The situation in which we find ourselves is unprecedented. For most of us, in our lifetime, we haven't come across something like this. For many of us, suddenly having to change our way of working, our way of relating to others, our way of gathering supplies, has completely changed.
The unknown and the uncertainty of the current situation is causing great anxiety for many people, even those who have never had anxiety before are suddenly experiencing symptoms. Suddenly working from home with your partner and/or kids around you can feel stressful and overwhelming. Perhaps your boss is expecting more from you as the entire company moves to working remotely.
It all feels very shaky, and uncertain, and overwhelming. But there is hope. We can grow from this.
1. Quality of Social Connection
Something that I have noticed over the last week is the increased quality of social connection. Even though we cannot connect physically with our friends and family, I have noticed an increased volume of messages, and an increased effort to connect via video calls.
If you scroll through social media, you might also have noticed increased frequency of reminders to connect with loved ones and people posting photos or videos of group video calls that they are on.
We are all being reminded of the importance of staying connected, and this is something that we should have all been doing anyway. It has taken, almost, enforced isolation for us to realise the importance of connecting with others.
Social connection strengthens our immune system, helps us recover from disease faster, and may even lengthen our lives (Brown et al. 2003). Furthermore, increased social connection helps to reduce anxiety and depression. These are all things that we need, not just during this time of crisis, but always. I am hoping this is something that we will all continue to do long after the Coronavirus has left us.
2. Awareness of our own mental health
Over the last couple of weeks there has been an overwhelming amount of literature published about the importance of looking after our mental health during the Coronavirus, especially if we are isolating.
There have been blog posts, ad campaigns, Instagram posts, and even mentions by Boris Johnson. Panic and anxiety seems to have swept across the UK faster than the virus itself, and people are suddenly acutely aware of their own emotions, emotional reactions, and the physical symptoms of their mental health.
Not only have people been writing and posting about the dangers of isolation for people's mental health, but there has been a wave of posts about how people can look after their mental health, how people are coping, people sharing tips for dealing with anxiety or stress or uncertainty.
I'm obviously not happy that the Coronavirus has spread across the world, but I am amazed to see the wealth of knowledge being shared, and I am overwhelmed by those in my own profession, who have managed to pivot so quickly to be able to offer counselling remotely.
3. Awareness of our own abilities
Finally, something that has become clear to me, and to many around me, is the realisation that, yes, I can cope with difficult things. Many people have been thrown into the unknown - whether it's working form home, pivoting their way of working, suddenly having the kids home much earlier than planned, or not being allowed to go out - and are suddenly finding that they can cope.
Many people know the term Post-Traumatic Stress, but not as many people know of the term Post-Traumatic Growth. Now, I'm not saying that having to work from home is a Trauma, but the concept still works.
Post-Traumatic Growth is defined as the "experience of individuals whose development, at least in some areas has surpassed what was present before the struggle with crises occurred. The individual has not only survived, but has experienced changes that are viewed as important, and that go beyond the status quo” (Tedeschi and Calhoun, 2004).
So, what we are experiencing right now is the crisis, and we have the potential to survive the crisis or to thrive - to surpoass our previous way of being. We have the potential to grow through this experience, to learn a new way of being.
Perhaps we discover that we can motivate others. Perhaps we discover that we can sit with really difficult emotions and survive (this in itself is thriving in my opinion). Perhaps we discover that we can lead others. Perhaps we learn a new skill. Perhaps we set up an online business. Perhaps we have more faith in ourselves - faith that we can get through, that we can survive a crisis, that we won't crumble.
It is about experiencing profound changes in the way that you view yourself and your relationships with others. It is about re-prioritising your life and living more authentically.
Remember "There are bright places, even in dark times. And if there isn't, you can become that bright place with infinite capacities." (Jennifer Niven - All The Bright Places).
I hope that everyone is safe and well! If you would like to request a counselling appointment online, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or use the 'Appointments' tab in the menu above.
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