The psychotherapist on making us more resilient to challenges

3 July 2020

The COVID-19 virus took the world by surprise in mid-March, turn- ing many societies and economies upside down. In order to inhibit the spread, many countries have taken measures to close down parts of society, by limiting its citizens to see loved ones or visit restaurants and shops. These dramatic changes can take a toll on one’s mental health. The Link met with Psychotherapist Monica Mason at SCC member private practice Monica Mason West London Counselling & Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, to discuss how to keep spirits up in times of uncertainty and what to keep in mind when adapting to a new post-pandemic reality.

Monica trained as a psychotherapist in London over 20 years ago. Her training spanned over several years during which she was required to go through her own therapy and later see- ing training clients under supervision. Today she runs her own private practice, Monica Mason West London Counselling & Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, using a psychodynamic approach. This means that she works with the unconscious processes of the psyche, looking at past experiences as well as the present. Having been a highly qualified psychotherapist and counsellor for over 15 years, she has a vast experience in counselling people of all nationalities, exploring many cultural differences.

Seeking out the familiar: human nature
One major issue that comes with the pandemic is the uncertainty and anxiety of what the future will look like on a personal and a societal level. Monica points out it can be comforting for some people to know that everyone is going through the same uncertainties and changes right now and that it is natural to feel anxious or worried in these times. “We as humans seek out the familiar in situations, to feel safe and know what we are doing. I think most people would nd the sentiment of uncertainty di cult. I think everyone reacts differently depending on your personality, but also what you have gone through before. You take those experiences with you into this.”

Self-care is the way forward
Luckily, there are many things one can do to minimise the anxiety that may come out of an uncertain world. Monica thinks for example we should engage in self-care and do things that work for us specifically. “It is important not to make this into another burden, or to overdo things. Only take onboard tips and advice you see – including mine – that resonates with you.” She continues: “Not everyone has the headspace to learn a new language or take up a new hobby. Most people just have to get through everyday life the best they can. To put in a bit of exercise, develop a few healthy habits and reach out to one or two friends might be more than enough.”

Monica says that it could be helpful to nd anew routine during the pandemic to put the individual in control. “Create a new routine,
a new familiar which can be doing the same things you normally do and enjoy in your daily life but doing it from home. The importance of some kind of routine is that it allows you to take back a sense of control.”

As effective as it can be to create new routines, Monica thinks it is equally important to be self-compassionate and accept your true feelings. ”Go easy on yourself. Feel your feelings, accept bad days and good days. There are no right or wrong feelings. It is okay to have days when you can’t stick to any routine or don’t feel like doing anything at all, accept it and remember – tomorrow is a new day,” says Monica.

Going back to normal life can be challenging
Many societies are already starting to open up again and there is the hope of going back to normal life fairly soon. What is critical to have in mind is that it can be challenging to adapt back to normal as well. Monica believes the transition will have to happen gradually. “Many people might feel fearful of going out back to work again and taking the tube or going on public transport. And I think it’s going to be a gradual adjustment. It is not going to happen over a day that all of a sudden you are back at work as normal and you are socialising as normal. It’s small steps, winning, not winning and getting used to it again.”

Even though the way back can be challenging, Monica is hopeful that from a mental health point of view this pandemic can bring good things as well. “The pandemic can make us more resilient to challenges and gain confidence in getting through uncertain times in the future,” says Monica.

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