Top Tips for Coping Right Now

It is tough right now. We were all looking forward to Christmas and now it has been as good as cancelled for people in Tier 4. Here are some good, sound strategies that I’ve borrowed from people I admire.

Jeremy Bentham once exhorted us to ‘deal with life as it is, not how it’s supposed to be’. This is not easy. Your brain likes certainty, so when something shakes ‘normality’, it will either do its best to continue as before – even if it’s heading you towards a cliff (we call that denial) –  or it will access your memory and imagination for guidance.

With a shift from normality as big as Covid 19 and now many of us in Tier 4 it’s not surprising that many people have no frame of reference from their past. This is literally like nothing they’ve ever faced before – they cannot see a way forward. Often the felt response to this is akin to depression; the brain wants you to stop and bed down for a while until the situation ahead becomes clearer (protection response = freeze). Or, if the brain matches it with negative events from your past – like previous experiences of poverty, redundancy, loss etc – then if the match is strong you’ll experience anxiety (a fear of what you foresee as the outcome) and respond with fight or flight, or depression if your default with stress tends to be to freeze.

So, the great rollercoaster of emotions we’re witnessing (and sharing) are perfectly normal, they’re just us responding to the situation as our brain is interpreting it. It’s good to remember that many countries are cancelling Christmas and what we’re taking to be privation would be luxury to 80% of the world, and amazing safety for millions of refugees.

However, the problem isn’t what is actually happening, but what we make of it (write that on your fridge).

The solution?

In times of great uncertainty, remaining in charge of yourself is a good idea. That is the secret. But it isn’t easy.

Here are some suggestions for how best to become in charge of ourselves and deal with this situation:

1.    Operate within your circle of influence. Pay attention and give energy to those things you can control, not the things you can’t. Your circle of concern, which is much larger, you have little power over. Like a ‘fried egg’. The yolk is your area of control/influence. The white is your area of concern, the things you care about. Keep your energy and attention in the yolk.

2.    Keep connected to people with a positive mindset. We feed what we focus on, so the more you tune into negative messages the more you’ll be primed to look for them.

3.    Forgive yourself. This is not about being relentlessly positive. This is a difficult time with things happening that will have negative consequences for all of us to some degree or another. It’s appropriate to grieve for the future that will no longer be there, to fear the loss of things we love or hoped to, to hurt for the people suffering. All feelings are ok to feel, so don’t judge yourself by them. Cry for a while. Sit in a dark room for a while. Moan about the unfairness for a while. Absolutely go for it. Then rub yourself down with a wet wipe, get up, and work the problem that’s in front of you.

4.    With our normal rhythms disrupted, create new ones. Have a list of things to achieve each day. Achieving them is a successful day. Keep them smallish and achievable. Include exercise and something novel – like learning a new hobby (juggling is great for anxiety and creativity).

When Covid is all over we can look back at what we learned, how we grew and what we’re grateful for. For now, take one step at a time and remember to love who you’re connected to. Take some time to serve others.

One day this will be a story you tell. What character would you like yourself to be in it? Treat it as that story now.

Siobhan Nell
Cognitive Hypnotherapist based in Ramsbury

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