Coronavirus - dealing with change

The changes being imposed upon our lives with the coronavirus pandemic create challenges for human beings that are felt consciously and unconsciously.

Generally, we are able to cope with those changes we choose for ourselves: a new home, a new car, a job change or a new relationship. Even these bring teething troubles during the settling-in period. But much more do we resist change that comes, unchosen, from the external world. And this is what is happening now.

Responding to change

As with everything, we human beings accept change only by stages. The stages may last varying lengths of time and some may be felt more keenly than others. You may be feeling any of the following at this time: Disbelief, anger, fear, resistance, cynicism, sadness, specific fears to do with becoming ill or dying, persistent worry, questioning your faith or religion.
This list is far from exhaustive because we humans are complex and respond to things in our own personal way. It's also normal to feel some or many of these feelings at once.
I can track the course of my own responses from initial disbelief and scepticism - regarding the plausibility and potency of the virus - to an awareness of the need to stem the contagion and be willing to readjust to social needs.

If you are living with others around you it may be frustrating if they do not respond the same way as you are. For example, if you feel sadness and loss and those around you seem to be critical or irritable (or vice versa). This can cause conflict as human beings like to know that what they are feeling is normal and the way we check this is to compare with others and, if we are not feeling the same, believe that one of us is wrong!

The fact is that, just as people have individual responses to life events, their reactions to this phenomenon will be personal too.

You may find a change in some of your behaviour too. In myself, I know that my sleep pattern has changed and my eating routine, waking in the early hours and snacking in the evenings which may be for a need for comfort rather than hunger. You may find yourself with less or more appetite than usual and be sleeping longer or for fewer hours than you normally do. Perhaps you may feel agitated with family members. Given our situation, this is all understandable.

Coping skills

Fortunately, we have an invisible bag of tools. These tools are coping skills we have learned to deal with things in life. Some of these we will have learnt in our early childhood and others we will have picked up as teenagers or older adults. When life is going to plan there are tools that regularly come out and others that we rarely need. You will find over the coming weeks that, as well as using your normal tools, others are required that you haven’t used for a while, if ever. But they are there none the less, waiting.

At this moment, I sit small and uncertain of where life may lead. And the coping skills in my bag are:

  • willingness to listen to other people and to myself
  • understanding - that each of us has their own response
  • resting well
  • eating well
  • moderate exercise (at least every other day)
  • maintaining contact with those I love via phone, video or text
  • doing the things I enjoy such as painting, reading and planting

The change has not fully hit me. It is early days and I spend time alone normally so this enforced isolation has not yet registered as different. My subconscious mind tells me that next week normality will resume even though I know it will not. I know I might struggle to cope with the temporary loss of seeing the people I love and how I spend my time both at work and at leisure. Having close contact with friends and family, being unable to see my clients in the usual way or to go out as often as I like to, will be a challenge. But I know I will survive and will have learned something important.

I feel now that we are faced with an opportunity to learn. Something very good could emerge from all this: Until a few weeks ago the pace of life was frantic and for many, there was little time to gain perspective. This virus has caused us to slow down. The days to come will give us a greater insight into what really matters to us. I am hopeful that what is happening now will serve to realign us to what is really valuable. That we might rediscover a connection to the earth and to nature. That we will value our family and friends more and realise our size in relation to the world, and our need to unite with other human beings rather than struggle alone.

If you feel you need help to cope with the sudden changes impacting your life then speaking to a professional counsellor could help. Many therapists now offer online and telephone sessions.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Caroline Brown, Reg. MBACP, Individuals and Couples

Caroline Brown is a person-centred counsellor based near Lincoln. She has a special interest in clients with anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.… Read more

Written by Caroline Brown, Reg. MBACP, Individuals and Couples

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