It seems the one thing that we can be sure of at the moment is the constant change that coronavirus is imposing on us and our need to try and adapt to this new way of living and find our 'new normal'
This last week has seen some rapid change:-
pubs and restaurants and other social spaces having to close,
the vulnerable being asked to self isolate for 12 weeks
Stay at home being asked of us all except key workers
Being asked to leave home only for essentials such as shopping or medical reasons
People having to start working from home
Social distancing to be observed by everyone
Income being threatened
For some this stay at home message may help reduce anxiety, now that they are safe in their own homes, but for others things like adapting to working from home, loss of income and what things will be like afterward are increasing anxiety
Again it comes back to change, fear of the unknown and no control and so anxiety peaks again.
Something I feel we should be mindful of at the moment is the language we use, as language tells our brain what to think and interprets these into feelings for us.
If we use words like Lockdown and Home Arrest, which I have seen on newspaper headlines, this is threatening language that feeds that feeling of not being safe, which in turn will lead to our brain wanting to protect us and then our anxiety kicks in
If instead we use language like stay at home, Keep myself and others safe, we are using language that tells our brain we are safe and so there is no need to protect us and we can keep calm.
Simple things like the language you use for yourself can make big changes in how you feel.
So lets focus on what is happening right now and some of the things you may be worrying about at the moment.
If you take a look at the recent changes and the number of losses we may be feeling there are quite a few
Loss of freedom
Possible loss of income
Possible loss of jobs and work colleagues
Children losing school environment and school friends
Losing physical touch with relatives,friends and loved ones
Loss of routine
When change happens and we feel loss of something or someone, we grieve and move through a cycle of feelings until we reach acceptance of the situation.
This is called the cycle of acceptance and this is the process we go through
We receive the bad news
There is a period of Denial
We get angry with us and/or others,
We feel depressed
A bargaining period
Looking at this cycle you may well recognise some of the feelings that you have been having yourself at this recent time, Lets look at each stage in more detail:-
At this stage we have thoughts such as
This cant be true
This isn't happening
You must be wrong
I recognise in myself the denial period, when I first heard the news I was of the opinion this is another flu how bad can it be and was almost dismissive of the information.
You may recognise some of the thoughts and feelings you went through when you first heard the news as denial
The anger stage can be directed at yourself or others and we have thoughts such as
I don't want to cope with this
Don't tell me anymore
This is crazy
You are stupid
I'm not listening
In this coronavirus time for, example, there was some anger towards the panic buyers or those who have not been applying the social distancing rules. Again reflect on some of your own thoughts and feelings and when you enter this anger stage
The depression stage is generally as a result of starting to feel the weight of things so we have thoughts such as
Oh no its really true
There's nothing I can do about it
This is a hopeless situation
Nobody can solve this
These kinds of thoughts lead to feeling useless and hopeless and this leads to low mood, some may just feel a little low, others may go into a black hole.
This could be difficult for people at this time as social isolation and the lack of contact with others can also trigger depression.
It is good to recognise when you are going through this phase and reach out for help
At this stage we start to bargain with ourselves and others to try and make things better
so we have thoughts such as
I might as well agree, I can't change things
If i am able to do this now, things will be better later
I can put up with this for the short term, as long as it means things will get better
By having these kinds of thoughts we start to see a more realistic way of coping and can see things a little more clearly
This is the place we need to and want to get to, This is when things start to get easier, because through acceptance you stop fighting with your feelings about things.
Your thoughts may be
Well it could be worse
Others may be worse off then me
I'll have to make the best of this situation
Things aren't as bad as I thought they would be
There might be something good that come form this
Acceptance means you
Start to cope better
Start to know how to make the best of things
Accept this is your new normal and are ok with that
You may even feel that some good has come from the change and is a positive one for you.
You can see how much calmer and more enjoyable life is when you reach the place of acceptance
We all experience this cycle but it might be some go through it quickly, and hardly notice, others may get stuck in a place unable to move onto the next for a while, others may move forward and then back again, but we do all get to acceptance.
By being mindful of where you are in the process and where others around you are in the process may help you have more compassion for yourself and others.
For example if you are in the depression stage but someone you know is at the bargaining stage you are going to be experiencing things very differently so some understanding of where you each are in the cycle is important to help you both cope better.
It may also help you cope with the wider world at this time by understanding people are at different stages.
This is a good cycle to be aware of not only at this time but for all change you might experience in your life.
Laura Knight Dip.Couns MBACP is an experienced and qualified counsellor and CBT therapist who runs her own private practice SeeClear Counselling in Poole, Dorset
She is an anxiety UK approved therapist and specialises in working with anxiety and panic attacks