The impact of Covid 19 gives us time to reflect and as I do it dawns on me, I’m ‘struggling’ to be highly anxious about the current global predicament. Oh gawd did I just say that out loud! No that can’t be correct the world is in crisis and shouldn’t I be panicking? I check back in and there is no denying the fact there is a distinct lack of personal panic. I wonder if I have something wrong with me; am I being massively naïve, missing an alarm gene or lacking empathic traits? As a natural empath and someone whose career centres around supporting others, I suspect the latter is unlikely. I do, also, fully understand the real-life dangers, especially to our front line staff and the risks they take to care for society’s vulnerable. The inherent economic impact for most people, including myself and family, and the overarching global impact this pandemic could have are apparent. However I find myself in a place of, “it is what it is, it will be what it will be and in this moment I can implement any practical steps available to myself and nearest, do my bit to ensure I don’t exacerbate the spread, but outside of that it remains out of my control. So, no point stressing.”
I wonder why this clear inability, to control outside influences, doesn’t send me into a tailspin of emotional distress? Why is it replaced with a quiet sense of all will work itself out and we will deal with whatever arises? As surely there is no credible basis for that perception, as the reality is no one knows if it will be alright, again on an intellectual level a concept I can fully grasp and yet this sense at my core tells me to not panic. I am fully aware we only experience our perception of reality and not reality itself. It’s quite apparent our ways of navigating this current unpredictable situation, and associated behaviours, differ wildly. Is that due to the unique, personal lens we each view it from, a view we have no conscious control over and one we believe to be ‘real’? As opposed to a simplistic assumption that people’s positive behaviours are because they are good citizens or ‘resilient’ and people’s negative, for want of a better word, behaviours are due to the fact they are not so nice or just ‘weak’?
What if this is not about good, bad or indifferent labels but as simple as having differing lenses on our world view cameras that either assist us or inhibit our ability to cope. Am I better placed to take some ‘survival steps’ if the need arises as my cognitive capacity isn’t already overloaded with anxiety because I have a, in this instance, ‘helpful’ lens on my camera? Are there some simple steps that people, who are struggling, can take to reduce their anxiety burden, and hence cope better? Can we help people to change their lens in the midst of this turmoil?
Here are 3 simple steps people can take to change their perceptual lens and hopefully reduce anxiety levels.
Create An Action Log:
When you read this it may seem too simplistic but don’t underestimate the impact a simple prioritisation log or table can have on changing your lens and assisting with anxiety levels. When it’s all swirling around in your head, like an unmanageable whirlwind, it can become paralysing and our ability to cope is hugely compromised. Our conscious memory is only able to manage and retain between 5 – 7 different ‘bits’ of information at any one time, so keeping tabs on the dozens of items you may need to handle at present requires another strategy.
Get a pen and paper and list all the concerns, issues and things you want to resolve in this current crisis for you and your family.
On another page draw 2 columns; one will be a column for items you can take specific action steps (i.e. ACTION Column) to move forward even if you can’t fully resolve (i.e. concern over meeting upcoming credit card payment). The other is concerns you cannot take actions on (i.e. NO ACTION Column) to address i.e. the global economic impact and the subsequent impact on your personal income. On a third page draw 2 more columns. This time you will focus in on that Action column. In the left hand column you will relist all the ‘ACTION’ concern items i.e. credit card payment. On the right hand side you will write 2 or 3 specific steps you can take NOW to move forward each action item. For instance, look online for any updated advice on meeting cc payments and contact the bank to discuss my circumstances. A final step, if you have many action items, is to rate each one on a scale of 1 – 10, 1 = least critical & 10 = most critical. If you find you are scoring everything as a 10 maybe get someone to help you and take the average of your 2 scores. Now you have a clear prioritised list of things you can do.
What about the Non Action column you may think. Well yes exactly what about the non action column you have clearly defined the areas you can take some action and where you can’t. Don’t waste energy worrying about the non-action column, at the moment, as you literally can’t do anything about those items. It may be in a weeks’ time some of the items on this list move to your action list as things change but for now focus your time and energy on your action column. I guarantee as you start to tick some of those steps off on your action column the overall feeling of dread will begin to reduce.
Create A 5 Minute ‘Space’:
With lockdown it can be overwhelmingly stressful in our households. Fractious children, high energy pets, bored partners, constant bombardment from social media and the news about the crisis. When we become overwhelmed it can be beneficial to find some physical or psychological ‘space’. Get creative and invent some novel ways to give yourself (even if it’s as small as 5 minutes) an opportunity to just stop, take some deep breaths and put the world on pause for a moment. Put your lens cap on for a few moments and shut out the external noise and commotion. A simple breathing exercise, of which they are a multitude of free examples on the internet can help you regain some composure and ability to keep going even if your only opportunity to do it is in the loo! Just 5 minutes of controlled breathing will have a positive physiological and emotional recalibrating effect. This is an exercise that can be carried out while walking the dog, washing up, substituted for social media time, done before you drift off to sleep or on awakening in the morning.
Create A ‘Help Me’ Plan:
If you are struggling or are overwhelmed what can you do to ask for help? Forget that pride nonsense this is not the time to hold onto that lens. There are countless examples of people prepared to help those that need a bit of assistance but if you don’t ask they wont know. That could be within your immediate family, get someone to help you create your action list, or in the wider community. Put your search lens on and investigate the areas where you can get some support or assistance if needed. Are there community initiatives to help with getting essential supplies, can you task your children with coming up with novel solutions to problems you face?
The reality is there are lots of perceptual lenses the first step is in being aware what lens we are currently using and the impact that may have on our ability to cope. The above a 3 very simple, but powerful, lens altering strategies you can implement to help you cope with these unpredictable times.