Coronavirus Counselling via Video Calls


Managing the Mental Stress of COVID-19

COVID-19 has currently put the whole World into Stress and Crisis so I have created this page to help anyone who reads on.

I have been using my SAFE Psychotherapy model for the last 20 years to help my Clients recover from Depression, Anxiety, Bereavement, Relationship Problems, Eating Disorders, OCD, Phobias, Anger Issues & Suicidal Ideation.

For the last 10 years I have been working part time on a Crisis Helpline and I use my SAFE Model to help people who are often having Suicidal Thoughts at the start of the call. After listening to their situation which, has caused them to think in this way, I explain the SAFE Model to clarify and normalise their thinking. This allows them to clarify their castastrophic thoughts and understand that by changing their thinking & behavior there is a way forward.

Talk to me about booking a video call psychotherapy session >


The Safe Model Cannot Change the Situation you are in but it can help Change the way you Think and Manage Stress

COVID-19 has plunged us all into financial worry and many people have already lost their income.  At present the NHS Mental health services are completely overloaded so people in financial crisis, who really need Counselling and Psychotherapy cannot get access to the help that they really need. The cost of paying privately is around £60 per session and most people need a minimum of 6 sessions (£360) to make progress and feel calmer. So at present the people who really need help cannot afford it.

I truly believe that Cost should not be a barrier to people gaining the support Counselling |Support they need.  In my private practice I offer a few sessions each week at reduced rates for Diploma Students and people who need help but cannot afford full fee.  However, I need to make a living and cannot afford to give my services totally for free.

So in order to help anyone who lands on my Website I have printed my SAFE Psychotherapy Model and hope that it will be of help to anyone who reads it.

Over the next few weeks I will be updating my Website and offering some video sessions that will explain my SAFE Model in the same way that I would if you were having a session with me Face to Face.

I the meantime please feel free to read on and I hope the following theory helps you make some minor changes to your life to help you feel calmer and manage your thoughts more effectively.

I hope that you stay Safe and Well and will benefit from the information below.

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S.A.F.E. Psychotherapy

S.A.F.E. is the acronym to remember the Moods of:

  • S adness
  • A nger
  • F ear
  • E njoyment/Happiness/Elation/Euphoria/Joy – PEACE

 

This model is designed to help people practically manage stress in their lives.  In Particular COVID19

As a Psychotherapist I have been working with clients for nearly 20 years helping them to manage their stress and regain their ability to enjoy life again. 

I therefore began to see common patterns emerge in their feelings, thought patterns and their behaviors.

Over time I realised that these feelings and emotions could be condensed into the 4 moods of Sadness, Anger, Fear and Enjoyment

Another commonality I noticed was that:

STRESS IS CAUSED BY PERCEIVED NEGATIVE CHANGES IN OUR LIFE

EG:  Bereavement, Divorce, Redundancy, Bankruptcy, Birth of a child, World War, Tsunamis, Plague etc. 

So COVID19 is increasing stress for the majority of People on Earth and taking us into some form of Sadness, Anger & Fear.

STRESS IS CAUSED BY BEGINNINGS {BIRTH} & ENDINGS {DEATH}

STRESS IS DEFINED AS:

A Mixture of SAD, ANGRY & FEARFUL Feelings, Thoughts & Behaviours

I.E. The more STRESSED we are the less ENJOYMENT we EXPERIENCE

         Creates                                       Creates              Creates

MOOD ==> FEELINGS & EMOTIONS  ==> THOUGHTS => BEHAVIOR 

So if we change our behavior we can change the way we Feel & Think.

In my S.A.F.E MODEL a MOOD is DEFINED as:

A RANGE OF FEELINGS, EMOTIONS AND BEHAVIORS


Changing Self Care Behaviour to Manage Stress

When we are under stress our physical body automatically chemically changes.  Our Limbic system, that controls our body, cannot discern the difference between either, being physically attacked, or our Logical Mind perceiving threat with hidden anger and fear thoughts (Detailed in the SAFE Model Summary above).

As the Fight – Flight response is activated our Limbic system automatically “turns on” our adrenal glands to produce adrenaline.  In the present moment Adrenaline is very useful as it pushes blood into our muscles ready for action and allows us to move very quickly to survive either by physically fighting with increased strength, or running away very quickly. This response goes back to Caveman days when we did not have logic speech, reason, language or thoughts. It automatically turns off once we are out of danger and can eat again.    EG:  Won our Battle or Run to a place of Safety.

The reason being that the physical activity has burned off the adrenaline so the Limbic System then releases endorphin to calm us down.

However, if the only option was to Freeze and wait for the threat to pass the adrenaline floods the system keeping the body on “Red Alert” in case we still needed to go into Flight mode. At this point the appetite would be suppressed as taking on board food would potentially slow the Cave person down. The sleep response would also be put on hold so the Cave Person would Catknap

Consequently when we are living in Stress (SAFE Mood score 2-5) our self-care routines are normally abandoned.

