How to get through Coronavirus and re-evaluate your work priorities

There is no magic bullet for how to get through the Coronavirus crisis. One day you were just doing your own thing, working hard, enjoying your leisure time then POW! Out of nowhere came a terrible virus that could kill you. You didn’t want it. You didn’t ask for it and it’s making you feel out of control. So, what is your working situation right now? Have you been furloughed? Have you lost your job? Are you sitting at home twiddling your thumbs and wondering what the hell you are going to do until lockdown is lifted? What will your working life look like then?

However hard this will be for you, accepting the position you are in is a good starting point for being able to move forward. It is perfectly OK and normal to feel self-centred. Platitudes like “well, we’re all in this together” works for about three days but after that it’s back to thinking “what am I going to do?” Here’s a few ideas to support you and perhaps get you in a different mindset so that when lockdown is lifted you will feel more ready mentally and physically.

During lockdown have you done something new that has taken you out of your comfort zone and had the result of making you feel worthy and proud? Would you like to feel like this? Reading posts about DT departments making visors, marketing managers sewing scrubs and CEOs delivering food to the vulnerable can be inspiring or annoying you. If this sounds good maybe this is something you can do. Search for local Facebook groups, look at the local Council site or COVID – mutual aid and you can see what volunteer work there is in your area. Not what you’re after? Totally fine. What else? Do you like the job you do? Crazy question maybe, however, with all the spare time you may have right now you’ve got the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate your working life. This time you’re in can create a moment of epiphany – that lightbulb moment you never had time and space for when you were in the 9-5.

What did you love doing when you were a kid? Have a really good think about the dreams you had and the things you did then that you loved. Are you doing them in your job now? Is there any way that you could change what you’re doing now to do that thing or something like it?

You can think about this time as an opportunity. How are your finances? Have you any spare money to retrain, even in the confines of your home? While you cannot work in the job you do, can you add to your skillset? I’m a Counsellor. I love working with clients suffering with addiction, OCD and trauma because it challenges me and that is where my interest lies. While it is tricky to get clients at present I’m thinking about what else I can do and have enrolled on a training course to learn the Havening technique. It may not help me today but it will be added to my toolbox and not cost too much money to do it. When lockdown is lifted I can look forward to treating my clients with this new tool. Maybe I can use it online with my clients at present? How can I make that work? See what I mean? It’s about using your imagination to be creative and to see what you can do now to help you for the future. Solving problems and finding solutions.

You may be finding that your mental health is taking a bashing right now. Of course it is. Meaning and purpose, status, mixing with your peers, feelings of being out of control and security will all be affecting you and anxiety, low mood and feeling suffocated is normal. It will pass. You will be back on an even keel soon. You just need to weather the storm for a while longer. It is time to be brave. If you are really struggling financially then is there anything you can do now to earn money? I am hearing more and more about people who have been in pretty high flying jobs swallowing their egos, taking a deep breath and working in local supermarkets. I have been looking too. For instance, Tesco offer £9.45 per hour with some really good flexible shift patterns. Can you drive? Delivering a whole range of products might be something you could consider. Giving lifts to the elderly to doctors’ appointments. How about picking fruit or vegetables? The farming community are desperate for this and remember – it’s just for now. It’s temporary. It helps our country and will give you some self esteem and meaning and purpose in your life.

Perhaps you have a friend you work with in a similar industry and they are still working. How about giving them a ring and seeing if they can hire you on a short term contract? Yes, it takes bravery maybe, but it’s better than sitting at home feeling sorry for yourself and will bring in some much needed cash.

Sometimes the thing that can help you is staring at you right in the face but you’re just not seeing it. We need spare capacity to be able to see these things. If our minds are full of junk then new ideas can’t get in. Maybe think about getting some counselling. During Coronavirus many therapists are offering treatment in new ways with lower costs. How about doing two or three sessions to help lower anxiety and clear your mind? it can really help. If you do have a job you can go back to but can’t work now than make sure you keep busy. Learn a new language, read or listen to audiobooks, write articles or your memoir. Dig up the back garden and grow something. Paint the house. Learn to tango. Anything. This is about focusing on something positive that is more powerful than negative rumination. Exercise in any way you can and get a good night’s sleep. Eat healthily. Maybe take a multivitamin, go out in nature and drink more water but not after 6pm.

“Imagine a Swiss, alpine tunnel with fields of pasture you can see at the end” (a Boris metaphor. Had to chuckle). You know what I mean. Unless lots of silly people go out and start a mass hugfest we could be looking at the end of this lockdown relatively soon. Make sure you’re ready to be unlocked. See your potential and perhaps you will find yourself in a brand new pasture…

Feelings of guilt during Coronavirus

Many people have told me they feel guilty right now. The guilt comes in different shapes and sizes. Who would have thought that something like Coronavirus could bring these unusual symptoms. At the top of the list is survivor’s guilt and we will look at this in a while.

