Boosting low mood in a Pandemic

As we move into 2021 and towards a more hopeful life offered by the freedom of a vaccine, many of us are trying to adapt to the lack of certainty of when this freedom will land at our door. We have been struggling with understandable worries about our health, the people we love, the work we may have when life begins to return to ‘normal’ in a pandemic. What will normal look like for you? Being proactive about our stress levels can be difficult at a time when so much of our ‘normal’ has been turned on its head. Survival mode means dealing with the immediate needs of food & shelter, paying the bills and keeping ourselves and our loved ones alive.

At times of high collective stress, the most primitive part of the brain is activated, the amygdala, which orients us to signs of danger in the environment. This helps us to deal with threat, but it is also exhausting when it is over-stimulated. This is the reason we feel exhausted by 6pm and good for nothing but the sofa although activity levels may have been much reduced over the past three months.

Our sense of control is undermined as our lives are circumscribed by events beyond our control. Try the suggestions below, daily, to build your coping skills as into summer.

Practice autogenic training: this is the term given to a system of relaxation where you control physical tension by concentration on six different areas of focus such as, heaviness in your arms and legs, warmth, breathing, heartbeat.

Practice abdominal breathing; inhale and exhale deep into the abdomen, preferably through the nostrils regularly throughout the day. Download free relaxation files on Practice at least 3-4 times per week.

Grounding: Practice keeping your feet on the ground. If we constantly move on the balls of our feet, we become ‘ungrounded’. Remove your shoes when you have an opportunity and notice your connection to the earth.

Get outdoors; Even if mood is low and you lack energy, it is critical to get some natural light, your Vitamin D and fresh air on a regular basis.

Find an affirmation/coping statement: Repetition of a phrase that means something to you, will influence your subconscious mind for example ‘I am calm and in control’. ‘This too will pass’. ‘These are tough times. My best is good enough’. It takes about 30 days to create a new habit, so repetition is crucial.

Find a ritual: make a deliberate effort to create a psychological winding down space that helps you to switch off at end of the day. If insomnia is a problem for you it is important to create a sleep environment that supports, you to unwind. Talk to your GP who may prescribe short-term medication and check out for more information.

Aine Egan, MIACP is an accredited counselor available for online or phone counseling. Limited face to face from appointments from February, subject to public health guidelines.


Living through Tough Times

Living through A Pandemic

Our experience of living through a pandemic has meant dealing with a series of losses that few of us could have predicted in January. Collective stress has been extreme over the past six months and it is difficult not to be impacted by this tension in the ether. As human beings, we do vary in our attitude to risk, attitudes to authority, and the degree to which we seek safety in our lives. However, it is normal to resent fundamental changes to our lifestyle because a) it is not of our choosing b) there is the reality that no one in authority can tell us when all this will end. Some of these losses include;

Loss of Social Contact

The normal ways of connecting with others, chatting, meeting on the street, and organizing our social lives and celebrating life milestones have been severely damaged. We are tactile creatures and we need physical touch. Evidence shows that those who give and receive regular hugs tend to have higher levels of well-being. Zoom is no substitute for this contact.

Loss of Freedom

The element of spontaneity and choice in our freedom of movement has been curtailed. This is difficult for many. Humans seek novelty and variety in their lives and removing this is harsh. If your home feels more like a prison than a safe haven, it is going to be a very tough time.

Loss of Security

The need to feel safe and to forward plan is an innate need for most of us. Making plans is extremely difficult at the moment. Health security is spotlighted for the foreseeable. Anyone who wants to protect their health and worries about the vulnerable people they know will struggle. Losing a job and concerns for future income sources feeds financial insecurity. Work changes that are not of our making can lead to feelings of powerlessness and anxiety.

Loss of Loved Ones

The death of someone we love at a time of COVID, whether directly as a result of the virus or other reasons, is extremely difficult. We find comfort and meaning in ritual and being close to those who are ill and dying. This has been sabotaged in a pandemic. Community support matters at times of painful loss.

Loss of Meaning

We are meaning-seeking creatures. We seek to make sense of our lives by seeing the meaning and purpose in our experiences and relationships. When change is rapid and seemingly random it can undermine this sense of meaning and be psychologically unsettling at best and at worst very frightening. In the wise words of Victor Frankel, ‘We can tolerate any How in our lives when we understand the Why’.

Loss of Clarity in our Roles

The merging of home and work, work and school has challenged many. Loss of clarity in our roles and location boundaries is tough. Am I a parent? Am I a teacher? Am I a colleague or carer? Time and role conflicts will set us up for heightened stress.

If you are feeling overwhelmed give yourself permission to seek out a trusted professional. Remember it is an act of profound courage to share your story with someone. Take a look at If you are worried about a minor, see and

See for options.

Aine Egan, MIACP is an experienced psychotherapist who blogs at