Self-care is: Controlling what we can control to make sure our physical body is the best it can be. In a nutshell this is control of:  Diet, Exercise & Sleep.

When we are not living in Stress (SAFE Mood score 6-8) we have the ability to focus on a healthy diet (3 regular healthy balanced meals per day), maintain a physical activity routine (min of 30 minutes per day aerobic activity) and ensure we are in a regular sleep pattern (8 hours per night).

When we are stressed and in Freeze Mode we do not reach for a bowl Salad!  We want Fat and Sugar Foods which give our body instant energy but do not turn off the adrenal glands.  When we eat a Healthy Meal the Limbic system automatically switches to Insulin production to digest the food and it has to turn off the adrenal glands. Therefore 3 healthy meals a day keep the body physically calm. If we look at food as fuel, if you have your biggest meals of the day at Breakfast and lunch and a light tea/supper you will sleep more soundly.

In a nutshell the Behavioural Changes to manage stressful situation are:

  • Be physically active for at least 5 hours per day with a min of 30 minutes high aerobic activity to physically exert yourself. (Within the medical guidelines of your GP)
  • Eat a large healthy Breakfast and Lunch and a small evening meal.
  • Cut down Fat and sugar foods to a minimum. (Sweets, Chocolate crisps, Fizzy drinks, Cakes – All the things that cause Type II diabetes)
  • Practice a mindfulness breathing exercise such as the SAFE Rule of 7 (min of 2 x Daily)

(Detailed on below on the Wise Mind Triangle)


Right Brain Emotional Mind = Being Mode

Emotional Mind – Right Brain View of the World – PEACE V FEAR

As Primates or Cavemen we did not have access to speech or Logical Thought. We were therefore highly dependent on our Right Brain (Emotional Mind). For Cavemen the moods of Fear and Anger told them there was something wrong with their environment. They did not have the moods of Sadness or Happiness because they had not yet been created by their Logical Mind, Thoughts or Ego.

With no thoughts to bother them, or the need to make meaning of things, Cavemen were just at Peace in harmony with their environment and the planet.  If they became fearful there was a reason for it as they would perceive threat and would have to act quickly. At this point their bodies would chemically change and the adrenal glands would fire up pushing blood into the muscles of the body ready for action.  Simultaneously their primal survival instinct kicked in and they would either fight the threat, flee from the threat or if neither of these options would help them survive, they would freeze.

Our Emotional Mind is only in the Present Moment therefore defines survival as:

Being at PEACE or Sensing FEAR in the PRESENT MOMENT

To this day, as Human Beings, our chemical wiring has not changed. However, our Logical mind always has to make meaning of a threat situation and it overrides our instinctual responses. This is why our thoughts and behaviours change when we perceive threat.

The Fear response is always the cause of The Anger response.

FLIGHT – FIGHT – FREEZE

A caveman would not get angry unless the fear response had been triggered.  To this day human behavior is triggered by fear. An angry person is always living in fear of something or someone. When under threat we only have 3 choices for survival:  Do we fight? Do we flee? If the answer is no to both then we Freeze and do nothing and hope the threat passes. There are times in life when all we need to do is nothing and our feelings will change of their own accord. However, our logical mind tells us that it is wrong to do nothing. However, doing nothing and having no thoughts was actually what cavemen experienced as peace. This is where Mindfulness Meditation techniques help us to still the Logical Mind which processes on average 60,000 thoughts a day

Therefore the Emotional mind has only 2 states of being:

PEACE or FEAR


Left Brain Logical Mind = Doing Mode

Logical Mind (EGO) – Left Brain view of the World = ENJOYMENT V SAD

As we evolved and developed thinking, speech, logic, reasoning and planning we started to become more separate from the animal kingdom. We learnt that, if we were under threat, we could defeat larger opponents with the use of plans, strategies and eventually weapons.

E.G. Defeating a Sabre Toothed tiger with spear. As the logical mind gathered momentum it proved to itself that the more innovative it became the more powerful and safe it could become.

What started off by a need to survive eventually was mis-translated by the Logical Mind as a need to Dominate and Control.

Survival = The need to dominate and control everything else on the Planet

Initially this was focused on the Animal Kingdom but once that domination was established Human beings wanted more. The next logical step was to turn this survival need (now interpreted as domination) on ourselves. Initially small communities became tribes and each tribe wanted to survive better than another so rather than share they began to dominate each other.  Once the War (Fear and Anger) was over peace could be restored. Unfortunately the Logical Mind interprets Peace as Enjoyment. However, that definition of  happiness is not the same as peace because it is a construct of the Logical Mind or Ego. Consequently our logical mind always sees itself as potentially under threat.  It perceives that Happiness can be taken away at any moment so we can never get to 100% Happy.  Because Fear and Anger feelings are not necessarily logical the logical mind has re-catagorised them as Sadness.  The rationale being that if we are not happy then we must be sad.  This is why the label of depression is very difficult for most of us to understand.  It is also why my SAFE model is so effective when explained to people. 

