So it seems we are going to be ‘self- isolating’ and ‘social distancing’ for a while and developing a new sense of ‘normal’ in the short term. And while it may not seem like it, there are opportunities in this awful situation if we are open to exploring them. This article is about the things you can do to adapt to this situation and to thrive.
There is no denying, this is a difficult time. We have no control over what is happening right now, but (and here’s the biggie) we have every control over how we choose to respond to it. I’m going to say that again, you have all the control over how you choose to respond to this situation. In psychology and therapy we talk about this in terms of External Locus of Control (ELOC) and Internal Locus of Control (ILOC).
ELOC is where we have a perception that things happen ‘to’ us. That we have no control over what is happening, or how we respond to what is going on externally. This is a victim mindset and can lead to a lot of stress, anxiety and depression. When we are in ELOC it can be easy to become overwhelmed by situations like the current coronavirus outbreak and to sit back and give up.
ILOC is where we have the perception that, while we have no control over what happens around us, we have every control over how we choose to respond to it. This is a mindset whereby we take responsibility for our response to what is going on externally, and while on the surface it may seem like a small difference, it can make all the difference to how we think and feel.
At times when we feel anxious and uncertain it can be easy to slip into the ELOC way of thinking and start to worry increasingly about what might happen – we sit and play scenarios in our head focusing on all the things that could go wrong and as a result our anxiety levels increase. However, there are ways to avoid slipping into this victim mindset, by shifting our focus onto what we can control (ILOC) and doing that.
STAYING PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY ACTIVE
Here are some things you could try:
Look after yourself – try to eat healthy food and get regular exercise. It is easy to underestimate how interconnected our physical and mental health and well-being are, but looking after what you eat and exercising can massively improve our mood and capability to cope in difficult times. There are so many online exercise programmes to do at home, as well as online Pilates, yoga and meditation classes and apps. Find one you like and schedule in regular sessions each day to keep you active.
Look at things you can do to support your local or online community – aside from offering to pick up groceries and medication for at risk neighbours you could offer to speak on the phone to people who may be lonely, start a blog to share your experience and engage with others, do a joke-a-thon and get people laughing. Supporting the people around us gives us a sense of purpose and meaning and is incredibly satisfying. It is about connecting with something bigger than ourselves that keeps us going.
Focus on what you can purposefully do next, rather than thinking too far ahead. Anxiety is the fear of an imagined negative future and can lead to a steep downward spiral.
By focusing on the next positive, purposeful or productive thing we can do we avoid dwelling on a negative imagined future and look to what we can achieve, and the next thing we can achieve and so on. If you find yourself slipping into negative projections of the future, get up and do something positive – pick up the phone and check on a friend or relative, go for a walk around the block, play a game with your children, check in with a colleague, sing and dance your way around the house.
Ultimately, if you are struggling or need a little extra guidance in adapting to this current reality, reach out to someone – to a friend, a colleague, or to a therapist like myself. It is OK to struggle and looking after your mental health and well-being means asking for a little help when you need it. Find out more at www.origami-life.com
You can also ‘like’ the Origami-Life Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ReshapeYourLife/) where you can post questions and concerns relating to mental health, well-being, isolation, working from home and any other thoughts or ideas you have at this time in relation to mental well-being, resilience and productive working. Each day I will be posting answers to some of your questions in short videos providing tips on how to improve your resilience.