The spread of Coronavirus has resulted in life changing beyond all recognition for most of the population. Suddenly, the many things that kept us busy during the days, nights, evenings and weekends are no longer available and people are forced to slow down, perhaps for the first time in many years. Whilst this could seem like the ideal scenario, many people are struggling to adjust to the new way of life which is likely to be in place for a number of weeks if not months. If you are wondering why you’re climbing the walls, feeling anxious or agitated or even feel like you’re losing your mind, here are the 5 emotional stages of dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic that most of us will be experiencing over the coming weeks.
For the vast majority of people, this stage probably passed a long time ago as the reality of the pandemic set in, but you’ll probably still have those friends of family members that think this is all a big fuss about nothing and that Coronavirus is ‘just a bit like flu’. When faced with change of any kind, denial is a perfectly natural response and it’s the mind’s way of protecting you from feeling emotional distress. It can feel quite calm being in the stage of denial, as you are certain that whatever people are worrying about is not going to happen. But it is important to educate yourself and question whether your views on the subject are grounded in reality, or if you could be suffering from a troublesome case of denial.
Once you realize that you were in fact in denial and the reality sets in, the next natural response is to panic. All of the sudden the emotions associated with the situation come flooding in and your body’s natural fight or flight reaction is activated. In the case of Coronavirus, you might start worrying about what might happen to yourself, your friends or your family. You might start feeling anxious about going out for your essential food shopping or whether you have washed your hands property after being outside or near others. You might worry about whether you have enough food, what you’ll do if you get sick or start worrying about physical symptoms. You may even start to get physical symptoms simply because you’ve thought about them too much, such as you may feel your chest getting tighter, or your throat closing up, or you may get a hot flush. Panic is a natural reaction so don’t feel bad about it. Let is run its course and try to relax yourself with deep breathing, a relaxing bath or by watching your favourite programme to distract your wandering mind. Once you are out of the panic mode you will be able to think more clearly and logically about the situation.
After the panic has subsided, there is general acceptance of the situation, which can result in sadness or depression. You might be missing your family, your friends, your colleagues or your old routine. You might be missing the regular gym classes, or the coffee meetups with your friends. You might find it loney at home or feel unmotivated to get on with work, cleaning up or other jobs around the house. You might have already lost someone or they are very sick and you are feeling helpless and lost. Sadness or depression is also an extremely common stage in dealing with a significant change in your life, so don’t beat yourself up for feeling this way temporarily. Brief moments of feeling down are all part of your emotional regulation, but it is when they become persistent and take over your life that they become problematic. Try to avoid spending too long lying in bed once awake and try to do some kind of exercise even if it is 10 minutes in your living room. Being aware of negative thoughts and actively trying to tackle them is the best way to help yourself move through this particular stage.
This stage is by far the most refreshing and motivating of all. It is like a lightbulb has suddenly switched on in your mind and instead of seeing all the problems and the limitations, you start to see opportunities and things to be grateful for. You start to create routines which provide pleasure, happiness and relaxation and life seems to be getting back in sync. You are still fully aware of the negative aspects, the risks and the worries, but they now seem to be in perspective and you have a greater appreciation of the areas of your life that you can control, and those which are outside of you. Whilst the world may still be in a worrying place, you understand your part in it, the role you can play and how you can maximize your current situation to give you the best and most enjoyable experience in the circumstances.