Covid-19 has taken a toll on us all. Some people we loved died during the pandemic. Others were in hospital or nursing homes without us being able to visit as often and easily as we previously would have. To keep safe we wore masks, washed our hands and isolated ourselves from friends and strangers.
Thankfully, the world now has vaccines and we have real hope that we are approaching a time when Covid-19 will be under control. Students are preparing to go back to school in the autumn and many adults are preparing to commute to work once more. Things are different now. Think of your instinctive response if someone close to you starts to sneeze and cough. We are wary of being too close to people. Many of us remain on high alert.
All of this is normal but can be very upsetting. We can also say that all of this can be very upsetting but is normal! There is a view that there is a huge increase in the number of people who experience mental health difficulties and it is important that we do not allow that to become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Dr. Tony Bates recently highlighted an important research study on the effects of the pandemic which found people to have been much more resilient in coping with Covid-19 than we might have expected. You can read it HERE.
Think of our anxiety response as being like a faulty fire alarm. It is meant to let us know when there is danger but can be set off by the wind. It is very easy for any of us to feel anxious. All we need to do is to see, hear or think of anything that we associate with danger. That may be travelling on public transport, going into a crowded area, moving back to school or work or even walking past someone who coughs.
Anxiety can be debilitating and it can be very tempting to avoid doing something until we feel better. The truth is that the longer we avoid something, the more anxious we can become about facing it. Susan Jeffers wisely encouraged us to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. I always include ‘and do it anyway with self-compassion, realising how difficult it can be to face our fears’.
You might find it helpful to watch a lecture I gave in 2018 for Aware which gives an overview of my understanding of anxiety and some strategies for how to manage it. I would also like to share what I call ‘The ABC Coping Sentence’.
A: Acknowledge B: Because C: Choose
‘I feel anxious because I think I might not be able to … but I choose to breathe slowly/ I choose to do it anyway/ I choose to ask for, get and take support.’
This is the time for us to be kind to ourselves and others as we face into the next phase of our lives.
Le gach dea-ghuí (with every good wish), Claire.