Living in the age of Covid – Create a Covid Mindset
When the Corona virus pandemic hit in January 2020 who would have thought that at the start of 2021 many of us across the globe would still be living life in lock down or under curfew. Christmas 2020 will certainly be one to remember. It will become part of our World history. Its time to create a Covid mindset.
For many, 2020 was the year families and friends faced forced separation through social distancing rules. Families dealt with the first Christmas without loved ones who have died from the disease. As of time of writing there are over 1.85 million plus Covid deaths worldwide (www.worldometers.info). Businesses have been forced to close impacting on people’s livelyhoods, with many not opening again. Work and education has been affected and people are feeling isolated and lonely. Look anywhere and you will see the impact of the Covid pandemic. The changes have been massive, affecting us all in someway or another.
Change and Loss
Change and loss are part of life. However, it’s safe to say that 2020 has resulted in an unprecedented amount of change and loss for millions across the globe. Typically, the changes have been unwelcome, significant, anxiety provoking and for many traumatic. These types of changes make us question ourselves and the world as well as causing fear and anxiety because we are living with huge amounts of uncertainty.
We all experience change differently but there have been shared common themes at some point this year – curtailment of our day to day freedoms, not being able to mix with our family or friends, work and financial changes, travel and the education of our children and young people to name a few.
External v Internal locus of control
A theory developed by Rotter (1954) examines how a person’s Locus of Control influences their belief in the amount of control they have over their lives. An internal locus is the belief that a individual has control over their own lives whereas an external locus is the belief that life is controlled by outside factors in which they have no influence.
Self efficacy, a person’s level of self confidence is closely related to how we view our own locus of control. This is found to be closely related to how we deal with stressors we face in our day to day lives. Some research findings suggest that people with a higher external locus and a lower self efficacy are more likely to experience higher levels of stress and be more vulnerable to external influences.
The Covid pandemic has influenced the global locus of control. There are external factors we have no control over and cannot do anything about.
Media bombards us daily with Covid updates, infection rates, death rates, restrictions, what we can and can’t do from one day to the next. It can feel confusing, anxiety provoking and frustrating! No wonder we are fed up, disillusioned and tired. How long will this go on for? When will it end? Will we ever get back to normal? Our lives for the last 12 months have radically changed and it is set to continue for 2021 whether we like it or not.
Create a Covid mindset to improve mental well-being
Presently there are some external factors we cannot change. However, what we do have control over is how we react and respond to those external factors. How we think influences how we feel and together these influence our behaviour.
Break the Cycle – challenge your negative thoughts and feel better
If we are feeling low or depressed we might think “Its another awful day” or “What’s the point of doing something?” This makes us feel more depressed. The likely result is we end up behaving in a depressed way – not doing anything or withdrawing. The bottom line is that this negative thinking just increases the feelings of low mood and becomes a vicious cycle of depression or anxiety.
When we are experiencing stress or anxiety we may be more prone to unhelpful patterns of thinking (automatic negative thinking) and these are unconscious. Identifying our own automatic negative thoughts is a good start in helping to break the negative cycles of thinking that cause us distress. Have a look at some of the unhelpful thinking styles below which we can all be prone too.
Mental filtering. This thinking style involves a filtering in and filtering out process – a sort of tunnel vision, focusing on only one part of a situation and ignoring the rest.
Judgements. Making evaluations or judgements about events, ourselves, others, or the world, rather than describing what we actually see and have evidence for.
Emotional Reasoning. I feel bad so it must be bad! I feel anxious, so I must be in danger.
Critical self. Putting ourselves down, self criticism, blaming ourselves for events or situations that are not our responsibility
Should’s, ought’s & must statements. Reflect our (often unreasonable) standards (“I should do this”, “I must do that”) and frequently lead to feelings of frustration, shame, or guilt.
When life gives you lemons……….
You’ve heard the saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” Covid has and continues to throw buckets of lemons! We can either let them go to waste or start making lemonade!
Self care – Small steps create big changes
It all starts with the self. When we want to change our mindset we have to work on ourselves and that can feel hard if we are in a rut. The key is to take small, consistent steps in making positive changes. That way you are more likely to see achievements quickly that will motivate you to keep going.
Steps could include, getting out for a regular walk and fresh air, eating breakfast daily or not skipping meals and creating good sleep patterns. These are all basic needs but often get forgotten when we are stressed or anxious. Regular relaxation or “time out” is crucial for our mental well-being. There are lots of apps and a growing number of online groups offerring a variety of relaxation experiences, Yoga, meditation and mindfulness that you can take part in.
We are social animals. Contact with others is important for our overall well-being, especially if we live on our own. Communicate with friends and family on a regular basis – via Zoom, Skype, phone and text (social distancing applies). Hold a Zoom coffee club with friends, join a online forum or organize a virtual quiz night. There are more support groups being offered online so check out your local area or national organisations such as MIND or NHS online for more information.
Growth and Opportunity in the face of adversity
There’s no doubt we are living in a difficult and unpleasant situation. When faced with adversity we need to dig deep and find our our inner resiliance. Of course this is easier to say than to do but the goal is to make the best of the situation we are in. What can we learn from our experiences? What can we learn about ourselves? How can we utlize the opportunties that might be created amidst the changing situation?
All change is an opportunity for growth. What we are experiencing is something new, how we think about the challenges we face will define how we respond to them. So how can we respond to adversity? Being mentally prepared, taking stock of what you have been through, having a purpose and maintaining a sense of humour are key aspects in nurturing a health prespective.
So what are some of the things we can do help ourselves?
Cover the basics – eat, sleep and exercise.
Routine – find yourself a routine – this helps to create structure and familiarity and provides a sense of purpose
Don’t be hard on yourself – don’t forget this situation is new to everyone, there will be ups and downs and that is normal in difficult situations. Nurture yourself in the lows and revel in the highs.
Communicate – keep in touch with others. Reach out if you are feeling isolated or alone.
Take time to reflect – while the world is hold take the time to pause and reflect. What opportunities can you create? Learn the langauge you have aways wanted too?, Learn a new hobby or skill?, change the way you work?, read those books you never got round too? or maybe you can just take some time you have never allowed yourself too. Now is the opportunity to do so.
Follow a healthy mind platter – a bit like the “5 a day” the Healthy Mind Platter created by Dr Dan Siegel outlines 7 essential daily activties that can help to optimize matter matter and create well-being.
A final thought. We may feel frustrated, anxious or scared. Its understandable and normal given the situation. Take care of yourselves but remember others where you can. I love this quote, I don’t know who the author of it is but I think it is particularly relevant.
“Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
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