Life, Interrupted

life interupted

Episode one.

Live under the pandemic of COVID19 is manageable in 2-week chunks. But, the reality may be much longer than a series of 2-week chunks, with an eventual return to normal. Things may be challenging for quite a while.

Breathe before reading this paragraph. …

What is probably going to be the case? According to Dr Marc Lipsitch (1), epidemiologist and leading commentator from the school of Public Health at Harvard University. We are just at the beginning of learning to live with COVID-19. The nature of infectious diseases is to replicate and spread as much as possible. The interim strategy of social distancing has been effective to slow down transmission, but does not work permanently. What we need is the security provided by a immunization, proven treatment regimes and a dearth of recovered cases. We will be living with COVID19 until there is a vaccine -one that is available to everyone. Estimates for a vaccine range from 1 year to 18 months away. In the meantime, we will manage with the range of public health activities that we have been using thus far (hand washing, social distancing, mouth covering) Things are not going ‘back to normal’ for a while (1,2.3)

 

The new ‘normal’.

Over the next year to eighteen months will possibly feature repeated periods of work-from-home scenarios, new models of education, suspension of gathering of large groups, and interruptions in activities – a new normal.

This interrupted life is unsettling. It is created by the progression and regression of a pandemic, that despite our best unattempts, is not completely predictable. Anxiety is a natural reaction to this uncertainty.

Anxiety can be experienced in an acute or chronic form. We experience acute anxiety in a strong concentrated form, possibly escalating into a panic episode. These acute instances are intense, usually one-off episodes attached to a trauma. Anxiety around exams and in response to an accident may be examples of acute anxiety.

Chronic anxiety is more constant. Perpetual. It presents as unregulated feelings of nervousness – often located in the stomach, head and neck. Frequent worries persist. Catastrophic thinking – expecting the worst to happen – becomes more regular. Sleep disturbances, stomach upset, migraines and aches and pains in the body are expressions of this anxiety.

What can you do? Anxiety considerations during the new normal. I will cover actions in a series of episodes.

Episode 1: Anxiety dialogues

Episode 2: Create calm

Episode 3: Body basics

Episode 4:  Untangled

Episode 5: New beginnings

 

Episode 1: Anxiety dialogues

Monitor your feelings of anxiety when you watch the news or spend time on social media. For some people those activities can increase their sense of anxiety, for others it may decrease their anxiety. If you are reacting with increased anxiety, consider to decrease your exposure to news and social media streams.

Given the severe outcomes from COVID-19 you may worry about other tragedies that might befall you, Because of our fight/flight/freeze stress response that we respond to threats, remains over stimulated. We can’t calm down without deliberate activity aimed to do so. Our already heightened anxiety starts to look for additional threats. In the case of our experience of COVID-19 this is not an imagined threat to the human species. We can sometimes overgeneralise the threat of these threats to us specifically.

anxious childYou may have felt that you are powerless over your anxiety. This anxiety dialogue exercise may well help you learn to manage your anxiety during this time.

Your anxiety child: Talk back to your anxiety, as if it is a small child that lives inside you. Help this young child understand the risk. Hold their hand whilst you explain the actions that you are going to undertake to help mitigate your risk of infection. Don’t tell dismiss their worries, by saying that worry is silly. Do not try to simply silence your anxiety. Listen, and talk back. Acknowledge the fear, but explain that you do not need to let worries disable you. Comfort your internal anxious child that you will take care. Thank your anxiety for reminding you that there are threats in the world, and that there is danger.

Dialogues with your anxiety may run as waves lapping at the shore of a beach. Let the anxiety roll in and regress, as if your anxious child, and your adult self are in a dance – make it a waltz.

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As always we are open to feedback and questions about the advice that we provide. If  you would like more information on want to provide feedback please contact us at reception@reddoor.hk

#COVID19 #anxiety #newnormal #anxietymanagement #reddoor #chronicanxiety

 

Readings

  1. Kissler, SM; Tedijanto, C; Goldstein, E; Grad, YH; and Lipsitch, M. April 2020. Projecting the transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 through the postpandemic period. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2020/04/14/science.abb5793
  2. Gates, B. Feb 2020. Responding to Covid-19 — A Once-in-a-Century Pandemic? Bill Gates. The New England Journal of Medicine https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmp2003762
  3. Ferguson, NM; Laydon,D; Nedjati-Gilan, G et al. March 2020. Report 9: Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand. Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team https://spiral.imperial.ac.uk/bitstream/10044/1/77482/14/2020-03-16-COVID19-Report-9.pdf

Cohabitation conflict – Relationship tension during a lockdown.

cohabitation conflictEven if you love your partner truly, madly, deeply, you may find that spending time together, in virtual lockdown, has you feeling more well and deeply, truly mad.

The Coronavirus pandemic is challenging relationships and changing family life. The WHO estimates that 1.4 billion children are out of school without access to their regular activities. Parents are under additional pressure to maintain their jobs and employment opportunities, whilst caring for children and conducting or overseeing home schooling. This has serious implications. Evidence indicates that violence and vulnerability increase during periods of health emergency (1,2). The media in Britain has recorded 2 cases of femicide during lockdown. According to the French media, reports of domestic violence have increased by 36% during the lockdown period.

