23 Jun Making Lemonade When All We Have is Lemons
How do we deal with a threatening situation which is completely outside our experience or expectations? As we have seen in the media, the Coronavirus has a lengthy list of panic-inducing characteristics, prompting people across the globe to engage in panic buying, voraciously devour the news, and to fight over hand sanitiser and face masks.
Nobody knows how long the pandemic will last or how long it will be until we can resume our regular lives. Worse still, many people are worried that they may be laid off and lose their livelihoods altogether. The ongoing uncertainty of the situation makes it hard to plan a course of action and creates a high level of stress. To compound the problem, many of our typical ways of relieving stress, such as going to the gym, watching sports or socialising with friends and family, have ground to a halt.
So how is it that we can respond to the coronavirus in a way that will not only preserve our psychological well-being, but perhaps even enhance our lives once this is all over?
At Upp Therapy we are encouraging our clients to apply the following proven, science-based approaches.
1. Accept negative emotions
It is important to acknowledge that anxious thoughts and emotions will almost inevitably emerge for each of us during this period. The research shows that when we actively try to avoid these experiences by supressing or distracting ourselves, we generally only serve to make them stronger and more entrenched.
In contrast, when we practice showing curiosity for these experiences in real time, without pre-judging them or taking immediate precautionary measures, that it not only allows us to occupy a position as an observer of our own experiences (rather than being fully immersed in them), but it also often allows these experiences to evolve into something which may in fact be far less threatening to us if we only allow it to unfold. This is essentially Mindfulness. A practice which has consistently been linked to good psychological health.
2. Establish new routines
As tempting as it might be to distract ourselves with multiple boxsets or marathon sessions on the PlayStation, studies have shown that planning and establishing daily routines is a strong recipe for good mental health. Part of this involves establishing structure, predictability and a sense of purpose around typical activities such as getting up in the morning, daily ablutions and mealtimes.
Some of the most helpful routines are the ones that feed the essential human need for competence and connection. For example, this might be the perfect moment to learn to play that musical instrument or to master a foreign language. You can also use the time constructively by equipping your children with some of those skills that often get neglected during the hurly burly of normal daily life, such as cooking or laundry skills. These lessons will also stand them in good stead in future life.
3. Reinvent self-care
As humans, we tend to gravitate towards “All or nothing” behaviour. When we are deprived of our regular means of staying physically and mentally healthy, it can be very tempting to put efforts on hold entirely. However, science has shown that exercise, good nutrition and social interaction are directly linked to emotional well-being.
Whether you need to change already-established exercise, eating and socialising habits, or whether you’re using this time to launch a healthy-living routine, the new routines will give you mental strength. Modern technology still allows us to connect with others, albeit it remotely, and to engage in activities such as remote book clubs and exercise classes.
In the absence of a complete lockdown, one thing that is still available to us is the great outdoors. Being an island, the Isle of Man is not only full of greenery, but also surrounded by water. Studies show that spending time in nature (particularly areas with low lying trees or water) positively affects psychological health.
4. Take time to reflect & reframe
The stories that we choose to tell ourselves are pivotal in defining our overall perception of situations. As tough as the current pandemic is, it also represents us with an opportunity to not only survive, but also to thrive. For instance, social distancing could represent a great chance to work on revisiting, or indeed deepening, your connections with the people in your immediate household.
You can also leverage technology to stay in touch with others. As the usual hectic tempo of our busy lives recedes, taking time to savour heart-to-heart conversations with family members or friends could result in much stronger social connectedness once normality resumes.
The enforced slowdown also offers us an unexpected chance to check in with ourselves, re-evaluate our priorities, and if necessary, to replot our course in life ahead of the anticipated upturn.
Finally, it is perhaps also worth bearing in mind that experiencing stress and negative emotions does not have to be time wasted. It can also have dramatic and far-reaching positive consequences. Our work with clients consistently reminds us just how often people who go through very difficult life experiences can emerge from them with a stronger sense of psychological resilience, rekindled relationships and a renewed appreciation of life. With the right planning and support, we, too, can stay psychologically strong during the pandemic and perhaps even grow from this transformative experience.
Upp Therapy provide private online video counselling, coaching and psychological resilience training to individuals and business using expert, trained and friendly thrapists and counselors
Visit www.upptherapy.com or Call 020 8895 6242 to find out more.