Coronavirus FAQs: making sense of how you feel
The word ‘unprecedented’ is used a lot at the moment, but it’s true that we’re all experiencing something we’ve never been through before. This can result in new and unexpected emotions and feelings. Here are some of the questions our therapists have been asked by patients in the last few weeks, with answers that will hopefully help you understand why you might feel as you do.
Is it normal that I feel like I do? We’re facing a threat, and it’s very normal that most people will feel some level of anxiety in response to it. We’re also experiencing a lot of disruption, which can make us feel upset, frustrated, angry, down, bored – or a combination of them all! Whatever you feel at the moment, it’s okay. If the feeling becomes overwhelming or distressing, however, or stops you from doing day-to-day activities, you might need to seek support.
I’m feeling under pressure to do new things – or feeling guilty that I’m not! Some people suggest that we ‘should’ try to make the most of this opportunity to learn, create and achieve. Apparently Shakespeare wrote King Lear when he was in quarantine! If you’re not working and have more time on your hands, or you’re continuing to shield or self-isolate, having a purpose and focus can be helpful. However, we shouldn’t forget that we’re all experiencing a collective trauma, and under these circumstances we can’t expect ourselves to be productive or creative.
It’s difficult to feel motivated when you’re worried, or to find the necessary time or energy if you’re working and juggling childcare. Just getting through this time is difficult enough. If you’re managing to keep on top of your work, home schooling and shopping, then you’re doing fine. Be kind to yourself. However, if you’re really struggling to get the basics done – getting up and having a shower, or perhaps the washing is piling up – this might be a sign you need to seek help.
If I’m hating lockdown, does this mean I’m not resilient? No, this is perfectly understandable! As humans, we crave normality and purpose. Some major and important parts of our lives are now missing, and even the loss of small things can be extremely unsettling. You may have hated your commute, for example, but the disappearance of the daily routine of working life can be very destabilising.
Should I feel guilty if I’m doing okay? No, everyone is having a different experience, and however you’re dealing with it is fine. Some people struggle, some muddle through and manage, and others thrive. Human beings are adaptable. There are a lot of things that are difficult right now, but people are finding ways to enjoy and make the most of this time, such as spending more time with their family, catching up with jobs around the house or exercising outside.
Some people who find it difficult to interact with others, or who prefer their own company, might be very comfortable with the isolation. Others may have predicted they’d struggle, but are doing better than expected – for example if they were working too hard they might welcome the break from the ‘rat race’.
You can use this to help you when we start to come out of lockdown. Think about what you’ve got out of this time. What have you learned? What would you like to keep doing? And what do you want to leave behind?
Is it weird that I don’t know what day it is? No – this is a bit like an extended version of that ‘limbo’ period between Christmas and New Year! The regular things which marked out the time in our days and weeks and months have gone – such as work, sporting fixtures, exercise classes and school terms. In addition to that, we’re not making plans for the future either. This can mean the days all blend together!
Why am I feeling overwhelmed with information? It’s hard to imagine what it was like for people in previous times of crisis. Now we have access to social media, 24-hour news, and notifications that arrive on our phone. News used to be sporadic, and people would find out about things after the event. Now it’s instant, and there’s lots of it.
We’re overloaded with messages that are sometimes contradictory and confusing, and which often bring more questions than answers. There’s also fake news and misinformation about , which can make us anxious or give us false hope. The best way to deal with this is to set aside a time to check the news a few times a day, and stick to trusted sources.
Is psychological support even available, given the strain on health services? Yes – many therapy services are still available, although treatment is often offered in different ways, including by phone or video call. There’s a clear focus on physical health at the moment, for obvious reasons, but mental health is still recognised as very important. You can talk to your GP or search online to see what help is available in your area.
Are you prioritising people with specific anxiety about coronavirus? No. People are mentioning the effects of lockdown when they talk to us, but most are still coming with previous unrelated difficulties. We are helping people who are specifically anxious or feeling low about the coronavirus, and for some people who were already experiencing problems this has made them worse. However, many were already intending to seek support before this started.
Ieso is always open! If you find yourself struggling with feelings of depression, stress or anxiety, you can refer yourself for online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Find out more about what CBT is or how CBT can treat depression..