COVID-19 has confronted our desire for (and delusions of) predictability and control. Nobody has been here before. What is normal? There certainly is more uncertainty than anybody finds comfortable. Building on the circle of influence we can confront the COVID-19 anxiety.
COVID-19 and Control
While there are many things about the COVID-19 pandemic that feels overwhelming and beyond our control, you may be surprised to highlight what remains within your control when you stop and think about it. Diet. Attitude. Reaching out. Washing your hands…
You can add even more to the list when you consider what is within your sphere of influence. While I cannot control my spouse’s (or child’s) behaviour, I can influence and hope to nudge them in the “right” direction. I cannot control whether people social distance or follow the latest medical guidelines, but I can influence those within my sphere of influence.
When you are faced with being overwhelmed, think about what remains in your control and what you can control in that very moment (e.g. breathing). This is a great opportunity to practice the serenity prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
- What helps you relax? How often do you engage in micro-self-care?
- What do you need to adjust to make your sleep more predictable?
- Who fills up your tank, and how often do you need to connect with them?
- How can you distribute your time to balance home schooling, working from home, housework, and rest?
- How can you break up those overwhelming tasks into smaller more manageable chunks?
Remember, things will certainly change. As the world changes (and sometimes changes drastically within several hours) you will need to continually revise these plans and schedules.
- Build a team that will help you cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. Do not be deceived: excessive caffeine/alcohol/calories/escapism/etc are not good teammates. They generally contribute to guilt and shame.
- Take time to reflect on what you are experiencing. In my reflections, I have thought about the many ways that this pandemic reminds me of war – except this time it is against an invisible enemy. Instead of enrolling in the army, we are tasked with social distancing (lockdown). The injuries we face are not from gunshots or bombs, but the shock and trauma of having the rug pulled out from under your feet. I highly recommend using Conscious Coping (free resource) as a vehicle to become a compassionate witness to your experiences.
- Part of self-compassion includes knowing your limits. To overcome the anticipatory anxiety, some turn to heroics in a surge for solutions. While the creativity and teamwork are super powerful in overcoming the challenges we face, there is no need for martyrs. Work within your competencies, learn new skills, say no, rest.
Fear and panic can hamstring your efforts and use a lot of precious mental/emotional resources. In contrast, cultivating healthy concerns can enable you to take appropriate preventative action. These responses are driven by your thoughts (self-defeating extreme attitudes or self-helping non-extreme attitudes). Although helpful beliefs are challenging to maintain, it is worth it: they empower us to carry on no matter how difficult things become – be it by death, illness, job loss, or another disaster.
To transcend the challenges that COVID-19 has introduced to us, we need to consider that:
- Anything is possible and although I don’t want (insert fear here) to happen, it might
- It would be a great misfortune if (insert fear here), but I would be able to accept, endure, transcend it
- It would be tough if (insert fear here), but I won’t have a choice but to bear it and it will be helpful to bear it so that I don’t make the situation worse
- Life is not all good or all bad: during (insert fear here), I would still have things to be grateful for and good memories to consider
This is easier said than done. Should you find yourself with a need to process your experience or desire coaching to embrace more helpful attitudes, please contact our partners at Reality Wellness for assistance. Remember, you are not alone.