So the Logical Mind defines our feelings that are NOT logical as:

SADNESS OR ENJOYMENT

As the SAFE model shows, the Logical mind works very well when it perceives that we are 70% – 90% happy and our stress|(perceived threat) levels are only 30% – 10% of what we feel. Unfortunately, when we experience stress and this equation inverts the logical mind then goes into Catastrophe Mode and causes negative changes to our behaviour.

 

Sadness and Enjoyment are ONLY constructs of the Logical Mind.

SAD Mood (SAFE Questionnaire Score less than 4)

Sad mood feelings/emotions (the logical mind translates into believable thoughts)

Anxious, betrayed, hurt, inadequate, grief, sorrowful, joyless, depressed, cheerless, impending-disaster/doom, negative, frustrated, miserable, mournful, loneliness, isolation, irritable, rejection, crestfallen, despondent, gloomy, dreary, heavyhearted, low spirited, tearful, tragic, woeful, dejected, hopelessness, out of control, abandonment, rejected, traumatised, unfairness, lack of confidence/self-esteem, desperate, unable to feel peaceful and ultimately suicidal.  

(BASICALLY ANY NEGATIVE THOUGHT YOU MAY HAVE)

Typical Behaviours

  • Tired, lethargic, lack of energy, physical stillness, binge watching TV porn, comedy.
  • Stopped normal physical exercise routine. EG Going to the Gym, Swimming, Cycling, Running, Playing sport, Training etc.
  • Social withdrawal, unmotivated to communicate with friends, family, loved ones
  • Loss of appetite or overeating foods high in Fat and Sugar. Skipping Meals.
  • Drinking excessive amounts of Fizzy Drinks, Tea, Coffee, Fruit Juices and Alcohol
  • Smoking more Tobacco and/or Cannabis.
  • Using recreational Drugs.
  • Self-Harming – Cutting yourself – Eating Disorders – Phobias – O.C.D. – Panic Attacks
  • Trouble with Sleep – Insomnia – Oversleeping – Unable to Sleep for a min of 7 hours
  • Over-Working (having to work more than 12 hours per day) – No work/life Balance

THE WISE MIND TRIANGLE

So how do we manage these negative thoughts which our Catastrophic Logical Mind has created?

I created the Wise Mind Triangle Model  after attending a course at the University of Wales called Mindfulness based CBT in 2012.  It was run by Professor Mark Williams and, after attending his course, it prompted me to read and study his book:

Mindfulness – A practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World.

Basically this book gives practical advice as to how to bring our Logical Mind(EGO) into present moment. 

In short it is a practical guide on how to meditate and bring the Logical Mind into the “Here and Now”.  If we practice these techniques we can learn to stop the “negative chatter” of our thoughts and quieten the mind to the point of finding Peace in our present moment.  So I realised this would be very useful to client’s who are suffering with Anxiety. So I would strongly recommend that, when under stress, you change your behaviour and do my Rule of 7 breathing exercise (explained below) at least once a day before bedtime.

My SAFE Wise Mind Triangle Model below gives a quick visual explanation of everything that I have written above.

We all have a WISE MIND.  It is our inner knowing – a sense of right or wrong. A moral compass, if you wish, that transcends what we have been taught to us in our family/peer-group’s on our journey into adulthood.

In fact it shows us why we need to learn how to meditate and eventually be able to get our logical mind into a State of balance, Stillness and Peace.  (Spirituality not religion)

If our SAFE mood score is 7 but not above, 9.5 (9.5–10 can be as bad as a 0.5 -1!!), we do not need our Wise Mind. Our Logical Mind(EGO) perceives no threat and is therefore making good decisions that keep us safe, calm joyful and peaceful.

I will soon be doing an on-line video to explain these mindfulness concepts in more detail.

Rule of 7 Breathing Exercise

This is probably the easiest most effective way of calming down the logical mind a relaxing your body.  It is as follows:

  • Breath in slowly through your nose for 7 seconds
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds.(Use your fingers to count holding your breath)
  • Breath out slowly for 7 seconds.
  • Repeat the process 7 times.

The reason why this helps us feel calmer will be explained in further Mindfulness video’s but for now this behavioural addition will help you manage stress and improve your sleep pattern.  If I ever have a night when I cannot sleep I use this technique and I have never got to 7 cycles of seven without falling back to sleep.

Talk to me about booking a psychotherapy session >


Life Circumstances which cause us to live in Stress

Fill in the following Questionnaire to help determine your SAFE Mood score.

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