Cultivating hope during the pandemic

Posted in Latest News

Klerksdorp Midweek, Klerksdorp - The continuing effect of Covid-19 on mental health is felt all over the world, but especially in South Africa now that this pandemic has hit the country with a third wave.

According to Sumari Nel, a registered counsellor who works closely with the Centre for Health and Human Performance (CHHP) of the North-West University, people have lost loved ones, financial stability, freedoms, social interaction, and a “normal” people were used to. People have also learned a lot during this time, but a lot of uncertainty remains and this has a significant impact on our mental health.

“When the outbreak started, most of us thought or hoped that this would be temporary, but as weeks became months, a sense of hopelessness set in about the prevailing circumstances, and also about new challenges that are arising.  It is during these times that we must ground ourselves in hope too.

“The American psychologist Charles Snyder describes hope as the perceived ability and motivation to walk certain paths that ultimately lead to the desired outcome. Hope is seen as the fuel that keeps people going through action. Snyder’s hope theory states that hope consists of both cognitive (process and content of thinking) and affective (emotions) components that ultimately lead to action. Therefore, you need to have focused thoughts, set goals and strategies to achieve them, and be motivated in pursuit of these goals,” says Nel.

She states that hope is affected by how you perceive current circumstances, and it is more likely to influence your emotions and your behaviour and to lead to psychological consequences.

“If we perceive our current circumstances as hopeless, we may not be aware of the impact of our negative automatic thoughts on our experience of negative emotions and a change in functional behaviour,” she says. She also points out that it is important to be aware of and vigilant regarding our thoughts, especially during this pandemic, and to evaluate the rationale of our thinking. This increased awareness makes way for a greater probability of experiencing an increase in positive emotions and of behaving in a more functional way, which ultimately improves mental health and allows you to live each day with hope.

“All around us we see individuals making an extra effort to take care of their physical health, but it is important that we also make an extra effort to nurture and protect our mental health. There is a lot of uncertainty and circumstances that are to a great extent out of our control, but we must embark on this journey with hope, focusing on what control we still have, and nurturing the chances and opportunities we still have,” Nel concludes.

Practical ideas to implement:
* Celebrate the “small” victories of each day with a grateful heart. At the end of the day, write down at least one thing for which you can be thankful.
* Set realistic, clear and achievable goals while recognising the potential barriers or roadblocks along the path.
* Spend time with people, even if it is virtually, who make you feel good and make you smile.
* Focus your attention on the facts from trusted resources to stay up to date regarding the news, but limit exposure to untrustworthy media resources. Checking various websites for news and new comments can have an adverse effect on your mental health, as it may increase feelings of hopelessness and fear. Make time to also read about positive outcomes.
* Make time to do something you love or to try new hobbies that you have always wanted to pursue.
* Have the courage to ask for help, either from family, friends or professionals. You do not have to embark on this journey alone.