Coronavirus Crisis Kit

In these incredibly difficult times it is too easy to be swamped with all the conflicting advice and information you can find online – much of it unreliable and even dangerous. Fear and anxiety are natural.

But you are not alone – uncertainty is one of the most difficult human experiences. Not knowing what is around the corner, particularly in a context of heightened concern, is hard to handle. 

If you can’t control a situation your mind will seek answers and imagine scenarios which might or might not happen. But it’s what you can control that counts.

Things You Can’t Control

  • How the virus evolves
  • When the pandemic will end
  • Accuracy of the statistics 
  • Other people’s actions

Things You Can Control

  • Washing your hands
  • Limiting your travel
  • Social distancing
  • Limiting news (stick to the BBC and NHS)
  • Kindness and self-compassion
  • Making a plan

I can help you to create a flexible plan – a plan tuned to what you can control and aligned with government guidelines on reducing the risk of infection and what to do if you fall ill.

Step 1

A tool that ensures you have a safe mental space to go when anxieties are overwhelming you 

Typically when you feel anxious the “fear” centre of the brain is activated, while your “problem-solving” brain is less active. 

This can lead to unhelpful automatic reactions to uncertainty and anxiety – the fight, flight or freeze response hardwired into us by the amygdala. It’s the amygdala (almond-shaped and tucked in your brain behind your ear) that floods your body with chemicals such as adrenaline when it thinks you’re in danger … chemicals that make you restless, ready for action and prone to arguments. 

Just at a time when we’re being told to stay home, sit still, don’t go out. No wonder we are stressed.

You can help yourself with breathing exercises: breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds and breath out through your mouth for 4 seconds, and keep it up for 2 or 3 minutes. 

This will calm down your nervous system and focus your mind on the here-and-now, connecting you to a place of inner calm and peace.

It’s a technique used by everyone from star athletes to the military to help stay in control while under stress.

I can help you by reading soothing scripts to help you find this space – a space like the calm eye in the centre of the hurricane.

When you have found this space and know you can always come back to it, you are ready for Step 2.

Step 2

Understand the difference between effective and ineffective ways of dealing with external, uncontrollable circumstances 

You might want to ask yourself: what do you want to change?

Then Answer These Questions

  • Can you identify things in your personal life which are under your control?
  • Can you identify things in your personal life which you can’t control?

You may find that you are in one of two mindsets, either “over controlling” or “passively coping.”

Our aim is to raise you to a stage of “actively coping.”

Step 3 

Allow yourself to experience the uncertainty of things you can’t control 

Respond to what-ifs and other questions that keep your mind racing with: “I don’t know.” Because that is the truth. 

Doing This Has Two Important Benefits

  • It moves you on from the effort of producing an answer.
  • It shifts you from an unproductive attempt to ignore your thoughts.

Remind yourself it’s “ok to feel this way” and you have a tool to get back to safety (STEP 1) and begin breathing calmly to give your brain the oxygen it needs

Step 4 

Bring some kindness and compassion into a feeling of crisis 

  • This is a moment of uncertainty
  • Uncertainly is difficult to bear
  • All people feel this way sometimes
  • May I be kind to myself 

Shift your attention to the sky above your head and to the floor beneath your feet.

Then shift your attention to internal sensations: your breath, your heartbeat and maybe your itchy nose. 

This allows you to see uncertainty as just one part of your experience, not all of it … thereby further reducing the intensity of your discomfort.

So be kind to yourself. This is a time for comfort food (healthy if possible), comfort TV, comfort reading, comfort everything!

Step 5 

Surrender

This means letting go of unproductive efforts to control the uncontrollable, while at the same time focusing on dealing with what lies within the boundaries of your personal influence. 

Notice how “surrender” differs from giving up and losing hope. It’s a positive action

Coronavirus is accentuating feelings of anger, fear, sadness, loneliness or uncertainty. We long for peace and rest, we just want the unwanted thoughts to “go away.” But the answer isn’t to try to plaster over our negative thoughts with more “positive” ones. There’s a lot of pressure from friends, family, society as a whole to be happy and “full of beans”. In fact, we just aren’t meant to joyful and bursting with energy all the time. 

We are actually built to contain all of life – the sorrow, doubt and exhaustion, as well as the delight and excitement. It takes courage to be authentically who we are, in a world clamouring for constant happiness, but by giving ourselves a break from continual quest to be better we can instead get used to facing one single present moment at a time.

By tending to our difficult, raw thoughts and sensations for a few seconds, then shifting into a moment of self-nourishment and care, we can make even our scariest experiences bearable.

Step 6

Write yourself an agenda

You can reduce anxiety through routine. Get up at the same time, then do your exercises, make lunch (maybe talk on the phone to a friend, having lunch “together” as you chat through what you’ve cooked), answer your emails at a certain time etc… this will help you to stay mindful and focused and not be overrun by your anxieties. 

And remember, when you’re talking to a friend it’s enough to be kind to them. You can’t fix their worries so just give them some space and listen … tell them it’s normal and they’re doing brilliantly.

I can help you devise a personal resilience plan based on your existing strengths (how you have bounced back from difficulties in the past) so you can evaluate what is happening now from moment to moment with a sense of clarity and calm.

Further Reading

Please have a look at this video by Bessel van der Kolk, MD one of the leading Traumatologist short video to explain further.

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