Finding the golden thread in a crisis

We like to think that we are in control of our lives. But this is largely an illusion. We are all vulnerable to factors which we can’t influence much. The COVID-19 crisis must be the most dramatic example of this that any of us have experienced, certainly since the Second World War.

At the best of times, we not only have little power over external events, but we can’t actually do much to change the behaviour of even those people who are closest to us. Rather, our ability to control the world around us is pretty much confined to our own behaviour and thoughts.

Right now, our natural human tendency is to tip into speculation about all sorts of horrifying scenarios about how the epidemic might pan out. We do so because we are in a mental state of 'not knowing'. This state is always uncomfortable, so our mind tries to construct answers to ease us out of not knowing. One current risk is that we feed this tendency with fake news or conspiracy theories spun on social media by people who don’t know either.

Anxiety is a natural part of being human. Within limits, it is actually a healthy and protective emotion in an uncertain world. But how do we best manage the increased anxiety about the epidemic which we are all experiencing?

Can we bring ourselves back into the immediate moment? One way is to ask ourselves what is wrong right now. Let’s try and deal with that now. Let’s try to put to one side all those other worries which are crowding our mind about what might or might not happen further down the line, so that we can have the brain space to focus on the immediate.

And let’s look for the golden thread of opportunity in the current situation. For some people (at the moment, thankfully, a relatively small number) the epidemic is leading to tragedy. Many others face really major practical problems. But perhaps there is a golden thread which enables us to use the free time now forced upon us. We can really reconnect with others, whether family, friends or neighbours. Even if we can only be in contact remotely, we now have time to really listen and to talk. That connection might lift our spirits and theirs, and recreate something of a lost sense of family and community.

And the enforced gift of time might enable us to reconnect with nature. With spring now underway, we have a chance denied to us in the normal rush of life to get joy in spotting buds bursting, flowers emerging, tadpoles hatching, and swallows and swifts returning to their nests.

So if the normal pace is slowing for us for a while, let’s celebrate the little pleasures of our lives. They can be a golden thread for us.

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Hastings, Sussex, TN34 1PN

Written by Andrew Colquhoun

Hastings, Sussex, TN34 1PN

I practise as a counsellor and psychotherapist in the Hastings area of East Sussex, seeing clients with both a wide range of ages and with a wide range of issues. I normally work in an integrative way, but also can offer cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). In addition, I draw on my past management experience to provide life coaching when needed.

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