The past twenty months have taken their toll on the wellbeing of so many people and the last thing we all needed was more uncertainty and drama, but here we are, Omicron is with us, and life has become unpredictable once more. Are we facing further lockdowns, will we return to home schooling, will the vaccination prove effective, will we be able to see friends and family?
We are all tired of this virus and the havoc it wreaks on our lives, so if you and your family are finding it difficult to manage the uncertainty and remain upbeat, I hope this article will help.
The trouble with uncertainty is that it fuels the hypothetical, worst case scenario, “what if” thinking that feeds anxiety and can leave us feeling hopeless and helpless. We can decide on what risks we are comfortable with and how we are going to play these next few days, but beyond that, it is unhelpful and exhausting to carry on worrying about what might happen. Instead focus on your helpful coping thoughts. For example, “I coped last time we went into lockdown, and I am strong enough to cope again”. Maybe you need to do some reality checking? For example, “I need to remember that we are in a very different place thanks to vaccinations, treatments and improved online learning, things are different now”. We can’t always choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we respond.
Try to focus on what is happening right now – what can you see, hear, smell, or touch around you? Right now, in this moment, you are ok but your thoughts might be telling you otherwise so what can you do to distract yourself from the “what if’s”?
Healthy coping behaviours are the things we do which make us feel calm. Whether it’s exercising, knitting, playing music, creating dance videos on Tik Tok, cooking, or reading, they are the activities which boost production of our happy hormones; serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine. Often when we feel distressed, we stop using our healthy coping strategies, but this is when we need them most. Think back to what has worked for you in the past or try out some new ideas until you find your chosen two, then use them every day.
We also need to practice a little distress tolerance – it doesn’t sound much fun I know, but distress tolerance is learning to sit with uncomfortable or distressing thoughts and feelings in the understanding that they will change and move with time. There is a brilliant app called ClearFear if you need support as you learn to ride the waves of anxiety.
Don’t forget to limit your intake of anxiety inducing news and encourage your children to do the same. If you are a family that has a TV or radio on as background noise, make sure it is tuned into a cheerful channel. If your children are on social media check that they are following positive role models and not doom scrolling.
Remember that you are your children’s primary role model. If they see you using helpful thinking and coping strategies, they will follow your lead. If you are calm and positive you will help them stay calm and positive too. Like you, they will be feeling a wide range of emotions and it is important that they are allowed to feel their feelings if they are to learn to manage them. Listen to understand and use empathy to help them feel heard.
And finally, I think we must recognise that whilst we are all designed to cope with quite significant stress, we all have a breaking point. If you feel that you, or another member of your family is not coping, please don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
And so, it is time for me to sign off – my daughter has just tested positive for Covid so our family get together of fifteen is off the menu and I am wondering what I shall do with the massive turkey that sits in my fridge. Any recipe suggestions gratefully received!
Wishing you all a peaceful and healthy Christmas and New Year
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