The outbreak of COVID-19 has indeed impacted people on a global level. Among many global health, economic and societal disruptions, the pandemic in itself has forced many of us to break out from our comfort zones into making drastic changes in our lifestyle and habits. The accumulation of uncertainties surrounding the pandemic has fueled the growing sense of stress, anxiety and isolation among us.
And how does an anxious counsellor like me (yes, I am a trained, licensed counsellor, and I do experience anxiety too!) cope through all of this, you may ask? Well, I have both ‘good’ and ‘not so good’ days.
On my ‘good’ days, I feel confident and productive. I would be working through my to-do checklist and completing my tasks for the day and feeling really good about myself and efforts.
On my ‘not so good’ days, what shows up in my thoughts are persistent worries and self-doubt. I would be engaging in avoidance behaviors like procrastination and doing ANYTHING else but work. Subsequently, I would end up feeling bad and guilty for wasting the day resting and indulging in movie marathons (who else watched the entire series of Harry Potter more than once?). Are you experiencing a similar situation?
To those who are going through similar experiences, I want to let you know that this is absolutely normal and you are not alone in this! Psychologically, there isn't one person in this world who is ever prepared for this even though we are physically healthy and well. The fact that you may not come out of this lockdown period with new skills, more knowledge or feeling more motivated... Guess what?
IT IS OKAY. YOU ARE DOING JUST FINE!
Here are some tips I find really helpful and would like to share on how we can respond to our anxiety during this stressful period. These tips were developed by Dr Russ Harris, the author of The Happiness Trap which he named ‘FACE COVID’. I personally adopt these tips to help me manage my anxious feelings :)
F = Focus on what’s in your control - Fear, worry, stress and anxiety are normal reactions. We are not able to magically control them nor can we control the coronavirus. What we can control is what we do in the present moment - the here and now!
A = Acknowledge your thoughts & feelings – Notice what thoughts and feelings are showing up for you. Acknowledge them with kindness and acceptance. For an example: “There’s my worrying thought” or “I’m noticing feelings of anxiety”.
C = Come back into your body - Connect to your physical body using your 5 senses: what you can see, hear, touch, smell and taste. This strategy aims to keep you grounded and staying in touch with the present.
E = Engage in what you’re doing - Notice where you are and refocus your attention towards what you have at hand.
C = Committed action - Take effective action which can help you protect yourself and others. Often check in with yourself by asking “What can I do now - no matter how small it may be – that improves life for myself or others?”
O = Opening up - Be open to your feelings – even the unpleasant, painful ones - and be kind towards them and yourself. Apply the same kind words and deeds to yourself like how you would do for your loved ones.
V = Values - Continue to do what is important to you and be the person you want to be. Your values to love, give, be patient, be resourceful or more should not stop just because you’re confined at your home. Continue to live by them in different ways!
I = Identify resources - Identify reliable resources for help, assistance, and support from friends, family, neighbors, and health professionals. Reliable resources also include keeping up with local and international news and doing your research so you will not fall into the trap of fake news.
D = Disinfect & distance - Keeping good hygiene and abiding by the physical distancing rule is part of our social responsibility to care for yourself, your loved ones and community.
(adapted from TheHappinessTrap.com, Russ Harris, 2020)
I hope these tips will come in useful for anyone who is going through their day-to-day struggles during this pandemic. FACE COVID with courage and strength - we all have it within us. We can and will thrive through this. Be kind towards yourself and the people around you.