It’s OK to not be OK

Thought for the week

There’s a good reason for clichés, old wives’ tales, and phrases such as ‘It’s OK to not be OK’. There is an element of truth in all of them. 

And seven weeks into lockdown we want to reassure you that whatever you are feeling is OK. Covid-19 is not just a physical risk. If you are lonely because you are isolated or working from home, stressed by juggling childcare and work, dealing with bereavement, or returning to work on the frontline following a difficult time with Covid-19 it is natural for you to feel a level of anxiety. 

We are all, to some degree, scared right now. A pandemic and the changes and risks it brings is traumatic. Trauma fractures our sense of safety and security and everything we knew becomes compromised. 

Fear doesn’t just disappear, but we can learn to walk alongside it and take action anyway. The truth is we are never really safe to begin with - life can change in an instant - but there are many things we can do to help us cope. 

The clinicians with years of experience amongst us, and those who have faced adversity already in their lives, will already know this and will have adapted to some degree.  But we are facing a new reality now, and for those of you returning to work having experienced the illness, or readjusting after homeworking/isolation, we will be putting some things in place to help you.

So how do we ‘feel the fear and do it anyway?’

Fear is something we all struggle with and stepping out of our comfort zones - especially for those who have now experienced the virus first-hand - is huge. But taking action despite our fears, doing the things that scare us under significant uncertainty, is how we grow and become more resilient, as uncomfortable as this might seem.

Basically - and this is never easy - we have to learn to take back the control we do have and let go of everything we cannot control.  Technically, there isn’t much we can do about Covid-19 nor the impact it is having. But there is a lot we can do for the wellbeing of ourselves and others.

When you are struggling with overwhelming fear try these tips:

  • Ask yourself why?
    Why am I scared, what of, what do I think is going to happen?  What is the worst?

    And isn’t that ok? It’s OK to be scared, concerned, overwhelmed after all. Acknowledge your feelings, but don’t let them stop you from living.  Instead of being annoyed at yourself that you can’t stop worrying, accept that you are worried and don’t blame yourself.

    Consider ‘what if my fear were unfounded?  What might I have missed?’
  • Act 'as if'
    Act as if you are confident, as if all will be well.  As if you were not afraid.

    Picture yourself in the same situation you are confronting, but as if all is ok.  How would you be coping then?  What would you be thinking, feeling? Carry this picture with you.
  • What would you do if you knew it would ultimately be alright?
    Imagine if you could say ‘I can go to work, and I will be fine’. Knowing that you will cope whatever happens. The answer probably is that you would do it.

    Think about why you were in this line of work; you chose to be a health professional - would you really have it differently? 
  • What are the consequences of doing nothing?
    If you do nothing, you stay stuck where you are, nothing changes - you remain in fear.

    Project yourself forward a few years: ask yourself ‘what would I have liked to have done?’ 
  • Progress not Perfection
    Don't aim for perfection right away: just take small steps you are comfortable with.

    Don't compare yourself to others, don't aim for their goals. Aim for your own personal progress. Take that first step. Make a start.

 

You cannot control any outcome right now, but you don’t have to increase your fear by expecting the worst either. Think the best, enjoy what you can, because ‘what will be will be’.

Fear has the ability to make us freeze, run away, or fight. But are any of these the outcome we would really want? So take back the control you do have. We are powerless against the virus, but not ourselves - we can adjust how we respond and in doing so help others do the same.

Ensure you look after yourself as well as you can: rest, eat & drink well, exercise, spend time on your own interests, your family and friends. Use tools like mindfulness & relaxation (Headspace, Calm), visualisation, our sources of help guide.  Keep talking and sharing your fears: speak to your line manager, colleagues and our health provider Kays Medical. EEAST wellbeing team can provide further information if needed too.

But whatever you do remember that it really is OK not to be OK. You simply need to accept your thoughts and feelings, put them to one side, feel the fear, but do it anyway. Don’t let Covid-19 stop you living the life you have.

Take care of yourself and each other.

Published 7th May 2020

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