Cookies on the Healthspan site
As lockdown and social distancing guidelines change, it would at first seem that life is getting back to a semblance of normality. However, there is still a great deal of anxiety surrounding this 'new normal' - a way of life that's familiar, yet still rather disjointed, confusing and worrisome.
Here Dr Meg Arroll, chartered psychologist on behalf of Healthspan, explores the three 'As' of coping with our ever-shifting lockdown landscape - awareness, acceptance and adjustment.
Often during times of anxiety, we suffer from a 'should' or 'shouldn't' mindset. This can manifest itself in thoughts such as 'I should be able to cope with this' or 'I shouldn't be feeling so anxious, as I've not been ill myself'. These negative thought patterns hamper our natural coping capacity, but we can control this type of mind game by increasing awareness of our strengths.
When experiencing anxiety, it can be difficult to identify our individual qualities, so ask your close friends and loved ones what they think your strengths are. If this feels uncomfortable, you can take an online quiz to illustrate your unique profile of character strengths (see viacharacter.org).
You can then use this information to tailor coping skills to your personality. For example, leadership and kindness may be some of your strengths, so you may want to start a community group to help others acclimatise to the new and changing lockdown guidelines. The key here is to work with your personality type, rather than against it.
Transitions are inherently disruptive. Therefore, it's helpful to acknowledge how you're feeling and accept all the emotions that may arise, including unpleasant states such as anxiety, and more positive feelings like gratitude and love.
Recognise and accept that transitions take time - and this is OK. Try not to place unrealistic expectations on yourself to adapt overnight, but rather focus on the small steps you're making to improve life for yourself and others. This can include following government guidelines; we explain these in this article.
Furthermore, accepting that we've all been touched by the coronavirus in some way is extremely useful in limiting the detrimental impact of the restrictions we still face. Simply knowing that other people are in the same boat can go a long way to bringing back a sense of equilibrium in our lives, even in challenging times.
It's no doubt that after so many weeks, seeing loved ones for the first time but not being able to cuddle, kiss or touch can be torturous. To make this somewhat easier, follow these steps:
Many people have found some rays of sunshine during these dark days. Pollution is much reduced, air quality is cleaner, life has slowed down and we've made a concerted effort to connect with others, if by virtual means. It would be a shame to lose these aspects of this new order completely as they have improved our quality of life, so now is the opportunity to take positive action and retain the adjustments that have led to a more fulfilling existence.
Ask yourself, 'what do I want this time to be remembered for?' You might have spent more time observing nature, found a new hobby or met neighbours during the NHS 'Clap For Our Carers' that you didn't even know existed. Use these insights to guide your 'new normal' adjustments, so that you may rise from the ashes of coronavirus as a more grounded and contented you.
Dr Meg Arroll PhD CPsychol AFBPsS is a chartered psychologist, scientist and academic researcher with a specialist focus on health and stress, integrative medicine and wellbeing.
Always follow the Government's guidelines on self-isolation and social distancing – see gov.uk/coronavirus for more information and the latest updates.