Dear Beingwell: "I feel like I have no control"
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I feel like I can't switch off. Whether I'm thinking that I have coronavirus because I was near someone on public transport or worrying that someone I love will get the coronavirus - the feelings are there more and more often.
Strangely I am not actually that concerned about catching the actual virus myself. I am in my twenties, healthy and active. However, I get a butterfly’s type of feeling in my tummy when I come back to my parents' house after being out (even if it's simply for a walk by myself). I am following the rules and social distancing, but there’s no guarantee I won’t catch the virus and pass it on. I feel like I have no control and I can’t shake the uncertainty and frustration. I’d love some advice!
Thank you, Francesca
Chief Life Coach
With all the uncertainty and changes surrounding us at the moment, it can be difficult not to be feeling this way. Many of us are experiencing heightened anxiety, perhaps irritability, sadness or overwhelm, and it’s not surprising as so much about the COVID-19 pandemic is beyond our control.
For many of us, like you, it is not necessarily the virus itself we fear. It is likely more the fear of the unknown. As you say, we are distantly engaging with others in public, the supermarket checkout staff, public transport users, and even just people we pass by on a walk. How can we know that they are not carrying the virus, and we haven’t just exposed ourselves to the risks?
Unfortunately, we cannot know for sure, but, the Office of National Statistics figure around 80% of people in the UK are complying with the Government’s safety guidelines. So, we can assume that most of the people we pass by have been staying safe and sticking to the rules ... and therefore our risk of exposure is lowered. For the other 20%, we should practise tolerating uncertainty to keep those pesky doubts away.
Our top tips on accepting uncertainty:
1. Practice uncertainty and reflect on your experience
We can start by doing small things to practise feeling a little more comfortable with uncertainty. This could include cooking a meal without triple checking the recipe or picking a random show to watch without knowing anything about it! When doing something without certainty it's useful to start asking ourselves these questions:
Did things turn out ok even though I wasn’t 100% certain?
If things didn’t turn out ok, what happened?
What did I do to cope with the negative outcome?
Was I able to handle the negative outcome?
What does this tell me about my ability to cope with negative outcomes in the future?
2. Practice Mindfulness
When overthinking starts, we can get lost in a flurry of thoughts. I would recommend trying to practice some mindfulness or deep breathing to get back to focus on the present or get some fresh air to refresh your mind. Practising mindfulness doesn’t have to be an intense meditation, it can be as simple as:
focusing on your meal or a household job
taking a walk in the park and attending to our senses while doing so
3. Apply Acceptance
Unfortunately, it is difficult to just shake negativity off, whatever anyone might tell you. Instead, focus on embracing positivity when it arrives, and when the negativity or fear creeps in, try to remember that we are not our thoughts.
Anxiety is a normal human response, but it is not fact. By accepting this, thoughts lose some of their power to upset us. It might be hard at first, but try accepting thoughts for what they are - just thoughts.
Additionally, connect with family and friends, virtually or for a socially distanced walk. The more we talk about feeling this way, and hear from others the more reassured we can be that we are not the only one.
We may not have embraced the pandemic with open arms (nor anything else due to distancing restrictions) but we have coped well considering ... even if our anxiety is heightened and our moods are all over the place. It's important to accept that it's normal to feel this way at the moment with so many ‘what if’s’ around our own health, a loved one’s health, financial stability, job security and the general disruption to what we know and do.
If you feel like you are still really struggling, or that your experiences are getting worse, it might be a good idea to seek professional support from a GP or a therapist as both of these support systems are still running. The support is available (it may just be online, a video or phone call) so do seek it out.
Chief Life Coach
“ I welcomed the opportunity to work alongside the team as a Life Coach in our mission to break the stigma and change the way mental health is viewed in society. “
If you have a question to ask one of our experts, please send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that your personal details will remain anonymous and we will assign you a pseudonym name. For more support on uncertainty, check out our blog on resilience, coping and self-compassion here.