Covid stress and anxiety- can we edit the story and start a new chapter?

During the first main lockdown around March 2020 it became almost fashionable to be sharing sources of information about psychology. Self help has always been a ‘thing’ but Covid accentuated our need to provide mutual aid and support at work or to our family and friends. Social media gives us that ability to share good quality, properly sourced material about mental health and wellbeing.

Extended lockdown has seen continued stress placed on our daily lives manifested in sleeping difficulties caused by feelings of anxiety. Like many people I have experienced disturbed sleep patterns. The positivity of self help is fine but recently I felt like I needed something more. There are times when a leaflet or a self help book just will not cut it. I wanted to find out what other options in terms of therapeutic approaches were open to me because I do not mind admitting to feeling like I have been drowning at times and very much in need of a lifeline.

I decided to consult a therapist to ask some questions about what kind of help might benefit me. Already in my mind I was starting to think about preconceptions about ‘stage’ hypnosis and other ‘party tricks’ before I even started the conversation. I was pleasantly surprised when I started talking . Gillian Burtwell Mindset is based in the Highlands of Scotland and unsurprisingly all her contact with clients is by Zoom chat.

DA : Many people are finding it difficult to cope with life at the moment, particularly with Covid19, which has changed our lives so dramatically. How can you help?

GB :Most of us will know what a snow globe is and what happens when we shake one, it disturbs the snow contained inside.  Our minds can be like a snow globe, unsettled with lots of different thoughts floating around, pulling us out of shape. Another way to look at it is this: ‘Mind’ is the projector and it projects onto consciousness or awareness, the screen.  Thought is the movie.  ‘Mind’ doesn’t care which movie it plays.Thoughts produce feelings, which in turn creates action that goes onto produce an outcome.

DA : I have heard about NLP (neuro linguistic programming) how does it work in the context of coping with covid?

GB : It all starts with thoughts. When we think the same thoughts over and over again, we produce new neuro pathways or short cuts.  For example, a piece of music might remind you of something and you can be transported back to a place in your mind reliving that memory.Not all thoughts and the memories associated with them are necessarily good ones.  NLP removes the memories that are not serving you well, just like uninstalling an App from your phone that you no longer need. 

We can’t change the past, however, we can change how we feel about it.We are not born with phobias or fears or as alcoholics; or smokers we learn these behaviours.  However, with NLP and Hypnosis, you can be reset back to before you had these behaviours. Its a process we can teach.

DA :What about problems with sleeping?

GB : Anxiety is a huge issue now. Do you find yourself saying “What if….?” and the conversation you are having with yourself is keeping you awake. This is what is called anxiety. 

A large number of people are finding it very hard to sleep at the moment.  There are two types of insomnia, Type 1 where you find you have difficulty falling asleep and Type 2 insomnia is where you find you can fall asleep but a few hours later you ping wide awake and have trouble getting back to sleep.  NLP is used to help with type 1 insomnia and Hypnotherapy is used to help with Type 2 insomnia.

For those of us who suffer from chronic pain, hypnotherapy can help by dialing down the pain.  The pain is there for a reason, to alert the body that something is wrong and should not be ignored or completely taken away.  However, it can be managed and turned down to a more acceptable level.

Back in the 1950’s hypnosis was approved by BOTH the British Medical Association and American Medical Association.  Hypnotherapy is becoming more and more popular as a tool in therapy.  Hypnosis is a pure state of focus, nothing more, nothing less.  

DA : Do these therapies interfere with your memories?

GB: No, NLP and Hypnotherapy will not take away good memories.  Your mind won’t let that happen.
When sadness outweighs happiness, either through depression, living in the past and replaying old or sad memories or through anxiety, worrying about what may or may not happen, NLP and Hypnotherapy can help you get your balance back.

Very interesting. I think the ‘movies’ my mind has been playing have all really been keeping me up recently. I think I definitely have Type 1 insomnia.This has given me some insight into therapies that I will consider if I continue having sleep issues.

Hopefully more on this over the next few weeks. In the meantime goodnight and rest well.

‘You can’t go back and change the beginning , but you can start where you are and change the ending ‘


Gillian Burtwell Mindset is based in the Highlands of Scotland. MA (Psychology); Post Graduate Human Resource Management; Qualified and Trained in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Hypnotherapy.Member of The Complementary Medical Association.


6 replies »

  1. You are not alone!
    I have strong concerns about the Covid vaccination. I know that I must have it, when called to do so. I also know that, the more of us have it, the safer it is for everyone. I won’t even start on the ludicrous 3 month gap – that’s not what I’m on about here.
    Thing is, I have what a doctor, years ago, described as a “very reactive system”. I react to anything that goes on me, or in me. I react badly to anaesthetics – so much so , that I have had dental work done without any! I reacted so baldy to an initial tetanus injection, that the doctor advised skipping the next one. I used to react badly to the ‘flu jab – I’d be unwell for about 3 days afterwards. Etc. etc.
    There is a plus side – I have also reacted very positively to, for example Oil of Evening Primrose…. Camomile tea.

    It’s the flu jab one that worries me now – re. the Covid jab. I try not to consciously fret and over-think it – but…..a few nights ago, I had a very vivid dream. One of those dreams where it really feels like it’s happening.

