Humans are a paradox. If we have too much change too quickly, we can feel threatened yet we become complacent when faced with too little. Change can stimulate feelings of insecurity and fear yet sometimes it is essential, not only for our growth but for our survival. Many of us don’t fully appreciate why we need to stay at home, avoid restaurants and parks, postpone events, cancel exams and close schools. These are drastic changes we have been asked to make. All of a sudden, harmless, everyday activities deemed to be positive and essential for everyone’s wellbeing are suddenly harmful and irresponsible. This is particularly difficult to grasp when we can’t directly observe the consequences of our actions and there is no obvious difference in what happens when we are engaging in these activities. It sounds and feels completely illogical. If you're struggling to adapt to change during the lockdown measures that have been implemented, below are five tips that might help you to adjust:
1. Try to understand the reason for the change
Attempt to park your emotions for a moment and explore the situation as if you were an alien from outer space. Pull back and look at the bigger picture. Recognise and distinguish between facts and opinions. Try to understand the part of the picture that you don’t have access to; consider not only the personal or local impact of a decision, but the community, social, economic, environmental and global impacts of the proposed changes. Understanding the bigger picture will help you to accept decisions, recommendations and the need to change, especially as we all have a common goal; that is survival!
2. Resist the temptation to ruminate or regret what has been lost
Feelings of regret can be helpful in some circumstances, as they help us to learn and grow. Ruminating on regrets for a prolonged period of time is unhelpful. Resilient people may acknowledge the disappointment of regret, but will accept that making mistakes is part and parcel of experiencing life. Resilient people will also quickly recognise that in some circumstances, there simply is no reason to regret as there is nothing that could have been done to change a situation or circumstance. Again, having a broader understanding of a situation will help develop this understanding. Sometimes, we need to acknowledge that we made the best decision that we could with the knowledge and skills we had at the time.
3. Deal with gremlins and get yourself mentally prepared
It’s hard to think creatively in a state of fear so we must prepare ourselves to engage in a constructive thought process. Ensure that you work off stress hormones by engaging in physical activity and practice meditation regularly to improve your ability to self-regulate your emotions and focus. Take some time to breathe, ground yourself, reach a state of calm and focus before you consider what’s next. If you are experiencing symptoms of trauma or grief; or strong emotions that you can't control, seek out a counsellor, therapist or psychologist who can support you in dealing with these unwelcome, but not unexpected responses to coronavirus and lockdown.
4. How can you turn this situation from a crisis into an opportunity?
Once you reach a place where you feel you can think constructively, nurture your creative problem solving skills. Take a moment to reflect on your values, your strengths and purpose. If some doors have closed for you, which ones have opened? How can you turn this situation of crisis into one of opportunity? What can you do now that you couldn’t before? How can you grow from this situation? Seek out a coach to help with this if you struggle to do it alone; coaching can help you to gain insight into your feelings on a situation and construct a plan for now and the future.
5. Come from a place of gratitude, not entitlement
Finally, take a moment to consider those in the world who are worse off than you. Chances are if you are reading this article, you are better off than a large percentage of the global population. Notice and appreciate the comforts and pleasures that you have available to you that so many in the world might be deprived of right now. This could be as basic as having clean running water, access to the internet and a safe warm bed at night.
Remember also that as humans, we have an amazing capacity to adapt to new situations. Soon enough, we will adapt to this situation and before long, we will face more change in the future. Use this experience as an opportunity to reframe your feelings about change. Indeed, we all look forward to the day when we are free to travel and move around as we did before – this will be a welcome change because it’s familiar and something we’ve enjoyed in the past. Consider also, that this experience might lead us to a new future, full of promising opportunities…just imagine! What kind of world would you like to see once we have overcome this challenge?
In an emergency, please call The Samaritans on 116 123
British Psychological Society: https://www.bps.org.uk/responding-coronavirus
British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy: https://www.bacp.co.uk/news/news-from-bacp/2020/13-march-coronavirus-self-isolation-how-to-look-after-your-mental-health-and-wellbeing-if-you-re-self-isolating/
NHS UK: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/free-therapy-or-counselling/
The Help Hub: https://www.thehelphub.co.uk
The Samaritans: https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/talk-us-phone/