I wonder is you are observing yourself with your reactions to the corona virus threat. Are you feeling anxious and at what level is it out of 10? It is natural for us to feel concerned for ourselves and others with this virus. The media are in full throttle mode reporting on the virus from a multitude of angles. It is a media frenzy.

If we read every article and watch every media advise about the virus it is to be expected that we are constantly telling our brain to get ready for a fight or flee situation. On top of this we are likely to be catastrophizing many possible outcomes.

What we have now is hyper arousal where there are increased amounts of adrenaline being pumped into our blood streams and we are now also hypervigilant. We are also causing our minds to become stressed and cortisol is also being released causing bodily symptoms of disturbed sleep, irritability, headaches, digestive disorders, general anxiety and panic.

So, we have the corona virus event and we have our reaction to it. These are two separate issues with the former causing psychological distress about an unknown event.

From a mental health perspective there are things you can do to keep you well. The first thing to do is observe your anxiety and take time to investigate the stories behind these feelings. How are these feelings being generated and from where? What are these feelings robbing you of? What behaviours are resulting from these feelings?

We all need to be aware of this virus threat and make plans to handle it. We need to get the information about the virus and make good decisions. But do we need to be continually scaring ourselves with the media onslaught?

One of the best ways to protect yourself is to not totally emerge yourself in all the media stories. By limiting the immersion in the media stories, you will reduce your hypervigilance. This will lead to less fear chemicals being released into your body’s circulatory system. You will have far better mental health if you observe your reactions and with self talk change the behaviour of any media obsession you might have. Try this for one day and observe the difference.

Living in the here and now will greatly reduce anxious catastrophizing, which the latter is about living in an unknown imagined future. You will deal with this virus when you get the right information.

There is the corona virus and there is the reaction to the threat. Stay mentally well by not frightening yourselves. Go for a walk, ring a friend, make sensible plans. Meditation is brilliant for anxiety so is taking deep breaths. See

Gerry North is a couple counsellor and treats anxiety, panic attacks, depressions, addictions and grief/ loss. Email:



When we are small children and do something wrong in front of our primary care givers, usually our parents, we cover our eyes with shame. We do this as adults in front of others too covering our eyes when embarrassed, usually uttering words or self-rapprochement – Oh No!

We all were told off by our parents and teachers at some time and we got over it without creating belief systems that we are not okay in the world. However, if the shame is felt as continual reflections from our parents, teachers, peers and others, we develop ingrained feelings that we are constantly disappointing others – we are not good enough.

Childhood experienced shame can continue throughout adulthood with constant feelings of being disappointing in the world. That word disappointing is very powerful. We also develop adolescent shame about a wide variety of self-disclosures from sexual identity, not meeting parents’ expectations, failing at learning or work and many other personal behaviours that did not meet the expectations of others.

Let’s look at different ages with shame. When we are children, and without any real sense of power in the world, we do not know how to deal with these feelings of disappointing others. When these feelings of shame happen, it goes right to the core of our being where we want to withdraw from the world for not being worthy. We want to cover our face with our hands. But maybe it was totally unfair for others to make us constantly feel this way? Maybe it was in actual fact emotional abuse?

When an adult it is helpful to reflect on that wounded child within and visit him or her and retell the stories of this unfairness. It is through retelling these stories the wounded child within can heal him or herself. If not the stories and cruel messages of being disappointing sit constantly underneath the adult experience.

How do you communicate with the wounded child within? Well you write letters or stories to this wounded child, putting your adult arms around him or her and reflect on the fairness of the judgments of others. Were you actually a child that experienced the world in wonder only to be crushed by unfairness? Maybe you were not an angel but still felt wrong a lot for just being you. Writing it down externalises the experiences by your own self reflection..

I want to talk about the term Agency. Having Agency means shameful feelings can be addressed because of the power of your unspoken voice that says I am not disappointing others; I am only disappointing myself with these feelings -I am not a bad person!

Having Agency means you can talk to that negative inner belief system and heal with more positive thoughts and feelings. We all make mistakes in life as an adult where we experience shame and we can heal these with thoughts on all the good parts of ourselves.

However healing childhood or adolescent shame requires opening up the many stories that created it; to look at the fairness of it, to challenge the right or the authority of those who reflected back those shameful feelings and to visit all the positive stories of things done well and the personal drives to do good things. Were you really disappointing?

Gerry North is a couple counsellor and also treats depression, anxiety, panic attacks, loss and grief plus additions. Email:

Do You Argue Often and Solve Little

Many clients come to see me because they report communication problems and are continually fighting without resolving anything. After each argument there is a time of feeling in a blue mood and later this turns to purple with depression and feelings of hopelessness.

In time each partner eventually returns to a green zone of some harmony as reactive emotions dissolve. But soon another discussion will trigger the partners where they first go to the warning amber zone and then to the red zone, with feelings of anger, resentment, frustration and disorder. This negative cycle is continually repeated moving from green to amber, red to blue then depressing purple.

What is happening is they are not listening to each other. The basic tenant of effective communication is listening well and validating the others point of view before stating your view. But communicating well is more than just words. In fact not saying things is  positive communication that you want to listen.

Positive communication is more than just words. It can be shown by closing the computer or turning off the TV when they get home to have a chat about the day, making a cup of tea for someone that needs it, thanking them for the cup of tea, arranging a date night, changing the bathroom towel, a hug, kiss, cuddle, gift etc. There are so many ways to communicate positive regard to your partner.

Let’s go back to the arguments that continually occur. When I see couples for the first time I take a shotgun question approach to find out the big picture about all the aspects of the relationship, both good and bad. When people argue a lot about small things it usually means there are underlying structural problems in the relationship. Maybe there is a power imbalance, money issues, sexual issues, continual resentment feelings from a past event, etc. By looking at the many aspects of the relationship we should be able to find the structural problem. The problem is the problem and the problem is the message. (That is a lot to digest I know.)

In the meantime how do you prevent every discussion going into the red zone? What is happening is in the amber zone you are getting information that you are about to be triggered. You will feel this in your body first, maybe a tightness in your chest, a tight jaw, a headache, etc. You are about to enter the red zone. When you get this warning call it is time for TIME OUT. Say you will discuss this later but separate and take the dog for a walk, make bread, read or play some music, just do something else to get back to the green zone.

One of the reasons you are being triggered is a part of your brain, the Amygdala, is awake and about to make you either fiee, fight or maybe freeze. Mostly a fight response as you feel under threat. Now you are in the red zone either yelling (which you later hate yourself for as well as abusing your partner) or running away. After the red zone you will hit the blue and purple zones.

The trick is to not get into the red zone. You should be able to find your own way of not getting there. Time out is one way. Maybe not saying what you want to say is another way to stay in the green zone. Maybe telling your partner you want to listen carefully to them so they get it all out and then have your say. One golden way to always keep in the green zone is to repeat back everything you heard, “What I heard you say was …….”. You do not have to accept what was said but you show you have listened and validated what they said. After this you have your say and they repeat that back. Applying this Responsive Listening technique will always keep you both in the green zone, in fact you will feel so much closer afterwards.

To recap communicating positively that your partner is highly regarded by you is more than using words, in fact it can also be the absence of words. The reasons people argue a lot about small things is there is an underlying structural issue in the relationship. Finally when you argue, stop yourself getting into the red zone as at that point you brain is sending powerful survival messages that you are under threat and need to fight, flee or freeze. De-esculating the argument will stop that happening with Time Out or something more creative.

Gerry North is a couple counsellor and treats anxiety, depression, panic attacks, grief and loss and addictions.