Todd McPherson (right) at Youth Empowerment Conference 2019

Written : 26th March 2020

As we are all stranded at home during this period of isolation, it is inevitable for some of us to go through some degree of mood swings. We asked Counselling Psychologist, Todd McPherson the most pressing question on the top of everyone’s mind right now:

1/ How do I get myself out of a depressing mood?! 

i/  Be sure to look after your physical health. Mental wellbeing is more easily managed when physical wellbeing is optimised. 

  • Get adequate sleep and maintain a healthy sleep/wake schedule (don’t stay up all night bingeing on Netflix). 
  • Eat healthy food and don’t eat or snack out of boredom. 
  • Be sure to get outdoors and get fresh air, sunshine and some exercise. Spending time outdoors in nature has positive psychological benefits. Enjoy gardening, yard work, the beaches, forests and walking trails.
  • Physical exercise is important. Be sure to get some brisk exercise every day.

ii/ Stay informed about the current Coronavirus situation and follow the advice of government and medical professionals. Be sure that you’re doing the best you can to maintain your own health and that of others too. 

  • Limit the amount of time that you spend reading news, following the latest updates and researching. It’s strongly suggested that you set strict limits with yourself, such as checking the news for 10-20 minutes in morning and evening. Constantly checking your phone/computer tends to be unhealthy. 
  • Limit your time on social media. While it’s great to connect with people, we can be overwhelmed with negativity and false information. Consider muting some groups and notifications. Perhaps block or unfollow those things that might trigger stress or anxiety.

iii/ When stress or anxiety feels excessive, practice managing your thinking. If you keep thinking and thinking about things you cannot control, you’ll only increase your feeling of stress. Be sure that you’re spending your time thinking about what you can control (how you spend your time, whether you practice social distancing, how you eat, if you exercise, etc). When thoughts of things outside your control come to your mind, let them pass without giving them your attention. You can practice the APPLE method:

  • Acknowledge: Notice and acknowledge that there are worrying thoughts (“What if someone I love gets sick?” for example).
  • Pause: Don’t engage with the thought as you normally do. Pause and breathe.
  • Pull back: Remind yourself that this is out of your control and worrying is not helpful or necessary. Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are not facts.
  • Let go: If you let go of the thought or feeling, it will pass. Imagine thoughts are like trains at a station. They come and they go. You can let them pass. If you board a negative one, it will take you far away from where you want to be, leaving you stressed and anxious. Let those negative thoughts pass.
  • Explore: Explore the present moment and what is happening around you at that moment, because at this moment everything is alright. Some people like to ground themselves by paying attention to their senses – “What are five things I can see, four things I can hear, three things I can feel, two things I can smell, one thing I can taste?” Other people find that fully paying attention to what they’re doing at the moment is useful – “As I drive I am aware of my speed, of the three cars ahead of me and fact that I’m approaching a curve…”

iv/ Maintain a schedule to use your time productively so you feel good about yourself, and include some variety each day. 

  • Clean, tidy and fix your space.
  • Organise your paperwork / files, your finances, your photos and the things you’ve been procrastinating doing.
  • Restart or begin a hobby like painting, music, baking, etc.
  • Focus on personal development like online courses and classes, continuing education, etc.

2/ What content would you recommend for young people to consume at home? Why? 

The Story of Stuff is a short, easy to watch and understand examination of how much of the world is living in a way that is completely unsustainable. This video can change how you see the world and the way we live.

3/ What opportunities can we derive from this crisis?

This is a great opportunity to rethink and reshape our world. Much of the planet has had to pause, withdraw and just sit and think. I think we all expect things to improve and the world to carry on as before. But, what if we take this as an opportunity to do things differently. We could modify so many things:

  • Education and other institutions (like prisons) can be completely re-imagined to meet the needs of society today, rather than being carried on as they were designed a century ago.
  • Our consumer-focused, polluting, wasteful and unsustainable way of life can be changed to create an environmentally and socially sustainable method of living.
  • Our profit-driven system steered by multinational corporations could be re-engineered to consider social needs, humanity, equality, equity, empowerment and support for all people.

These might seem far-fetched, but what can you imagine doing differently? What change would you like to be part of creating?

This is a great opportunity for people to connect online to share ideas, passions, hopes and to begin germinating the seeds of positive change.


About Todd

Todd McPherson is a professional psychologist and facilitator who started Brunei’s first private psychology practice, Clarity Sdn Bhd. He also conducts workshop with clients including the Ministry of Health, BSP, Empire Hotel and BIBD. Originally from Canada, Todd has been in Brunei for 15 years.

Todd spoke at Youth Empowerment Conference in 2019 on “Tango with Social Media”.