You can’t control everything during a pandemic, here’s how to let go a little.
On Monday, I woke to a bizarre feeling. It wasn’t anxiety, it wasn’t panic, it wasn’t even dread. In fact, it was eerily calm and quiet: This was my new life in lockdown.
For a lot of people, the new restrictions that are popping up all over the world are frightening and scary. I’ll admit, hearing such a new and intense measure to a pandemic is a little daunting, but there is a possible end date on the horizon and there is nothing that I nor anyone else can do (short of the Prime Minister) to end these restrictions, so why worry? Besides, it’s a few weeks in lockdown, or hundreds of thousands, even millions could die. Really, it’s not a hard choice.
The impact that a few weeks in lockdown has on your mental health is only really ever a problem if you let it be. The more you let it frustrate and bother you, the more it can and will bother you. If you accept it and let it be, it’s likely to be that much easier to endure.
What I’m trying to tell you is: You need to let go of control.
Now sure, if you’re anything like me, surrendering control when you’re used to keeping control is exceptionally hard to do. Even though I’m not averse to testing authority, right now there is no point. Right now, authority isn’t about preventing me from having something that I’m entitled to. Right now, authority is about keeping us all safe, and we have to respect that.
In essence, anxiety comes down to control, and a perceived lack of control. We don’t know what will happen next and so we worry about it, or we want change but can’t have it, so we allow it to bother us. Once we make peace and stop trying to control a situation, we are able to regain some control within ourselves.
The Circle Of Concern & The Circle Of Control
Above and to the best of my ability, you will see that I have demonstrated a model of the circle of concern and the circle of control, a frequent model used in psychology, especially when it comes to tackling anxiety over matters not under our control. For the purposes of copyright I have created my own, using as many different examples for both categories as I can think of.
In this diagram, you will note that our health and the news are in the ‘circle of concern’. You might argue that we can control our health, but we can’t, we can only control the way we live and hope that it has a positive impact. Indeed, we can wash our hands and practice social distancing as much as possible, but unfortunately, there is always a risk that we will still pick up the virus.
Similarly, the recent lockdowns fall under the ‘politics’ category. Hate them as much as we like, they are in our circle of concern, but out of our control.
How To Regain (Some!) Control
Once you realise that you have no control, it’s natural to want to regain some semblance of it. Indeed, the more helpless and hopeless we feel, the more depressed and anxious we can become. By not allowing ourselves to become focused on what is beyond our control, we can instead find ways to keep control of that which we do have. For example by:
- Keeping your home clean, organised and tidy
- Maintaining your garden or balcony, if you have one
- Going for walks with family or friends who are not vulnerable, but keeping to a safe distance.
- Washing our hands regularly.
- Looking after our health to reduce our chances of getting severely sick.
- Going for a walk or sitting out in the garden and enjoying some sunshine while isolating from others.
- Video call your family or friends and laugh with them. Perhaps play a game over the computer or have an e-dinner together.
- Realise that this too shall pass, that scientists are working hard to make mass testing possible and vaccines are being worked on.
- Make a chart with a box for every day of lockdown. Tick one box off each day to help you visualise how long it will be until it ends.
- Meditate, or get some blissful sleep, both with make stress, anxiety and depression more manageable.
You may not be able to go out and socialise as you once would have for a while, but this doesn’t mean to say that you have no choice at all. The more you focus only on what you can’t have, the more all-consuming it will feel.
If none of these work for you, try to distract yourself from focusing on the lockdown.
- Bake something delicious or try a new recipe, perhaps even a potluck meal if you’re running low on supplies!
- Watch some funny Youtube videos
- Try out a new hobby (instructions for “Lockdown Tower” to follow!)
- Try singing or dancing
- Take up a new language. Before Covid-19, I was learning to speak Italian. Now I’m using my time in Lockdown to continue my language studies out of respect for all of the people struggling in Italy.
- Play a computer game.
- Fuss over a pet. Animals can be wonderfully therapeutic!
Make Peace In Acceptance
When you’re told you can’t have or can’t do something, one of the hardest parts is simply to accept it. You want to react to it, you want to shout and scream, it’s normal.
Once you’ve come to terms with the loss of control, though, you will find that a quiet calm awaits you. Indeed, once you come to terms with and accept that you can’t have control, you stop trying to maintain it.
Accept the situation as it is. It’s not fair, life’s not fair, but that’s okay. For most places in the world, it’s 3 months, or twelve weeks. It’s not forever and it could help to save thousands of lives by not spreading the virus around. Instead of focusing on the fact that you can’t socialise as you did only a week ago, focus on the fact that there will come a time when you can. Once a vaccine is found and normally is restored, think about all of the lockdown stories you can be sharing.
Until next time,
Stay safe & have fun,