Advice for when worry moves in
I was asked today to send a message to a couple of young people who were struggling with the impact of Coronavirus reporting in the media. They were feeling fearful, paranoid and falling into catastrophising thinking. I'm sharing my response to them here in case there may be other people you know for whom the constant coverage is causing a descent into a 'what-if' worry mode of thinking.
I wanted to drop you a line to check in and see how you're doing.
It feels like such a troubling time, because things seem to be moving quickly and there's a lot of uncertainty. You might wonder how on earth we look after ourselves and our mental health at a such a time. And should we even try? It might feel like it's better to worry, or even that's it's our duty to stay alert to every change in the news.
But I'd argue against that.
Personally, I watch very little news and I stay off social media. I still get all the headlines and am up to date with latest guidance and recommended steps, but I stay away from all the endless speculation, opinion pieces and anything that whiffs of 'could' or 'might' happen. That's just not helpful for me.
I know that for me, if left unchecked, what-if' thinking can become almost compulsive. I can set off a trail of thoughts that spin themselves into a frenzy. But what-ifs are only concerned with fiction. They're not interested in fact. Or reality. Or what is. They dance themselves into the future CONVINCED that somehow by seeing the future we'll have more control over the future. Which is, of course, fiction. The future will be what it will be...and we'll only know what is when it's here.
What-if thinking is futile - it doesn't change anything. But worse than that, it's draining, exhausting and bruising. It leaves us less able to deal with reality in the present. It's a bugger.
What-if thinking is also ONLY interested in all the potential negative aspects - we don't tend to what-if all the good stuff. Image that? Imagine if you spent the day thinking, "What if we're all fine? What if we all stay well? What if this brings us closer together? What if we really start to appreciate all the wonderful things we have? What if we count the blessings - we have each other, we are here for each other, we care for another." Wow. Can you feel how powerful that is?
If you do find yourselves succumbing to worry then I'd encourage you to remember that worry is speculating - it doesn't actually know anything - and it's only telling you half of a potential story, all the bad stuff, none of the potential good stuff. And it hurts you - by using worry as a way to feel more in control you're ultimately going to burn yourselves out of the emotional resilience you need.
To bring you more into balance, I'd encourage you to read this article, Ten Reasons Not to Panic About Coronavirus:
And to watch this video, that explains more about a potential cure for the virus:
There is good news out there.
There are blessings to be counted.
You're too beautiful and precious to give yourselves over to the destructive forces of out of control worry.
And you have each other. When one's having a wobble, the other needs to remind them that worry is not a reliable story-teller. Take turns having a micro-worry but please try not to get swallowed up by it.
90% of cases are mild.
97% of people recover.
Scientists globally are working on a cure.
There will be an end point to this.
I'm thinking of you all. Go gently with yourselves,