Taking Care of You During the Pandemic!
You can find more resources at CDSPI Member Assistance Program which is available to you, your family and team members.
In just a few short months, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about the kind of global upheaval not seen since World War II. Entire nations are locked down in self-isolation, airlines have been grounded, borders closed. Economies have ground to a halt. Stock markets have suffered their steepest losses in decades. And, as the biotechnology sector scrambles to formulate and approve a vaccine, manufacturers all over the world have turned their efforts to the mass production of personal protective and testing equipment. Millions of people are confined to their homes, many out of work, with no clear idea as to when things will return to normal. The disruption brought about by Covid-19 is unprecedented for most people alive today.
“The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.” Erich Fromm
But on a more personal level, how is the upheaval affecting our well-being? What are the emotional challenges of living in a time of pandemic, and what can we do to cope better with this new reality that we are faced with?
Ralf Schirg, an organizational psychologist from Minneapolis, USA, opens his excellent presentation Emotional Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic, published by Morneau Shepell on the CDSPI Member Assistance Program website, on a somewhat positive note with a quote from well-known German psychologist, Erich Fromm:
“The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.”
According to Schirg, we humans do not enjoy uncertainty. We like what is predictable. We like patterns and routines. That’s why we create them in our everyday lives. It makes us feel safe. It makes us feel as though we are in control. Uncertainty and danger take away this sense of control and, in the case of the coronavirus pandemic, there is no one to reassure us as that everything will be okay. In these circumstances, we fear both for ourselves and for our family. And in times of fear and danger we tend to focus most on what is negative, on that which confirms our fear.
And yet, according to Fromm, it is this same uncertainty that can be a space for us to find out who we are and what we are made of. To unfold our powers. So how do we go about overcoming our fear so that we can thrive in such a time of such uncertainty?
Fear itself is not bad, says Schirg. In fact it is quite necessary as it serves to protect us from danger. The problem arises when we do not accept fear, but rather we run away with it, allowing our thoughts to turn to worry. Instead, Schirg says, we should focus what actions we can take to mitigate our fears.
At the core of his advice, is learning to control how we think. Understanding that we do have a choice in this matter. It is how we think, after all, that creates the experience we are having at any given moment and, pandemic or not, no one gets to control our thinking but us. By focussing on what we can control, it is possible to frame the crisis in a different light. Schirg recommends a number of ways of doing this. For example, we can choose to focus on the facts instead of hearsay. Keep an eye on our media intake, particularly sensational headlines that are designed to report extremes. Seek out positive stories associated with the crisis and not just the bad news. Use common sense. Consider using this extraordinary time to do something meaningful, something that we may not ordinarily have an opportunity to do. Get involved in a solution of some kind. And communicate with the people around you as much as you can. Build relationships through technology. Watch feel-good movies and laugh as much as possible. Humour, after all, is a powerful antidote to fear.
Fear itself is not bad, says Schirg. In fact it is quite necessary as it serves to protect us from danger.
And if anxiety does get the upper hand, Schirg recommends getting to know what works for you, whether it’s breathing techniques, getting outside or simply staying away from “worriers” who will only amplify your own anxiety. Remind yourself of the facts of the situation and do it often. Be preventative. Practice empathy, both for yourself and others. And remember that a good night’s sleep, a healthy diet and some regular exercise go a long way.
When it comes to family time, Schirg stresses the importance of allowing children to be children, even at a time like this. Talk to them about what is happening and be accurate when speaking about the severity of the virus. Give them the facts but don’t speak to them from a place of fear. Ultimately, children will model the behaviour of the adults around them. If we are anxious, they will be anxious. If we are calm, they will feel calm. Help your children feel in control by being in control yourself. Focus on shaping your family’s thinking and attitudes in a positive way and trust that positive behaviours will follow. Encourage them to be compassionate by being compassionate yourself.
At the end of the day, we are all living our own unique experience of this pandemic crisis. As with any event in our lives, it will not play out in quite the same way for us all. Different people will see it differently, and therefore they will respond in different ways. Being in control of one’s own perspective is what is key.
“I can’t control when or if something bad happens,” says Schirg. “It’s out of my hands, and no amount of worrying will prevent it. But I do control how I respond to the world around me and how I take care of myself.”
Ralf Schirg’s full video article can be found at workhealthlife.com
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Until next time!
CDA Oasis Team