappiness, bitterness, anger, sadness, shame or other painful emotions.
  • Acceptance may lead to sadness but deep calmness usually follows.

What we need to accept:

  • Everything has a cause (including events and situations that cause you emotional pain and suffering).
  • Life is worth living despite painful events in it.
  • It is what it is for now, but this won’t last forever.


Pain (emotional or physical) + Non acceptance = Suffering

The following tips might be helpful to provide you and your colleagues with steps that might assist with grounding you in responding as effectively as you can with some of the practical and emotional challenges we are now facing.

A useful way to remember these steps is to use the acronym CALM, with each letter of the word prompting us on what we can do to manage our responses to stress.

Check the facts

It is really easy in a modern world of technology consume information from multiple social media. Checking our phones and social media frequently increases our threat response and anxiety. It is important to try to limit activities that increase our stress levels. Be mindful of the impact of social media on yours and other’s mental health.

If we want to check the facts get information from HSE Website for information where there are regular updates relating to COVID-19 in Ireland.

Guidance on how we operate our services and any changes to work practices will be communicated via line management structures.

Accept and acknowledge our current emotions

It is understandable that when dealing with something novel and unprecedented that this will increase our levels of stress. It is really important that we notice our emotions and that we validate or accept them when they make sense in a given situation. Our primary emotions (joy, fear, disgust, sadness and anger) have a function; they communicate to us, they communicate to others and they urge us to take action.

Our emotions have done their job when we listen to them, we check the facts and our level of emotion goes down. It makes perfect sense that we would feel some degree of fear or anxiety when we perceive threat or danger. We can notice and normalise this response if there is an imminent threat to our wellbeing. However, the following guidelines (hand hygiene, coughing and sneezing etiquette, social distancing, etc) on keeping ourselves and others safe helps minimise risk.

If we minimise risk, high levels of fear might not be justified- we need to turn down the volume on our Emotional Mind, and turn up the volume on our Reasonable Mind and find a Wise Mind or balanced emotional response to the situation.

Ask yourself:

  • What mind state am I operating from in this moment?
  • Is the emotional intensity justified – check the facts?
  • Am I balancing emotion with logic and finding a balanced Wise Mind

Let go of our judgments

It is really easy when our emotional volume is turned up to get pulled into judgemental thoughts about what others should or should not be doing. This can be at a local level with family or colleagues or at higher levels with management or national government.

Judgements are concepts, our beliefs about how things should be. When we are judgemental, it can turn fear into more intense anger expression (being irritable, snappy and more aggressive in our communication), which is often not helpful for us or others in managing the situation. We call these secondary emotions, or emotions triggered by our primary emotions fuelled by judgements.

It is really important to remember that we are all doing the best we can in a difficult situation, and choosing to think in this more benign way helps turn down the volume on our secondary emotions.

Mindfully manage our response to the current situation

We need to be mindful of our emotions, thoughts and behaviours as we work together to manage our responses to the impact of COVID-19 on both our work and daily lives. When we are mindful of ourselves we observe what is going on, acknowledge that this is difficult and we accept we are being as effective as we can be. When we are mindful of others, we recognise that they will also have emotional responses to the emerging situation as described above.

We need to acknowledge how difficult this is for us and for others and make a choice to work as effectively as we can in managing our own emotions and be understanding of others.

Our goal is:

Mindfully RESPONDING rather than REACTING

Read section one here.

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