The Malta Independent 25 May 2020, Monday

Finding support and calm during a crisis

Thursday, 2 April 2020, 10:59 Last update: about 3 months ago

Danjela Falzon

We're living in truly challenging times. At present, we're faced with a pandemic which is impacting the daily lives of the worldwide community. The uncertainty related to the virus itself and its impact on our health is just one way the pandemic is affecting us. We're also faced with uncertainty related to when we can return to work, see our friends and family and enjoy the pleasures we did previously. In many ways, we are being confronted with the realisation that there are some things we cannot control, and that's pretty scary. We will get through this, but I believe it will be made a lot easier if we can find deeper, grounding ways to support ourselves. In saying this, I'd like to give you some ideas on how you can get through these trying times, alongside your usual, daily self-care techniques.

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Practise acceptance

Many people find it difficult to accept circumstances which are painful or challenging because they feel they're being asked to resign themselves to or take a passive stance in times of adversity. This isn't actually the case. With the current pandemic, the reality is that, apart from taking care of ourselves and those we love, and adhering to advice from medical and governmental authorities so as not to increase the spread of the virus, there isn't much we can do to change our situation. We are relying on the medical profession and authorities to keep us safe and find a vaccine which will protect us from infection. Acceptance in this case would mean accepting we are in this situation, with all the pain and hardship involved and trusting that it won't last forever. If we can take an even wider perspective, acceptance would involve trusting that whatever is happening, however painful, is part of something greater than ourselves. For instance, the earth is currently experiencing a slower, less invasive human presence due to quarantining. What can we learn from this and in what way are we being asked to examine our current behaviours and way of living?

 

Take a mindful approach to anxiety

Anxiety has a purpose and that is to warn us of danger or prompt us to seek safety. Very often, however, we're unable to "escape" situations and need to find ways to manage our anxieties. When you do feel anxious, try to become aware of how this anxiety is impacting your thoughts and being felt in the body. Rather than trying to push these bodily sensations and thoughts away, accept their presence. Then, focus on your breath and put both feet on the floor to ground yourself. Replace the fearful thoughts with more positive and reassuring ones: "This will pass; I'm going to be okay; I am not alone", and so on.

Covid-19 has impacted all of our lives quite drastically from one day to the next. The uncertainty it's created has led to immense anxiety and fear in many people. Realistically, we don't know when we'll resume our lives again in the same way we did previously - travelling, going to work, meeting friends and family. One way to approach this reality mindfully is to resist the temptation to worry or predict how long the pandemic will last. Worrying about not seeing people close to us for many months will only cause sadness, fear and worry. Instead, focus on the present moment and making the most you can of the current circumstances. It's not easy, but nothing good will come out of speculating over something we have no control over.

 

Deepen your spirituality

While spirituality may incorporate aspects of religion, spirituality is a broader concept related to connectedness to something bigger than ourselves. It involves the meaning we attribute to life, our circumstances and experiences, as well as our connection with ourselves, others and the universe. Whether you practise a particular religion or not, using this period to reflect on your own life, what's important to you and what this experience means to you can be very rewarding. It may be a time for you to reassess priorities or make lifestyle changes which are more in line with your values and beliefs. Trusting that this global crisis has something to teach you can help you look beyond your immediate suffering and look inward for guidance and support.

 

Develop gratitude

It's hard to be grateful when facing difficulties which have been a direct result of the Covid-19 virus, such as reduced work, unemployment, illness, loss and separation from loved ones. "What is there to feel grateful for?" you may ask. Maybe you're more in touch with a feeling of unfairness or injustice. Failing to see anything you can appreciate during this difficult time will lead to more misery and pain. Therefore, I invite you to look for anything you can be grateful for. Here are some examples:

-          The friend who dropped off fresh fruit and vegetables to your door

-          Having access to supermarkets and pharmacies

-          The authorities and medical community, who are doing their best to take care of us

-          The positive news being shared online

-          A closer bond with colleagues, neighbours, and others due to providing one another with support

 

Feel connected to the wider community

Since the onset of Covid-19, we've seen some touching examples of kindness and compassion towards vulnerable people in the community. Just a couple of the stories I heard involved boys from St Patrick's reading stories to the elderly, volunteers running errands and buying food for people who are vulnerable, not to mention the countless video clips of people singing and playing musical instruments in their balconies to cheer up their neighbours. Ultimately, we're all in this together and the experience will be a lot easier if we band together and treat one another with kindness and compassion. If you know of someone who's struggling, reach out to them. See if they want to chat or if they need you to drop off some food or other essential items.

We have many examples in history of devastating illnesses or events which led to untold suffering and hardship. Like those, the Covid-19 pandemic will also eventually cease, and I believe that reminding ourselves of this can provide solace. What's most important, however, is that as individuals and as a society, our suffering and pain have a deeper purpose. Take this opportunity to see what you can learn from this experience. Certainly, I believe that Covid-19 has some important lessons to teach humanity as a whole. Such lessons can never justify the suffering and loss of life but they can make the experience more bearable.

 

Psychotherapist Danjela Falzon works with clients suffering from anxiety and depression, relationship issues, sexuality, personality disorders, self-esteem issues and those wishing to work on self-development. She forms part of the team at TherapyWorks Clinic. For more information visit https://www.therapyworks.com.mt/


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