    In the dream…..I had gone for my Covid jab, we got home. I felt unwell, went to bed. Mike later came to see how I was, and I was dead. Then it went into a horrible whirlpool of him trying to deal with it.

    Oddly enough – I didn’t mind being dead – something of a relief, but it was horrific to see how hurt Mike was.

    I woke up feeling ……can’t describe it. Gave myself a talking-to – recognized where the dream came from etc. etc.

    I am still not comfortable about the whole Covid jab business. I know I must have the vaccination. When I get my letter, I’ll email the surgery and ask my doctor to please remember just how badly I react to medication. Not that she can do much about it, but I think she should be aware, and remember that my last, very serious illness was caused by mis-management of medication – not by that doctor, by someone is known locally as Dr. Dolittle.

    So – there it is – yes, our sleep patterns are as disturbed as our waking patterns – the conscious and sub-conscious minds, working overtime in these times.
    On the other hand, I’m also having some extra-ordinarily brilliant dreams – all sorts happening – I go to places – wonderful places. Maybe my mind decides to try to look after me, for a change!

    So – you are not alone – it’s a bugger. I give myself talking-to’s. I get outdoors as much as I can. I appreciate the brilliant dreams, and try to rationalize the disturbing ones.
    Strange days indeed, Mr Angus – strange days indeed. And nights, too.

    Oh, by the by – I had a brilliant dream last night, one in which Mike reckons I was connecting with my ancestors – not that I’m aiming to join them, just yet!

    Keep on Keeping on Mr Dreamer – keep on keeping on.

    And now – I’m awa’ out into the sunshine.

    • Witter witter witter…..

      I realised that I should add, that I will go along and get my jab, as I know it’s the right thing to do. And, if I come home and am unwell for a few days, I’ll just have to deal with it.
      C’est la Vie.

      • So sorry to hear about your problems, it must be really awful for you. Glad to hear the camomile tea and Evening Primrose are helping. I find connecting with nature helps and it was good to see you end your message saying you were “awa’ out into the sunshine”. Have you ever tried meditation, especially leading up to an injection? That and some camomile tea might help. If I can be of any advice or help, feel free to get in touch.

  2. You’re right – reaching out matters a lot. My recovery from the last bout of deep depression started when I started to reach out to people – and changed my doctor!
    It’s good to have something you can do for yourself though, as I don’t want to disturb anyone in the early hours of the morning!

    Here’s something which I put together for someone, and which might help if folk can’t sleep due to either pain, or fretting………….

    “If feeling anxious, un-settled, etc……………..

    Pause, take some deep breaths, in….and out….in…and out…in….and out, deep breathes. Then, say to yourself….”Relax, be calm, let all the tension, and all the fretting…….. fade away……..just fade away….relax, be calm….and let all the tension, and all the fretting………fade away.
    Keep repeating this, along with deep, slow breathing, fitting the breathing to the rhythm of the words, and the rhythm of the words to the breathing.
    Then, start at the top of your head, and relax each part of your body.
    Relax your scalp, imagine your scalp, relaxing, the tension easing, relaxing, then, down, past your eyes, nose, and mouth, relaxing your jaw and then your chin. Down….over your neck, then your shoulders, arms, hands and fingers. Then….your chest and upper back, your tummy and lower back, relaxing, easing, relaxing, letting all the muscles, ease and relax, and the tension, slip away. Then, your hips, your thighs, your knees, then your shins and calves, and your feet and toes. Just relax, all the way down your body, whilst breathing deep breathes, slow and steady. Then, pause for a while, just Be-ing…..breathing……relaxed, at ease…..then………
    move on, to doing something else, something pleasant!

    This is something you can do, anytime, anywhere, when needed, to relax yourself and to distract you from what is happening.
    Another approach, for you when/if you get anxious……………..

    Again, pause, stop yourself, and……………………think of something pleasant, detach yourself from the action you were about to do, and think of something else, strongly. Something pleasant, or interesting – to distract you.
    The main idea of both these things, is to distract you from your intended, anxious, action, and take you to a pleasant action, to something which you like to do, and which feels good.


    If experiencing feelings of low self-worth……………

    EVERYONE, yes, EVERYONE is worthwhile. NO-ONE is worthless. They may think that they are, folk often do think that, and a lot of harm can come from that, for themselves, and for those around them, but….it’s simply not so.
    NO-ONE is worthless

    When any of these words or thoughts come into your mind, tell them to shut up!
    Roundly, soundly, tell them to shut up, and think of something else, do something else, something you like to do.
    You’re far from being the first or only person to have those kind of thoughts coming in your mind.
    Try to look at them, look at the reality of the situation, and dismiss those thoughts, as the non-sense that they are.


