Feeling the Fear and Moving Forward

Feeling the Fear and Moving Forward

TalkOut’s Clinical Psychology Researcher, Natalie Edwards, talks out about how we are all feeling right now and explores ways we can move forward.

The changes that Boris Johnson recently outlined have left people feeling anxious about both the here and now and the future. For the past few weeks we have been told to stay indoors, to protect our NHS and to save lives. We are now being encouraged to stay alert, to return to work where we can and some parents will be taking their children to nursery or school. We now need to change and adapt our mindsets to be more flexible and rational during this time.

We need to look at the bigger picture and the context of the situation. We are being flooded with stories on the pandemic. So, it is only natural that coronavirus and the fear attached to it is at the forefront of our minds. We may find that our stress levels and our fight or flight response are going into overdrive as our mind and body prepares for this daily threat. Feeling OK, sad, overwhelmed, anxious and happy all in one day has become our new normal of emotions. Leaving the house and engaging with other people has become something that we fear, so how do we adapt our thinking and live our ‘new normal’ without letting this fear consume us?

‘Our environment has conditioned us to fear life as we knew it over the past few weeks’

It may feel as though we have lost control of certain aspects of our lives, so it is helpful to focus on what we do still have control over. This might be noticing any unhelpful thoughts that surface and forming a more balanced perspective, thinking about what we are grateful for, gathering the facts, doing things that provide a sense of enjoyment, staying true to our values, supporting colleagues and most importantly talking about how we feel. We can start to let go of what we cannot control, such as thinking about the future, what will happen next, and the actions of others.

Our workplaces have a duty of care to ensure our safety while at work, including managing and assessing the risk of coronavirus. It is both their responsibility and our responsibility to ensure vital safety measures are adhered to, including social distancing, frequent handwashing, and use of PPE where appropriate. Before returning to our new normal at work, it will feel reassuring to discuss with managers what measures have been put in place to reduce the risk to ourselves and others. Having reassurance that we will be safe in our workplace will help reduce anxiety levels, where our environment has conditioned us to fear life as we knew it over the past few weeks.

As a result of feeling anxiety, we can start to behave differently and avoid certain situations. Doing more of what we are now encouraged to do, while observing the safety measures outlined above, will help us to gradually re-introduce ourselves to the outside world again. There is a huge opportunity for us to learn and grow from the past few weeks and I think the most important takeaway is that we are all in this together and are all processing this in our own individual ways – and that’s OK. Talking about how we are feeling, even if that does not change the situation, will help us to process our emotions and thoughts, supporting us to move forward. We can all choose how we move forward each day to support our wellbeing better, whether that is looking after yourself before looking after everybody else, appreciating the simpler things in life or being a changemaker in role modelling positive mental health behaviours. We will get through this, by talking out together.

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