Dealing with situations of emotional distress related to COVID-19 - Claude de Scorraille
We find ourselves, all with COVID 19 and the confinement that has been imposed on us for almost 15 days, in an unprecedented situation and which puts our taste for control in difficulty with a consequent emotional overload. Some of us have the ability to handle it, for others it is more difficult. For the latter, this often manifests itself by an emotional overflow which can take several forms: stress, anxiety and anguish. Fear is the emotion that is central to anxiety, alongside it anger is also present, many things can irritate us or make us explode. The pain also manifests itself in particular in the helplessness that we encounter in our relationship to ourselves, to others and to the world. To promote the regulation of these emotions, it is important first of all to know how to recognize them in order to name them. I suggest you meet them.
In our situation, obviously how not to be afraid? it is normal to be afraid. We are facing a very contagious virus, the experts mobilized to fight it disagree on the measures to be taken, we are today more than 2 billion confined in the world, and beyond the risk linked to the disease, there There are of course all the collateral consequences which are already a reality for some, unemployment as well as financial difficulties. So how do you deal with this fear? how to manage anxiety. Jeffrey Zeig tells us that it is important to distinguish fear from anxiety.
Step 1 - distinguishing fear from anxiety
The first question to ask yourself, whether for yourself or for those you accompany, is to know if you rather perceive fear or anxiety?
Fear is a primitive human sensation, which has always helped us to survive and this is how we have been able to develop secure living environments to face the chaotic and often perilous world. Through our perception of fear we can protect ourselves from a real threat - and we feel it physiologically. anxiety, when it may or may not be associated with a real threat. It corresponds to the fear of things that we create in our mind from what we experience. In our situation, the real threat is the coronavirus, it threatens us physically so we are afraid of it. Thanks to anxiety, we will be alert and this allows us to act, to move forward to cope, but this anxiety can also paralyze us. When anxiety reaches too high a threshold, it invades us too much, we feel stressed, preoccupied, and avoidance or control behaviors to soothe this anxiety can be counterproductive. We will see how to avoid this pitfall.
Step 2 - add wood to extinguish the fire
We can rely on the Chinese stratagem, which tells us to add wood to extinguish the fire. This stratagem is particularly interesting because it underlines the interest of a paradoxical approach which aims to calm down by seeking to increase the tension which has settled in us. Indeed if you can increase your tension or your anxiety, it tells you that you can also reduce it. And so it allows you to regain emotional control. The sooner you do this, the less you will approach the state of panic.
Step 3 - connect to your anxiety
It is a stage of acceptance, we do not try to fight against anxiety, nor to overcome it as if it did not exist, on the contrary in this stage we bring our mind to a standstill by connecting it in an activity. of observation (and not in an activity of thought): what do you see around you here and now, what do you hear and what do you feel physically? This exercise allows you to get out of the agitation of your mind to reclaim your mind. I invite you to read the very good book THERAPEUTIC ALLIANCE AND BRIEF THERAPIES by Luc Isebaert and Marie-Christine Cabié which presents this exercise known as 54321.
Step 4 - create a secure framework
Even if your current environment is insecure for many reasons, it is always possible to create a safe place. It can be an isolated place or a place you imagine from a place you have known and felt safe in or it can be a figment of your imagination. You can resume the previous exercise, in order to anchor yourself in a safe bath. It is indeed by feeling sufficiently secure that you can think of and implement the most structuring actions.
Step 5 - the action
This last step corresponds to implementing immediately accessible actions for your well-being, that of your loved ones, your colleagues and any other person around you or any activity that would be necessary to satisfy. These are actions intended for your safety and that of others. Whether it's washing your hands more, working from home, connecting by phone or online with others. There are plenty of things to do that are accessible to restore security in this reality that has disrupted our habits and our comfort.
Anger is also very present in our situation. Frustration and boredom can live in us, studies related to quarantine situations show it. the adaptive function of anger is to allow us to overcome an obstacle. We feel anger when we feel that our needs, our desires, our efforts are hindered or blocked either by ourselves by others or by the environment. Many frustrations and disappointments make us feel angry.
We can feel frustrated, in many different ways, and then arise manifestations of irritability, aggressiveness towards oneself or towards others or even towards the world. It is annoying to see the political, technological and scientific impotence.
The risk is that relationships deteriorate (the number of divorce applications has experienced an unprecedented score in China with the confinement situation) and also that our self-esteem takes a hit because we are unable to control ourselves.
But as this emotion is considered a socially unacceptable feeling, we will tend to contain it.
This is how an accumulation of frustrations exerts pressure like the pressure of a pressure cooker. Until a point of saturation which when it is crossed results in an explosion or an implosion. Either we turn the aggression against others or against ourselves.
What can we do ?
First recognize the anger and then channel it.
We can write it in order to better situate after what or who we have it.
If we suffer that of another, a child, a spouse, we can isolate ourselves to withdraw from an escalation that could lead to violence or we can give consideration to the aggressiveness that is directed at us not because the other deserves it but because this consideration proves to be like a weapon to neutralize the aggressiveness that one undergoes. We can listen to recriminations, inspired by the Indian tradition of offering a talking stick that gives the right to whoever has it in hand to say what he has to say without being interrupted. one will silently listen to one's spouse or child, encouraging him to say everything that irritates and frustrates him. We will refrain from reasoning or moralizing even if we find the remarks excessive and inappropriate, we will avoid giving advice.
You can also relax a tense atmosphere by setting up games, whatever they are. The game offers a space within which the aggressiveness of each is channeled in a playful framework which comes to appease an atmosphere of aggressiveness.
Pain is also present in our situation, whether it is the pain of knowing relatives suffering from corona, of not being able to go to the bedside of one's elderly parents, of not being able to accompany an end of life or even of not being able to organize a funeral rite in the event of death whether or not it is linked to the coronavirus. Pain emerges from our inability to deal with a situation.
What is usually painful is the loss, sadness and illusion that can be experienced when in relationship with oneself one feels physically, socially, emotionally or intellectually incapable, when in relationship with others one may feel neglected, betrayed, abused, disappointed or unable to cope with grief or abandonment and in our relationship to the world in times of natural and human disaster, as is the case today.
Faced with pain, the more we will try to protect ourselves from it by avoiding feeling it, the more we will paradoxically make it last over time.
One way to deal with it, then, is to connect with that feeling of fragility and decant it, writing it down just to let it flow.
The more we are able to do with our vulnerability, the more we stimulate resilience resources. Being resilient means being able to bounce back from the trials of life.
To conclude, I would like to quote the Dalai Lama who reminds us that we cannot stop the storm when it comes. He suggests that in order to find calm, we don't try to stop it and let it pass.
And I want to add that in a storm situation a good lightning rod protects us from lightning. A pen to write down your emotions is a good way to act as a lightning rod.
Thank you for your attention !
Tags: acute stress , stress , anxiety disorders , Challenges of COVID