    I’ll mention something………… night, I had what could be called a disturbing dream. It was a long dream, so, I’ll just say, I was somewhere very un-pleasant, and I couldn’t get away. I tried and tried, but everywhere I turned, I was stopped. So….I decided to change what I was seeing – I took myself to a place where I take myself, when I feel ‘got at’ – It’s a mountain, by a lake, with a forest growing up the side of the mountain. The sun is shining, and it’s a lovely, peaceful place to be.
    This wasn’t an easy thing to do, it was a bit of a struggle, to shift my consciousness out of the place in the dream, and to the mountain, but I did so. As soon as I did so, I was aware of being back, at home, in my bedroom, safe as can be. This is known as conscious dreaming. When we’re asleep, and dreaming, but our conscious mind, is aware of the dream. When that happens, we can, by an effort of will, shift what is happening in the dream.
    It’s not easy but it most definitely can be done

    You can use your will, your conscious mind, the strong you, to shift those sub-conscious thoughts. Not hide from them, or cover them up, but shift them, make a change in what your mind is doing. It’s one of the basic, strongest elements in us humans…..Free will.
    It’s with us, for us to use, especially when troubled.
    The thing is, to learn how to deal with these thoughts and feelings, and then, they ‘ll probably lessen, and you’ll get stronger at dealing with them, and so….eventually, you’ll rule them, instead of them ruling you!
    It can be done. There is an element of accepting them, as in, accepting that they happen, but not accepting that you have to put up with them!
    It’s your will, and your mind, and you can learn to have strategies to deal with this stuff. The more you do so, the less it will dominate in your life.
    The main thing, is a desire to free yourself of these things, to be able to live your life, and not let such thoughts, control you. Once a person has the real desire to do that, it’s a matter of learning some techniques, and working at it.
    And….believe it or not…it could be a very interesting experience for you, learning to do so. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, and that always helps, with learning about and learning the best way for you to deal with the world about you, too.

    I’m also very familiar with the situation where you’re physically tired, but your mind is whirring, and you can’t settle. I call it my monkey mind! It’s like a chattering monkey, which won’t shut up! It is possible though, for your own mind, to quieten the monkey-mind, for you, through your will, and your conscious, thinking, working mind – to talk the monkey into being quiet.
    I used to have terrible trouble with the monkey mind! Now, it happens sometimes, but I talk myself through that relaxation technique, and I settle.

    I know that being like this can be a right pain, and a right nuisance, but…..and that’s a BIG but….I believe it to be worth it. It’s a whole lot better, than sleep-walking through life, un-aware, not really living. I very much think it’s worth it, it’s just a matter of learning to be in control of it, not let it dominate you. You really need to sleep, as lack of sleep, means being more tired, and, I find, that the monkey mind and the troubling thoughts, come more, if I’m over-tired. So, the answer is……….to watch myself, and not allow myself to get over-tired!

    There will also be an element of different aspects of your consciousness, sort-of vying with each other – and that’s where you can most definitely take control. It is your mind – you can tell it what to do!”

    I hope this is helpful to …someone. It’s taken me some learning, and I am still learning – ups and downs, ups and downs.

  3. Thank you for your concern Gillian – the Oil of Evening Primrose was years ago when the first signs of Menopause began, in my early 30’s, and it all …just…stopped! A great relief – it then happened anyway, about 15 years later – but that was at a time when it could be expected to happen, part of life – so, fair enough.
    Camomile, just relaxes me and sends me to sleep.

    I have to say – it’s not awful for me! I feel rough most of the time – have limitations, but, by working with how I am, and having what has been described as ‘attitude’ – we have a grand time – as folk can see, who read about my walks and outings, in The Orkney News.

    Meditation? Blimey – yes, I meditate every day – I call it making my conscious connection. Conscious connection with The Universe.

    I’ll tell you one, quite long tale about how meditation helped me. In the year 2012, I had a purely physical problem with my right eye. I was put on large doses of strong steroids – the Specialist hadn’t checked my records, if he had done so, he would have noted my ‘reactive system’, and tendency to depression. The steroids were a big mistake, though I didn’t know it at the time. Anyhoo – after a few days on steroids, I went to the hospital in Inverness, and, among other treatments, had to have an injection in my eyeball. This is where you wince – most people do!

    I told the doctor, that if he’d give me a moment to prepare before he did the injection, I would be able to deal with it better. He agreed. I – took myself to another place. He gave me the injection in my eyeball – no problem – I felt the needle going in, but no pain – not then, anyway! He was very impressed, and asked about how I could do that. That story would have taken a lot of telling!

    It’s not injections that bother me, though I’m not keen on them – it’s the after-effects of the medication that bothers me.

    This is a huge subject – I have written of how I am and how I deal with it, quite a few times in TON – I had a go to see if I could track down some of the relevant articles, only to realise that there really are quite a lot! Here’s one……

    And here’s another…

    If you’re more computer savvy than me, you might be able to track down some more, if you’d like to.

    I go along, OK, mostly – I have Mike – thank all the Gods there are that I have Mike! I go up – I go down, but I live – that’s the thing to do.
    And now – I will switch off this computer for the rest of the evening – another of my survival strategies.

  4. That was interesting and helpful thanks. I have anxiety every time I lay my head down. And no matter how tired I am sleep won’t happen, I get up and have been known to make bread, tidy the garden, knot and allsorts when i should be asleep. Usually go sleepy again when everyone else is getting up, and seem to sleep easier then, but its put my day and night timing right out,.Sally

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