Covid-19: coping with the upheaval
Having our routine upended by the pandemic is stressful, but acknowledging your feelings in response is important, says Elizabeth Rimmer
In a matter of weeks, our lives have changed irrevocably. Most of us are now working from home; things we once took for granted seem a million miles away.
Periods of sudden upheaval and change are a shock to the system and what we’re individually and collectively dealing with now is grief.
The pandemic has evoked emotions usually felt during some kind of ending such as a bereavement or divorce; and it’s important to acknowledge and accept these feelings rather than try to carry on as normal.
Humans are creatures of habit and routine. Having that upended can be stressful and cause feelings of unease, worry and fear and you might not realise you’re struggling to cope.
Check in with your body: are you taking shallow breaths? Are your shoulders tense? Are you clenching your jaw? If so, you’re probably feeling anxious. Anxiety incorporates both the emotional and the physical sensations you might experience when you’re worried or nervous. Other symptoms of anxiety include not sleeping, nausea, dizziness, heart palpitations, a dry mouth and overeating.
At LawCare, at the time of writing over one in three contacts to our support service are about covid-19 and we expect this number to rise. People have contacted us about issues including struggles with working from home, house moves put on hold, enforced isolation exacerbating existing mental health condition, marital problems, dealing with clients who want resolutions to matters now on hold, and worries about the future.
We’re listening to and signposting everyone who contacts us. Many have said just acknowledging their feelings and opening up to someone has helped them process what’s going on.
Top tips for coping
Be mindful – Focus on what’s happening in this moment. Try not to think of worst-case scenarios or wonder too much about the future. Remember this situation is temporary and constantly changing.
Lean on your support network – Keep in regular contact with colleagues, friends and family using video calls rather than just sending email and texts.
Limit your exposure to the news – Consider disabling notifications and don’t be tempted to check news updates or WhatsApp every few minutes. You might need to mute certain people on WhatsApp or social media (reading too much negative information will trigger worry).
Distract yourself – Read a book, exercise, watch a film, take a bath, sort a cupboard, take a walk.
Breathe deeply – If you’re getting anxious, try taking ten deep breaths; inhaling for five seconds and exhaling for 10 seconds. It’s very calming.
Prioritise self-care – It’s easy to let healthy habits slip when we’re home but we should eat well, get to bed at a reasonable time and find time to exercise. You might not be able to go to the gym but you can go for a run, do some gardening or an online exercise video.
Take breaks – Even if you’re working at home it’s still important to take regular breaks and a lunch break.
Change your mind-set – You can’t change the nature of the pandemic but you can change the way you think about it. Focus on the positive, happy things and try not to catastrophise. In this moment, you’re safe in your home. You have food to eat and everything you need. Appreciate small things: the weather, more time with your children, connecting with people you’ve not had contact with in a while.
Stick to a routine – As tempting as it is to stay in your pyjamas all day or sit at your laptop at 10pm, it’s important to get dressed and try to maintain a regular routine and your usual working pattern where possible.
Seek help – If you’re finding it hard to cope, just talking to someone – a friend, LawCare or another helpline – can help. Many GPs are still offering online appointments. Those with an existing mental health condition should continue with any treatment plan as far as possible.
Elizabeth Rimmer is chief executive at LawCare. Call its confidential helpline on 0800 279 6888, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or access webchat and other resources at lawcare.org.uk