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Coping mechanisms and new ways of thinking. ’Can’ versus ‘Can’t’; especially useful in dealing with the changes of 2020

Change can be a great thing if we are in control of what it is and how it’s done, but when change is thrown at us out of our control it can be harder to deal with. From the big things like losing a job, splitting up with a partner/wife/husband, having to move because the landlord is selling up to the supermarket changing its layout or roadworks appearing on a daily route. 

Right now we are all being hit (in many different ways) by the Covid-19 pandemic and each and every one of us will be dealing with what that brings to us differently. Even though it is affecting billions of us worldwide in many life changing ways, the pandemic will trigger varying emotions, reactions and knock on effect changes in us that will be different to people around us. It is a shared problem that is being handled in many different ways. So, we are better off not comparing our reactions to those of others, and concentrate on how we are affected by the changes and what we can to do about it all, so that we can be as content as possible.

Making change work for youDue to Covid-19 pandemic, I can’t freely… go on holiday abroad as the flight is too risky. I can’t freely sit in my old favourite restaurant as it doesn’t feel safe. I can’t freely hug my father for fear of passing on the virus if I caught it. I can’t freely see my clients as I don’t have the space to keep them or myself safe…

It is so easy to concentrate on what we cannot do, but what about what we can do? Things we are used to doing are not the same right now, and we can compare how it is now to our freely enjoyed past experiences, which can make us feel worse. So we either get our heads around the new way of doing or experiencing those things or find new things to do that have no ‘memories’ or comparisons attached to them.

So, maybe try doing something new?

If we are hit with other changes, such as the ones I noted above, again we can concentrate on what we are losing or we can look for ways we can make the most of the situation. I realise this is not always possible, but if we lose a job, it could be an opportunity for trying something new, or going for a job that’s better paid for example. If we have to move home, perhaps we can find somewhere that offers something we haven’t had like better neighbours or a garden. 

Thinking again to the lockdown or current Covid-19 safety restrictions, in various ways it can be linked to causing:

  • Isolation. from work colleagues, usual hobbles or seeing friends or family. So, what can we do to feel less isolated? Make sure we get some fresh air every day, keep in contact with the usual people in our lives to avoid losing touch and maybe joining online or outdoor groups within a particular interest. 

  • Fear. Fear of the virus itself, of passing it on to others without knowing, of losing our jobs… So, how can we balance our fears so that we keep safe yet aren’t petrified? Choosing what news to watch, who to talk to, the environments we go to, and basing our fears on facts, not what is happening to some other people. Sometimes fear is based on reality and sometimes it is fear of the unknown. Being able to differentiate between the two can be a good start.
  • Unrest. Questioning what if…? Comparing to what others’ are doing… Denial of the situation…So, how can we feel more content with what we have got or what we can do? Acceptance of the situation. Taking responsibility for our own actions and outcomes. Know that we are not alone.
  • Loss. Loss of a job, a loved one, a relationship… There is no simple way to put it here as loss can be a trauma that can leave us grieving, sad, angry, in denial and much more. This is a separate matter that again each individual will deal with differently. Family or friends’ support, self care and maybe counselling can help.
  • Unable to celebrate. This could be a cancelled holiday, a wedding where the amount of guests are limited or a birthday gathering that cannot happen. It can be very tough when the things we look forward to most are taken away from us or are changed in some way. We need things to look forward to, especially when the present moment is difficult, so can we have mini celebrations with different groups? Can we arrange an online meet up?  Can we plan some days out instead of a holiday? Can the wedding be re-scheduled or enjoyed as a more intimate celebration?
  • Low mood. Any or all of the above can lead to a low or changeable mood. Use self care to help self regulate. Get support if you need to. Understand that this is because of change and what it means to us.
  • Alcohol. Working from home may entice us to have a drink earlier. The stresses of change may make us want to drink. Denial of our situation can make us drink to escape. Keep an eye on what you drink, especially if it is more than usual. Try to curb the habit to drink more as a coping mechanism. It might seem fun, but is it? It can lead to a low mood and more. 
  • Food. Try to eat well and avoid high salt or sugar ready meals or too many takeaways. A balanced diet can help us to have a balanced mind and physical health.
  • Exercise. It is important to exercise, especially if we are at home more and less physically active than usual. It is good for our mental and physical health and can help us to release stress, anger and other high level moods. A win, win.
  • Get out and about. Seeing people even from a distance, stretching your legs and getting fresh air is good. We also need vitamin D. But, if we are used to a commute to work or going out to do something we are not currently doing, we may well be missing it. When we go to work we get into work mode from home. When we return, we process into home mode from work. Even a walk round the block can help to replicate this processing time or we can feel ‘stuck in’.
  • Freedom. We may feel like some of our usual freedoms are taken away right now, so it’s important that we concentrate on the freedoms we still have. Making decisions for ourselves, looking after ourselves, and choosing to be positive instead of negative.

Ask yourself questions.

For everything… ‘I don’t feel safe doing…’ think of something  ‘I do feel safe doing…’ Turn it around. Find new ways of thinking. 

For everything I feel ‘I can’t do…’ think of things ‘I can do…’

Think outside the box and find new ways to ‘live life’. It has to be better than getting frustrated, angry, resentful, sad and isolated.

Easier said than done at times, I know, but if it benefits us in the long run, what is there to lose?

Take care,

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