Care and Support During Uncertain Times – COVID-19 by Shannon Moule (Clinical Psychologist)

Ilze GroblerCOVID-19, Psychology

Dear Zesty Community,

I felt called to connect with our ZESTY community to acknowledge and assist during these uncertain times. 

We (Australians) have been through a lot so far this year: fires, floods and now COVID-19. It wouldn’t be surprising if you and other people around you are experiencing heightened levels of negative emotions right now. And it’s not surprising because we are biologically wired to feel anxious, panicked, angry, frustrated, terrified, disgusted, disappointed, etc (threat-based emotions) when our world is threatened (i.e., our and other’s health and livelihood).  

It is my mission to help you respond to your threat feelings triggered by these current events by imparting my knowledge and skills in this letter to you.  

What you need to know

You see most of us do not have workable ways to respond effectively to our threat-based feelings. This is not necessarily your fault, you see we are biologically wired to respond to threat by fighting or fleeing (the fight-flight response) or by the ways we witnessed in our environment growing up (e.g., drinking, smoking, taking drugs, eating, keeping busy, social media, games, tv, etc). When we over use these ways to respond to threat we often end up making matters worse (i.e., unworkable) rather than better for us.

The good news is we do not have to respond in the ways we are set up to biologically and environmentally, we can change, we all have a CHOICE on how we act. Right now your mind might be ranting that isn’t true, but let me ask you this, right now I want you to tell yourself to move your legs and arms. Are you able to not move your arms and legs despite telling yourself to? The answer is YES!  You may have CHOSEN to move them but it wasn’t your thought telling you to do it that led you to choose that action. Now I want you to think back to a time where you may have felt really bad and didn’t want to do something (e.g., go to work) but you did anyway. Again this demonstrates you can feel a certain way and still act differently to that feeling, you have CHOICE.

What you can do

Now with all that in mind I want to impart you with some workable (i.e., helpful) not unworkable (i.e., harmful) ways to respond when you are experiencing feelings of threat (anxiety, anger, disgust) in relation to these threatening events.

  • Be informed. Access REPUTABLE services to gain accurate information on the current situation that’s triggering your threat emotions.
  • Avoid or at least limit exposure to social and other media outlets to which perpetuates your threat feelings unnecessarily.
  • Honour your threat feelings. What I mean is acknowledge them. It’s okay you are feeling this, you are wired to do so, it’s not in your direct control. You don’t have to like them, you can just choose to acknowledge them for what they are…feelings.
  • Surround yourself with people who love and support you, help you to feel safe and secure enough (in person or through our devices). This doesn’t have to be people you know well. Sometimes the kindest people are strangers to us.
  • Help others out where you can. Giving care and support to others not only helps the receiver but helps you to feel good to.
  • Make time for rest. Our body and mind is not designed to be in a constant state of threat. Rest is what is needed to bring balance. Stop being constantly busy people!
  • Spend time during your day doing things that are connected to what makes your life rich, purposeful and meaningful (e.g., time with family, helping others, rest, exercise, work even).
  • Connect with nature, our natural balancer. Even if it is sitting in your backyard or looking out of your office or bedroom window to the sky, it all counts.
  • Be aware of the story your mind is telling you about the threat. Our minds under threat become quite busy with lots of doom and gloom predictions and worries. This is normal and natural, it’s what minds do, don’t get frustrated with it. However, step out of your mind by using this quick technique: name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch/feel, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. You will need to repeat this because you will get caught up in your mind again and again, but you will get better at stepping out of it through this technique. Trust the process, keep going.
  • If you find yourself caught up in the negativity of the threat and what it means to you. See if you can challenge yourself a bit by asking yourself, is there another way I can view this? For example instead of seeing this as the end of the world as we know it, maybe its a chance for us to all stop, reflect on how we have been living and make new choices in the moment for a better future. Maybe its a time for introspection and change. Difficult times can be seen as opportunities for growth, it’s your choice.

The above are suggestions, they are not rules. I want you to give them a go, try them on for size and see what you think. These suggestions won’t eliminate the threat or the feelings that come with it (I’m not god or a superhero) but they will allow you to operate during a threat period in a more functional way.

I do hope you find some, if not all of this helpful. I wish you and your loved ones all the best now and into the future.

Take care

Shannon Moule

Your Zesty Clinical Psychologist

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