COVID, Coping and Control

Whilst there is a great deal of information about how to cope during social isolation available, I would like to give my thoughts on how to come through this crisis with the minimum amount of scarring having built in some healthy coping strategies.

This is a time to redefine what we see as ‘success’.

This is a time to work on improving communication and on seeking the strengths in ourselves and in each other, and a time to retrain our thoughts and get them on a more constructive path. Brain scans show that imagined reality has almost as powerful an effect on brain function as actual reality.

We can choose to redirect less helpful thought processes away from the worst possible outcome and towards thinking up constructive creative things to do. And we can factor in brief but valuable moments of calm in amongst all the mayhem.

Just thinking or saying loving words changes our physiology, just a little, whereas repeating threat related words keeps us stuck in the stress response. Our Inner Dialogue plays a big part in how we manage stress.

We can help shift stuck thoughts by noticing what we are saying to ourselves as it as it is commonly rather harsh and judgmental especially at times of high stress when we need an inner ally, not a bully! We can then choose an alternative response which is more balanced and supportive.

Accepting that we are dealing with more uncertainty and change than ever before and that this will at times be frightening, painful, frustrating and confusing is the first step towards finding the ways to feel more grounded and able to cope.

This is a time to shift focus to the things we can have some control over, and not to dwell on the things that may concern us, but that we can’t do anything about.

There are things we can have some, possibly minor, influence over, which we can use some time and energy considering. But the main area to focus attention on, especially at this stressful time, is the circle of control – the daily things that you can do to help you manage the new demands and challenges of this situation.

Of course we fear the virus and its effect on health and on every aspect of our lives, but this fear is exacerbated by conflict, anxiety, poor sleep and even the way we plan and spend our day – all of which can impair physical and emotional wellbeing – and these are areas we can have some control over. 

So, what can we do?

If you are isolating at home, ensure you have some structure in each day have a flexible daily timetable covering the basics such as meal-times, exercise time, relaxation time etc.

We feel less overwhelmed when we have structure, some order in the chaos, and it helps us to feel a sense of achievement if we complete even a few simple planned tasks.

If you are in a hectic work environment, find precious brief moments to take a few slower, more rhythmic, breaths: or step outside for just a few moments and look at nature.

We are all doing the best we can at this time, in these difficult circumstances, and that is all we can ever do: the best we can, at the time, in the circumstances.

There is a lot of information available but if too much information feels overwhelming, just choosing ONE small thing to help calm you will make a difference. Better to do one something, than lots of nothings! A few moments that break the cycle of stress are valuable moments.

This challenge is reminding us that we need each other; we are social beings who do best when we work together, and also that if we work with nature rather than against it, we increase our ability to thrive rather than just survive.

These are really tough times and we will struggle, so now more than ever we need to be kind to ourselves and to be realistic about our limitations.

Self-compassion will help us to adapt and we will find out throughout this challenge just how adaptable and resourceful we are. Where there is love there is hope and I don’t think any of us can ever before have witnessed the great love, courage and heroism that we are seeing right now. 

Remember each and every small kind deed from every one of us makes a real difference.

“All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because of love. Everything is united by it alone. “ Leo Tolstoy

Dr Annie Campbell CPsychol, AFBPsS

Annie is a Chartered Psychologist with a wide range of skills to facilitate change. Her particular interest is the interaction between the mind and the body and she has developed strategies that have helped people in many settings to enhance their confidence, achieve their potential and feel more comfortable in their own skin.



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