Coronavirus: From the norm to the abnorm
Since the world has been hit by the coronavirus, it has impacted all of our lives and is continuing to leave us all feeling unsettled in some way or another. It is like our freedom and daily routines have been taken away from us, and all that is being asked of us is feeling strange and surreal. We are all perhaps experiencing some level of shock around the pandemic that has taken away the norm within our lives. We are being asked to do things that go against the grain of what we need as people, which can leave us feeling that we are struggling for a number of reasons. We have been asked to make major changes in our lives which can leave us feeling out of control. This can give rise to us all feeling some level of stress, anxiety, low mood or depression. This is expected as we find ourselves in a place where we have not been before and we have not been given a handbook as to how to deal with all that is going on.
Ways to acknowledge and cope
This article sets out to highlight how people may be reacting to the current pandemic and what may be useful for us to do in order to keep our mental health and wellbeing on an even keel. Please take whatever you feel is relevant to you as I know one size does not fit all and we all deal with things differently.
In my daily work, I have been supporting a number of people with their issues and the current coronavirus situation has, as expected, become a regular topic. People are not coping well for a number of reasons such as:
- Staying at home and following government advice around social distancing which can leave us feeling restricted and out of control. It creates a very surreal and different environment, where what was normal becomes abnormal and at times stressful to do things such as go out for a run or walk, go to the shops and so on.
- Working from home when either this is not something they have done before or the increased level of this leading to lack of social interaction and the onset of feelings of loneliness
- Managing work/life balance can be difficult as we are not able to socially do the things we used to and it starts to create imbalances in our lives which can leave us feeling unhappy. Sometimes this can be hard when we have children/caring responsibilities and are working from home as it means we spend more time juggling the two which can lead us spending the majority of our energy and day doing this. This leaves us no time for ourselves and our own self-care.
- Finding that we have a lot of time free due to staying at home or working from home as travel is not needed and our social interactions are limited. This free time can leave us feeling uncomfortable as we are not used to having extra time out and it can give rise to issues coming to the forefront that we have not had the time to deal with. Free time when we feel we should be doing something can be difficult to accept, so we then look to busy ourselves with other things at home such as DIY, decorating, spring cleaning and so on.
- Self-care can be difficult to connect with, especially as we are so often focused on 'doing things'. We don’t always take time out to connect with what we want, which can recharge our batteries, and for some of us we don't know how to 'self-care'.
- There is a lot of heightened anxiety due to media coverage and the various headlines that come to light which can leave us feeling more out of control.
It can lead to us going into 'triple C':
- Clutter - when we accumulate a lot of baggage in our minds or life that gets too much for us. We start to go into overload mode and are not able to cope as we are at full capacity.
- Chaos - when things go out of control and everything feels like a mess. When in chaos we sometimes are not able to think of things as we usually do which leads us feeling lost and confused. We can go into catastrophising issues which create an overwhelm mode for us.
- Collapse - due to the chaos in our lives and minds, it can lead to us running out of steam. This is when we collapse and it can feel like a burnout, like we have nothing left in the tank to deal with anything. This can lead to us going in a downward spiral.
All of these C’s have a common theme in that it can dispel a lot of energy whilst being any of these stages. This can contribute to how we order our priorities and what we feel we need to do at that time. You can use this tool to notice when you are going into triple C.
So what do we do with what the current changes in our lives are creating for us?
Well there is no simple straightforward answer to this, though there will be some tools and strategies that we can use that may support coping with what is coming up for us. Remember, throughout our lives, we have had to deal with change and take a step back to recalibrate and adjust to what has come our way. This situation is asking us to do the same so first, we need to take a step back and take a good look at ourselves.
Sometimes we need to take a moment to become more emotionally aware and we can do this by asking ourselves three questions:
- How am I feeling?
- Why am I feeling this way?
- What am I going to do about it?
You may find that you are not able to answer all the questions, but answering the first is all that is needed.
During these times, we are getting more time to be with ourselves and sometimes this can lead to all sort of things coming up. So we are taking a step back and noticing what is coming up for us. Again, we have to reconnect with those resources. We have to deal with this and adjust to the changes made in our life knowing what our limits are. We all have the ability to go into ‘survival’ mode which can allow us to cope and fulfil our basic needs.
We sometimes need more than this to be able to cope so sometimes what we need to do is look at the 3 A’s and look at how we can cope with the current situation.
The 'three A's' are:
- Accept there is nothing we can do to change what is happening so we need to embrace it and we can do this by:
- Talking to others about how we feel.
- Practice positive self-talk such as ‘I can cope’.
- Learn from our previous experiences and draw on some of those resources we have used before to manage the current situation.
- Alter is when we attempt to change the situation for the better so sometimes we need to turn things around and look at positives in our current situation. This can be done by:
- Communicating with others openly around issues.
- Manage your time better and create a routine of things to do.
- Know what your limits are in this changed environment and notice what your tolerance levels are to things such as constantly talking or hearing about coronavirus. This may not be beneficial to us so perhaps limit conversations on this and exposure to the media and stick to watching news at certain times of the day.
- Adapt is to change your standards and expectations to be able to manage the changes and stresses arising from the current issue with COVID-19. Some ways of doing this is are:
- Adjust your standards by asking yourself what is it you really need to do. Sometimes we are so used to doing things that we busy ourselves doing other things at home such as DIY, cleaning etc. Is this what is important for us? Sometimes we need to use this time to rest and recover from all that is happening around us. We need to give ourselves time to process what is going on for us as a result of what is happening in the world.
- Reframe the issue so try to look at it in a different way and see it as being an opportunity to retreat and take care of ourselves. Adopt a mantra such as ‘I can get through this’ and mentally repeat it a number of times to settle any negative feelings or thoughts arising. Create a list of things that you have achieved and that make you happy. Remind yourself of all the things you have done and can do, in order to deal with what is coming up for you.
All of these can support you to deal with the changes and the current issues due to coronavirus. It can give you a different way to perceive and deal with the issues coming up. All we need to remind ourselves is that we have got this! We already have the tools to assist us to manage what the ‘abnorm’ is bringing up for us and look at alternative ways to deal with it that may be productive.
Remember everything that is going on is not ok, but the only thing we have control over is how we deal with it so grab hold of these tools to enable you to start to do this. It may be useful to go back to the three questions asked earlier which are:
How am I feeling? Why am I feeling this way? What am I going to do about it?
See what you come up with in terms of responses and this may enable you to answer all the questions and set a plan as to things you can do to manage.
Of course, if you feel that you are struggling to manage any feelings of overwhelm, stress or anxiety then you may need to talk to someone. Speak to family and friends if you feel you can, or you may feel that talking to a professional counsellor may help. Many therapists are offering online and telephone support during this time.
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