Even without the serious element of violence, conflict between couples appears to be increasing whilst individuals spend more time together during stay at home instructions. There are numerous social media comments indicating that even regular relationships are under renewed pressure because of the siege. According to some news reports, divorce applications in China spiked after their lockdown, and in New York, divorce lawyers claim an increase in calls regarding inquiries regarding divorce.

Perhaps you might be seriously considering divorce, and if you are, I recommend that you read our article on preparing for divorce in the references below (3).

If your desire to split is, perhaps, created by intensive time together and extreme focus on your partner’s habits or behaviours, here are some potential cohabitation conflict busters that might be of help.

 

“What was that?” The power of distraction.

Some of the arguments that you may want to have, or personal shortfalls that you might like to highlight, do not need to happen. Hit “Pause”. Eject the tape. winston c WordsLeave the room. Go for walk. Distract yourself. You don’t need to have a fight that you will possibly regret. The best fight you had, was the one you never had.

 

“Is it me?” Reflections that might help you hit “Pause” when you want to blow up.

If you are feeling particularly frustrated with your partner consider the following 5 questions to help you reflect on your position.

Question 1. Timing: Does this discussion have to happen right at this time? Would there be another time be more constructive to have this discussion? For example, if you don’t like the way your partner is caring for your child, is it better to shout at them at the time that they are conducting child care, or might it be better to wait until later in the evening when such a conversation may be held without the child present, and in terms of shared goals and expectations?

Question 2. Collaborative Partnership: Do you want your relationship to be a partnership? Do you feel that you and your romantic partner collaborative or more as rivals? Does one partner encourage change or demand change of their partner? If you think behaviours of your partner need to change, is this possibly based on your personal preferences rather than real necessity? If you have an irritation that you would like to highlight to your partner, is there a method that you could use that highlights your desire to be seen as a partner that is without judgement or threat?

conflict can not survideQuestion 3. Status You: What is your emotional state right now, and will this be the same way you might feel later? If you are tired, hungry, feeling unwell, or coping with pain, you might feel differently after a nap or a visit to a doctor.

Question 4. The villain: Are you portraying your partner as some type of Disney-villain rather than a person who is a work-in-progress? Are their shortcomings, or issues, a big problem to your life, or rather, a small problem that you have become oversensitive to?

Question 5. Control: Is it possible that you are trying to control your partner rather than simply being irritated by their actions? This might include your response to Covid-19 precautions or to tidiness requirements within your home. Your standards may be different and you might feel that your partner should adhere to your standards, but is this fair?

comflict is inevitableYou may like to journal written responses to these questions. Remember, that whilst conflict may be inevitable during increased time together, combat remains optional.

 

“It’s not me, it’s you”. If you are going to fight, fight fair.

We have a recent article below about the key aspects of fighting fair (4) This includes understanding that people have different values, and this is to be expected, accepted, and respected. Compromise and understanding are the goal or any discussion, rather than winning control over your partner. You need to own and take responsibility for how your feelings. Avoid name calling or threats. Focus on listening to your partner rathe than what you want to say, and waiting for the gap to insert your opinion. If you find yourself using terms such as “always” or “never”, I feel almost certain that you are exaggerating your arguments. Try to be specific. Remember. kindness is king.

 

“It’s not you, or me, its us”. Is it time for you to update your relationship operating system?

Companies regularly explore business continuity exercises in order to navigate possible problems which could derail delivery of their services. Various scenarios are explored, pitfalls identified, and the company responds with temporary or permanent changes in the operation of their business.

Perhaps it time for you to update they way that your marriage operates during this crisis, and potentially beyond.

Zoning: During the Covid pandemic there may be cyclical periods of “work from home” required.

Therefore, I recommend that you might like to zone your house in order to better support your ability to execute your work, and home schooling. Make changes that you can live with for a few months, rather than a few weeks. For more details please refer to your article on creating tension free work environments at home (5).

Your role or mine? It might be time for you to update your home task gender roles to the 2020 world, especially as you are at home more often. Men can cook?kitchen Women do not need to be the only parent supporting home schooling. Even kids, can step up their level of contribution at this time.

House rules: you might want to update your house rules as well. Given the amount of time we might spend on our screens – in zoom meetings, or google hangouts – our tolerance of the amount of permissible screen time may have drifted upward within in the early days of the pandemic. As we acclimatised to the novelty of all this screen time during the day, the use of screens outside of work and school might also need to be reviewed. Within our family I noticed we had become like workers each in our own silo, but all under the same roof. I have asked to reconstruct everyone’s day in order for us to spend more time together, especially around dinner, or exercise, or game time. This can be the same for couples as well as families. Reconnect in positive ways, and, perhaps, conflict can dissipate.

We want to celebrate our differences. But people who have different values and mindsets make conflict inevitable. Regardless combat is not inevitable. Hopefully these thoughts help you create some distraction, allow you to reflect, and perhaps even consider reconstruction, which might support your partnerships at this time. If conflict continues, and you want outside mediation, consider a counsellor.

Be well. Keep Calm. Wash your hands. Love one another.

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Readings