One of the reasons for guilt during the Coronavirus is the feeling that no matter how hard you try, you believe that you may infect another person or that someone will infect you and you will pass it on. This can lead to high anxiety as well as guilt. The feeling of guilt has been described physically as the stomach turning over, heart beating faster and a change in breathing. Stomach upsets and sleep issues as well as headaches and moodiness. Negative, intrusive thoughts are common which seem to bully you. “What ifs” are manifested with many scenarios. The need to be perfect is prevalent. The worry about your family, your job, the virus itself and the news bulletins, can be profound. You want so much to be in control and do all you can but still the guilt and anxiety persists.

This current situation is not your fault and it is not something you can control. You can take practical steps to ensure you keep safe and do what is asked by our authority figures and that is about it right now. Acceptance is a good starting point to help overcome guilt. Accepting that this strange, invasive pandemic is all around us and here to stay for the time being. Accept that it will pass. There will be an end to it and we will, as a society, and individually, get through it. As the virus is invisible it is not in your control to know who is a carrier and what surfaces the virus is on. We do not have testing for every single person and we do not have a vaccine – yet. For that reason it may be wise to accept this fact. In fact ‘facts’ are what we need; not fake news or “My friend’s brother’s cousin told his wife that….”

You may feel guilty because you cannot see your elderly relatives or your children because they are staying with others. Your guilt may be because you have had to furlough or even let go of valuable staff members. Perhaps you are in the medical profession and you have had to give awful news to a worried relative. How are your relationships? Are you at breaking point, living with people you don’t get on with? How hard it must be if you were in the process of separating then are forced to live in the same house? Sadly you may have lost someone close to you from this dreadful disease or for another reason during this time and were not able to see them or say goodbye.

Survivor’s Guilt

Many medics will be suffering with what can be a debilitating mental difficulty – survivor’s guilt. It has traits of PTSD and symptoms like flashbacks, headaches and awful feelings of guilt weighing people down and leading to depression. Anyone can feel this type of guilt. Perhaps you are in the heartbreaking position of someone close to you losing their life from the virus and you have survived. This will be compacted as you may not have been able to see your loved one in the final hours or days. Counselling is highly recommended for this affliction. It is not your fault and life will return in time to some form of normality. There are therapists who are expert in this type of trauma.

The likelihood is, is that in almost every household there will be some form of guilt arising. What else can you do to lessen this burden after acceptance? You can reframe negative situations and do your best to find a positive outcome. Here are some suggestions:

You are living in a toxic household. There will be some desperate situations out there and those cases a call to the police may be the only option. For general relationship difficulties there could be a solution, even if it’s temporary. Try calling a truce. Sit down, write or text the person and suggest that for now, during the crisis the disagreements need to be put aside. For the next few weeks you will respect each other. Give each other the space you need. Avoid shouting and passive aggression. Take turns. With one hour daily exercise allowed, each member of the household can go out. Make that time count for the person who is exercising and for the ones in the household. Every human being deserves an equal amount of time, space, respect and understanding, from babies to great grandparents, lodgers and friends – whoever lives in the household.

To overcome guilt try giving yourself a break . You can only do what you can do. It can be average. It does not have to be perfect. ‘Self love’ is a popular phrase and can go to an extreme. Self care is essential. As the virus affects the lungs and breathing then this metaphor is very apt at present. You need to put your own oxygen mask on first before you put on someone else’s. If you worry and misuse your imagination to come up with unlikely and horrible scenarios or if you wrack yourself with guilt, how is this going to help you or others?

Be resilient. Yes. There’s that word. here’s some other words and phrases that mean the same or similar: strength, flexible, adapt, tough, stiff upper lip, fortitude, adversity and self-restraint. This crisis can be the making of you. You can come out of it better person with more to offer and hence more to receive.

Guilt is a negative and unhelpful emotion and so many of us are feeling it. Let us at least turn the volume down a bit on those bully guilt thoughts. Maybe give yourself permission to ‘feel’ guilty for ten minutes each day. The rest of the time can be filled with taking action. Doing what you can to help yourself and others. Ditch the guilt. Consider PRIDE. What have you done that is something you can feel good about yourself? Make a list of these things. When you do you will see that at other times you were responsible, trusted, needed and worthy. Set yourself small, achievable goals to move forward, starting from now. Normality will return and when it does it would be good to feel like you’re ready for it.

How to survive separation from loved ones during the health crisis.