- COVID has enforced change on almost all aspects of our lives
- Enforced change requires effort and energy to maintain, which makes us tired and stressed even doing ‘normal’ things, impacting our physical and mental health.
- The uncertainty of COVID exacerbates anxiety
- The lack of agency exacerbates feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
- COVID encourages unhealthy coping behaviours and responses.
- There are things that you can do to make a difference to how you experience these times
Depending on where this finds you in the world, you are feeling the effects of COVID differently. In some places (Like Melbourne, Australia, where I live) we are under stage 4 lockdown with curfews. Other locations have less stringent restrictions, whilst other places have overflowing ICU departments and people dying in massive numbers. Regardless of where you are located, the world does not look the same as it did this time last year. The world really has changed.
The best types of change are the ones that we initiate – we change because we want to, and we see a benefit in doing so. COVID has brought a different type of change – and enforced change – that has massive impacts on so many parts of our lives.
Enforced change requires effort and energy to maintain. When change is pushed upon us, we often try to resist. We don’t see a benefit in changing and prefer our old status quo over having to adopt to new ways of thinking and behaving.
As we try to resist (or even if we simply try to cope), when we are forced to change it takes a lot of energy and effort just to get by. Unless we find a way to deeply embrace the change and make it our own, enforced change likely will make you tired and stressed – even just doing ‘normal’ things. This increased stress shows up in so many ways, impacting both our physical and mental health.
It is common for people to struggle with the increase in COVID related stress. It often shows up in a number of critical ways:
- Impact on sleep
- Impact on mental health
- Impact on physical health
- Increase in unhealthy coping behaviours
- Increase in social isolation
When we break down what happens to people under COVID stress, there are two massive frames that drive most of what impacts people – uncertainty and lack of agency.
The uncertainty derives from the fact that we don’t know when COVID will be over, how it will continue to affect us, and all of the negative press that enhances the fears that we have about how the future will play out.
The lack of agency shows up because all of this is outside of our control. We have an ‘enemy’ that is unseen and we are at its mercy. We are forced to change how we behave and feel completely out of control.
As an aside, these two things are also critical for causing all of the conspiracy theories, as people want to deal with their anxiety and lack of agency by believing that it is all a ‘plan’ than some big unknown and secret group or person have to take advantage of society. They take any small snippet of information and use it to ‘prove’ that this is not uncertain and that someone has agency. Even if it is not them.
From the mental health standpoint, COVID is massively exacerbating people’s feelings of anxiety (because of the uncertainty) and their sense of helplessness and hopelessness (from the lack of agency). These combine with the increase in stress and tiredness to really impact the way people are experiencing their lives.
In response, there are a number of unhealthy coping strategies that people employ when facing these unpleasant feelings and experiences. These include eating disorders, domestic violence, alcohol consumption, drugs, gambling, other addictive behaviours and social isolation. If you notice that you are engaging in behaviours that are unhelpful to try to assist you cope, then please reach out for help. There are many services that you can access via telephone (Lifeline 131114 is a great example).
Some coping strategies can be beneficial – like exercise, taking up a new hobby, or learning something new.
Interestingly, when you notice that you are struggling with the effects of the enforced changes of COVID, then there are lots of things you can do about it.
If you are not sleeping, you could try something like Sleeping Maestro (www.sleepingmaestro.com)
If you want to change your experience and deal with the anxiety or other feelings that emerge, then using a telehealth solution and hypnosis is empirically proven to be highly effective. By dealing with the deeper frames that drive what you are experiencing, we can shift how you feel. We can also make a massive difference into the unwanted coping strategies using a strategic approach. You don’t have to suffer when help is available.
Contact me at www.reflectiveresolutions.com to find out more.