At the Clinical Psychology Centre, we have the unique privilege of assisting many people through this time of disruption to normal life. The world has changed rapidly, which has brought with it a lot of uncertainty and a need to adjust. Finding ways to adapt to this change can be uncomfortable, stressful or even intimidating. Here are some of our ideas to help manage your wellbeing.
Dealing with change
Acknowledge what is happening around us. Acknowledge that change is occurring in a way that is out of our control. When unavoidable change takes place, it is understandable that we might want to avoid or resist it. After all if it isn’t happening, we won’t be stressed, right? Unfortunately our brain doesn’t quite work that way; in fact, a lot of the time avoiding the issue actually causes our mind to pay extra attention to it. Also, rejecting reality doesn’t actually change what is happening around us. In a lot of cases, this denial only prolongs our suffering and makes it more challenging to prepare ourselves mentally and practically. Therefore, acknowledging the fact that things have changed is the first step in being able to orient ourselves towards coping.
Validate your feelings. Change is scary. And that’s okay. If you notice that you’re criticising yourself for feeling worried or overwhelmed, ask yourself: “How would I speak to a friend if they were worried about this same thing?” Or “What would my friend say to me?”.
Talk about it. Luckily, you aren’t alone. We are in this together, and there are many people finding it difficult to adjust and cope with these sudden changes. Speaking to loved ones about what we are feeling can help to normalise our experience and provide us with an emotional outlet in times of high stress.
Solve only the solvable things. Being human, we have a natural urge to resolve issues when they arise. However, this becomes problematic when we apply our attempts to problem solve to issues that aren’t solvable in the first place. When we do this, we often find ourselves worrying about issues that aren’t current or fall completely out of our control (and so much about COVID is out of our control). An example of a solvable worry is “I had a fight with my partner,”while an unsolvable worry is “My partner might get sick”.
Therefore, if you find yourself worrying, ask yourself: “Is the thing that I’m worrying about solvable or unsolvable?” and focus on only solving the issues for which a solution is possible.
Tolerate the uncertainty of the unsolvable things. For the unsolvable worries, we need to find a way to tolerate the uncertainty that arises when we can’t find an immediate solution. Although this may feel uncomfortable, and quite frankly impossible for a lot of us, we know that worrying about unsolvable things is unhelpful and ineffective. Despite our best efforts, we aren’t able to predict what is going to happen in the future. Therefore, if you notice that you are finding it impossible to tolerate the uncertainty of not knowing, try repeating the following phrase to yourself: “There is nothing I can do about it, so I have to accept it, let go, and move on”.
Adjusting to the new normal (for now)
Our “new normal” isn’t going to last forever. Nevertheless, an important part of dealing with change is accepting the current circumstance and finding ways to cope.
Stick to the usual anchors in your life. These anchors are the reliable practices that help you to feel stable in your ordinary life. Some examples include:
- Setting an alarm every day
- Waking up and going to sleep at the same time
- Getting dressed every morning
- Eating regular meals
- Maintaining usual self-care practices, such as a daily shower and brushing your teeth
- Contacting a friend every day
- Exercising regularly
- Scheduling 2-3 activities every day
Keep busy. In this hectic world, we aren’t used to having considerable amounts of spare time. While we might crave a day without anything scheduled, too much space time can leave us feeling unmotivated and lethargic. For this reason, it is important to have a mix of enjoyable activities and activities that give us a sense of achievement each day. Check out our list of of things to do in self-isolation for some ideas about how to keep busy while appropriately socially-distanced.
Stay connected. While we aren’t able to visit our friends and family face-to-face, we can utilise technology to help bridge the gap. Try video-calling your loved ones, using applications such as FaceTime, Zoom, Houseparty or Skype.
When normal trouble adjusting becomes more than that
We are humans, not robots. It is inevitable that we will feel stressed or worried during this times in a way that is short-lived and relatively easy to disengage from. Worrying becomes problematic when it feels out of control, difficult to dismiss, and frequent. Sometimes, this unhelpful worry can also take a physical toll on our body in the form of muscle tension, difficulty sleeping, feeling wound up or on edge, headaches, difficulty concentrating or irritability. At the Clinical Psychology Centre, we use a range of evidence-based strategies to help people develop tools to manage and feel more in control of their worry.
For any further information and support, contact the Clinical Psychology Centre on (02) 9906 5199 or visit us at www.wiseinstitute.com.au.