Coping with Covid-19 is about finding new ways of getting our emotional needs met despite the disruption to our lives caused by the pandemic. Security, attention, autonomy, connection, status, privacy, achievement, a sense of meaning and purpose: these are our 9 emotional needs. When our needs are met our stress levels stay low and our immune system stays strong.
How do you get your emotional needs met? We all find different ways of making our lives work and staying calm, with varying levels of success during different periods.
When circumstances change it can be a challenge to get all our needs met in a balanced way – especially during a crisis.
With the whole world now affected by the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), we are, of course, all thinking about how best to protect our physical health. But we must also consider the impact on our emotional health and well-being.
As schools and workplaces close, gatherings and travel are curtailed, and family, friends and neighbours require our help, our coping resources may be stretched to the limit. Our routines, supports and finances in many cases are being disrupted and we don’t know for how long.
With so much fear around and the constant flow of alarming statistics on the news, it is vital that we ensure our own sense of safety and security to keep anxiety at bay. We can do this by educating ourselves from reliable sources about transmission and how to protect ourselves. Despite the imposed restrictions we can still maintain some sense of autonomy and control – even in small ways. We can choose the mask we wear, when, how and where we shop, how we continue to keep in contact with people, etc. We are not helpless and we do not need to feel vulnerable, as long as we change how we do things in order to meet our needs as best we can in the current circumstances.
The best antidote to worry is action. This doesn’t mean running around like a headless chicken being busy – that gives a false sense of doing something but does not relieve stress. It means taking positive action steps to address the cause of the worry and letting go of those things we cannot control.
We can follow the advice given by the professionals in order to maximise our protection from infection. We can look after our physical health to maximise our resistance to infection and build up our immune system i.e. by eating healthily, staying hydrated, getting enough quality sleep, getting plenty of exercise, (ideally in nature) etc.
During this challenging time consider perhaps just pay attention to your stress levels and notice how you are feeling. Name it, even writing it down can help. Reflect on what is missing, what you need and how you might get that need met in some new way.
Interruptions to our work and school regimes might be an opportunity to spend more time in nature, enhancing health and fitness, both physical and mental. It can mean more time to begin or catch up on those projects that have been on the back burner, more time to read a good book or get creative. It can be an opportunity to slow the pace down and recharge the batteries or learn something new! . . .
Take advantage of any unplanned extra time this provides … don’t miss the opportunity!
People often look back on a crisis and think – that was the best thing that ever happened to me! You may find yourself looking back with gratitude at the learning and opportunity provided.
Crises shake us up, shock us, we are compelled to change our behaviour – and we build our resilience as we survive.
So Covid 19 is here and spreading. A big scary fact!
Chronic worrying is destructive and harmful – when we worry we generate stress hormones (cortisol) and this affects blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, immune function and so on.
This arousal – emotional and physiological, affects our sleep. We have disproportionately more REM (dream) sleep to deactivate the arousal and therefore wake up feeling tired.
This can become something else to worry about and so the cycle continues.
So how do we take back a sense of control and dissipate the worrying?
We need to let go of things we cannot change and accept them.
We need to learn to trust our own amazing ability to deal with problems. Our problem-solving capacity works best when we can stay calm so we can think clearly.
Why worry? – as long as we do what we can do, what will be will be!