Updated: Mar 6
In what feels like the briefest of moments we are finding ourselves living in some contorted version of our lives, it is beginning to feel like a New World Order is taking shape. Everything around us is as familiar today as it was yesterday and yet we are dazed with a sense of uncertainty.We are being bombarded with local and global news 24/7, media outlets are dripping gasoline onto the fire and fanning the flames; then with a mixture of both morbid curiosity and fear we stare anxiously at our screens. I am not going to tell you that everything will be fine. For the majority of us that is likely the case but it simply won't be for everyone.
We are hard-wired to seek out and focus in on the dangers that surround us. If our caveman ancestors heard a twig snap in the woods behind them, expected a lion and turned round to find a squirrel they lost nothing, if indeed they saw a lion they were more prepared to protect themselves. If they shrugged off the snapping twig as a squirrel but it was in fact a lion ... well those guys didn't pass on their genes to future generations, so our tendency to be alert to danger has served us well. We are right to keep ourselves informed of the risks, to be cautious and considered in our actions, to comply with social distancing requests to ease the burden on the healthcare system and to protect our neighbours but we cannot afford to get lost in the fear of fear itself. Buy only what you need so everyone gets their share, if you have freedom of movement offer the support you can to those that don't.
Uncertainty brings with it a sense of powerlessness and vulnerability which quickly becomes worrisome, this then spirals rapidly into anxiety, anxiety feeds panic and we find ourselves caught up in a whirlwind of fear that seems to have neither a beginning nor an end. Platitudes do not help, sweeping statements about making lemonade out of lemons offer no comfort, only real honest conversation about how we are actually feeling will help us process, validate, normalise and rationalise this new reality.
Sounds straightforward enough but how do you keep your feet on solid ground when the foundations are collapsing? ...
Realistically there are only ever three scenarios that any situation can morph into, things can get worse, things can continue as is or things can get better. Evaluating each of these scenarios can help to provide a sense of control over the seemingly uncontrollable, it allows us to draft a plan for the 'what ifs' of life. We know that our current situation is not going to stay the same, it's evolving daily so from the plethora of anxiety fuelled and dizzying number of potentials we only really have to concern ourselves with two options. Even if self-isolating we have access to the technology that allows us all to stay more connected than at anytime in history so let's use it to help ease our minds and rather than to cause panic ... talk to your colleagues, friends, families and neighbours and explore the three possible outcomes. What do each of these mean to you and others? Acknowledge how you are feeling so you can slow the brewing whirlwind of fear and begin to allay some of the worries that will otherwise compromise your mental health. Stress, lack of sleep, poor nutrition and neglecting self care routines will only serve to suppress your immune system.
Every life stressor you were dealing with last month has not been eradicated because something more pressing came along. The issues that were keeping you awake at night are all still there just bubbling under the surface, they haven't disappeared and nor have they lessened in severity so don't neglect them either, keep them in focus, these are the areas of your life where you can enact change. If you are able to regain some sense of control over these issues your capacity to accept and adapt to the changing shape of your daily life will increase and your wellbeing will improve.
This story isn't over yet but we all have a part to play in keeping it to one volume.
DG Psychotherapy offers secure phone and video counselling services. If you need to talk please reach out ...
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