You've heard the terms regarding our present situation such as unprecedented, unimaginable, exceptional, never before, unmatched, extraordinary, and naturally enough, there are a world of emotions that people are experiencing and feeling.
Some say that they are anxious, others say they are depressed, some overwhelmed, a few are angry, some are just feeling lost and still others have a whole range of emotions in between.
However, many are confused about what they really are feeling. The times are certainly unprecedented and the emotions that go with it are too. So, how do we make sense of what we're feeling?
The best reference for what we're all going through in the first instance is to recognise that it's probably grief.
Because we have a sense of "loss". Real loss. We have lost our way of life, our freedoms, our routines, our social life, our sport, our face-to-face connections, our clients, our revenues, and some have lost their jobs and others have lost their whole businesses. And we are all grieving collectively. Some more than others.
Added to this there is some anticipatory anxiety. Usually anxiety is associated with lots of "what if…" statements or with trying to anticipate or work out the future. We are now experiencing uncertainty and with that comes anxiety.
For example, we might be asking ourselves the following:
- Have we lost our normal way of life forever?
- Will things even get back to normal again?
- Is this the new "normal" what we have now?
- When will this end?
- Will it ever end?
- What has this done to my career?
- Will I find another job?
- How on earth can I rebuild my business?
- How many years will it take to rebuild my business?
So how do we manage this grief and anxiety?
Originally, it was the psychiatrist, Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who pioneered the work on death and dying which has its parallels in grief. She purported that there were various stages that a person moves through in relation to grief although not everyone passes sequentially through each stage:
- Denial: "This virus won't affect us." "This virus won't reach us."
- Anger: "You're taking away my freedoms and making me stay home!" "You made me give up my gym and my exercise!" "You've taken away my life!" "You took away my job!" "You shut down my business!"
- Bargaining: "So okay, if I social distance for a month, it will all be alright again, right?" "If I can just get through this self-isolation for two weeks, then we can live again, right?"
- Depression: "I don't know when this will end" "Am I going to survive this?" "It all seems too hard."
- Acceptance: "This is real and maybe this is the new normal, so I have to figure out how to cope." "What steps can I take to make the most of this?" "Maybe I can see this self-isolation for two weeks as a 'gift', so how can I use this time wisely?" "What can I do to look at possibly re-training myself into a new job and career?"
Needless to say, Acceptance is where people feel more in control. "I can wash my hands." "I can make sure that I keep a safe distance." I can choose to ensure that I go to the shops when there are no crowds." "I can learn to work from home and set myself up at home."
It might take time to get to Acceptance and sadly, some never make it there, but fall by the wayside caught up in their anger or resentment or their feelings of being down and overwhelmed.
So, what will it take to make it through to Acceptance? What would support you on that journey? Who could help you?
You owe it to yourself and to those around you to push through.