Many of us plan how our lives will turn out, when we want to reach certain ‘milestones’ and how that will make us happier. We put age goalposts to these milestones; buying a house, getting married, having children, starting a business, retiring. With great plans can come great disappointment if life doesn’t turn out as expected. The Coronavirus pandemic and the consequent restrictions have thrown a spanner in the works for many people who had planned on going to university, getting married, taking the next step in their career or even going on holiday. With this disruption to the expectation of life’s trajectory and lack of control over it, you may feel a sense of grief and feel like your life is on hold. It’s normal to feel distressed and angry in uncertain times and many people are feeling this way.
Here are some ways to help you to manage these feelings:
1. Identify your emotions
You may have been feeling down because you’ve had to, for example, rearrange your wedding. Take a moment to sit with those feelings and realise how you’re actually feeling. If you’re struggling to identify them, jot your thoughts down and read it back to yourself. How do you feel about it? What emotions come up when you think of it? What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of your plans that you’ve had to rearrange? Allowing yourself to experience the emotions can be cathartic. Be compassionate, understanding and kind with yourself, it is okay to be disappointed and upset. Try to factor in little treats for yourself, an extra hour in bed, a new book or game, watching your favourite film or allowing yourself 10 minutes to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea and a biscuit, whatever gives you pleasure.
2. Focus on finding positivity
Although your life hasn’t gone to plan in 2020, what good has come out of it? Have you realised you actually wanted a smaller wedding anyway? Or maybe putting plans on hold has meant you you have spent more time with your family.
Take time to notice three things you’re grateful for in the midst of the sadness. It could be your friends or family or something like the colours of the autumn leaves outside.
3. Avoid falling into a negative thought cycle
When things don’t go how we wanted them to, it can be easy to fall into negative thinking. This refers to a thought pattern that instantly focuses on either: bad things always happen to me and will keep happening, other people are to blame (for example in the case of Coronavirus, the Prime Minister or China), or it’s out of my hands, I can’t change it so there is no point in trying to. These thoughts can lead to us feeling hopeless and isolated.
When it comes to the pandemic, it can be normal to have these thoughts. It is important to recognise these thoughts if you experience them and to try to focus on a solution instead, such as ‘I’ll rearrange the wedding for next year when all of my loved ones can attend’, ‘I’ll take courses to improve my skills and help with the job search’ or ‘I will make plans for my holiday in the future’. Recognising that others are experiencing the same feelings and thoughts and that this will not go on for ever, can help you to balance your thinking and feel less isolated, ‘it is happening to everyone’, ‘this situation will pass’. Changing how you structure your thoughts can help you feel to better about the situation and to feel like you have a little more more control over your life.
4. Don’t self-sabotage
We all deal with loss and emotions in different ways. Try not to self-sabotage by taking out your stress either on yourself or on your partner or family. This will only lead to more upset and may hurt relationships that you don’t intend to damage.
Speak to your loved ones about how you’re feeling, but try not to blame or argue if they don’t understand or feel a different way.
5. Give yourself a break
It’s been a tough year for everyone, especially those who have had to postpone or cancel big goals or events. Lockdowns and restrictions can be tough mentally and physically, so try to focus on finding happy moments and practicing self care (whatever that may mean to you). Don’t pressure or stress yourself into working extra hard to tick off other goals in an attempt to mask the upset from the life events on hold.
6. Find someone to confide in
Rather than internalising your feelings, try to find someone who will listen without judging. If you find you are experiencing negative thoughts it can be helpful to air them out loud, to acknowledge them and have support in managing and balancing your perspective.
It could be helpful to speak to someone outside of your social bubble such as a therapist. Which leads to our next point…
7. Book an appointment with an online therapist
You may have tried all of the above points and still feel very low and be struggling to deal with this on your own. You may find it helpful to book an appointment with a trained professional who can help you balance your thoughts and process them in a more helpful way.
We offer bespoke online therapy during lockdown and a free phone consultation with a therapist to discuss if therapy will help you. Why not contact us to discuss whether we can help? Contact us here.
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