‘Keep calm and carry on’ is the quintessentially British quote published by the government in 1939 to boost morale and prepare the country for war. As the nation continues to pull together as we accept our new way of life, this quote remains as relevant as ever. The impact of Covid-19 has been compared economically, psychologically and politically to World War II, but the reason why the quote feels particularly relevant now, is because most of us appear to have reached a period of acceptance – the coping phase.
Of course, for our incredible NHS and key workers, who are challenged every day and whose strength and resilience is holding the country together, it’s been a different experience entirely. As it is for people who are suffering, recovering, or have been personally affected by the virus. But for most of us, it seems we’ve reached a coping phase and a sort of acceptance of our new lives.
As the novelty of lockdown life wears off and the pressure to be productive continues, we must remember that it’s ok to do nothing and to simply cope is enough. Yes, it is a good time to be productive and acquire new skills, pick up an old hobby, get fit, to finally finish off that DIY. But equally, it’s a great time to switch off from the pressures and distractions of life – a great time to look inwards and spend some time with yourself.
Self-care is often packaged to us as tangible acts of relaxation – having a bath, cooking a nice dinner, pouring a glass of wine, taking a walk, reading a book or relaxing with a face-mask treatment on. Of course, these things can be great for mental wellbeing. But in reality, self-care and wellbeing can be about simply… being. Just being without feeling the need to either be productive or engage in coping techniques is incredibly important. Sometimes self-care is about just sitting with the discomfort you might be experiencing and knowing it’s temporary, as opposed to distracting or numbing with different techniques. Let’s be honest, discomfort is well… uncomfortable, and it’s understandable that as humans we avoid it at all costs. But the truth is feeling uncomfortable, sad, stressed or anxious are all part of the human condition and they are all temporary emotions. Whichever negative emotions we’re dealing with at the moment, we must be kind to ourselves and allow ourselves to feel them without judgement, fear or self-criticism.
Although we can’t change our circumstances and we don’t always have to physically ‘do’ something to try to change how we feel, one thing we can always do is change, or at least challenge, our perception.
One simple way to do this is a technique called cognitive reframing. It’s a simple tip to help us practise gratitude, gain perspective and combat feelings of anxiety or depression. Essentially, it goes back to the glass half full or half empty proverb. Whether you view the glass as half full or half empty, the situation is the same, but the way it’s framed or the way we perceive it can be completely different.
The Depression Project came up with four examples to show how we can cognitively reframe social isolation :
My friends and I can’t see each other – My friends and I are protecting each other
I’m stuck at home – I’m safe at home
I have lost all my freedom – I have relinquished my freedom for a noble purpose
I miss the things I love – I’m increasing my gratitude for the things I love
By simply rephrasing things that are easy to complain about, we start to feel a shift in our perspectives. Not only is this technique great for ourselves, it has a positive knock-on-effect to those around us and encourages gratitude and patience – two things that will see us through this coping phase.