A perfect storm for psychological struggles this week?

27 - May - 2020

Bad news, witnessing conflict in Government and sensing uncertainty are having a very bad impact on some peoples wellbeing at the moment. Are you struggling?

First of all you are not alone in this. People are talking to us about how they are feeling angry, frustrated and anxious right now. The bad news, the conflict and the uncertainty are the big contextual factors that are driving or exacerbating peoples existing struggles with their psychological wellbeing. 

You may be feeling like this or you may be feeling something completely different - importantly though it is good to remember that whilst your feelings may be difficult they are valid! Of course its always complex and rarely possibly to say that it is just one thing that is causing distress but there are some common themes that you might identify with? 

One of these is the constant bombardment of bad news and information, there are the facts, the interpretations and the outpourings of opinions with the many differing perspectives. The factual information is for the moment very distressing for many people in many ways, death rates from COVID are much greater in the UK than people had hoped and a number of other factual indicators are also very negative. 

At times of shared difficulty it is usual for people to look to those in authority for reassurance and when this brings no reassurance then distress can worsen. This is particularly true for people who have poor life experiences of authority figures. In the news at the moment are a number of examples of countries where there is conflict between those in authority and this is also currently the case here in the UK at the moment many people are aware of conflicts in the heart of authority. 

It is not about who is the authority, or even what the policies are so much as the witnessing of the apparent interpersonal conflicts that matters. Society structures are like large family structures and Governments are like heads of the household, ordinarily it matters little but at times of crisis their importance increases. So when those in Government are in conflict at a time of national emergency it can reawaken difficult experiences for anyone who grew up in families that were volatile, unstable or abusive. 

However you don’t have to have grown up in a difficult family, the opposite can also be true. So if you have always found reassurance and stability from those who you see as authority figures then to be witnessing conflict and not finding reassurance might be equally as distressing.

In essence then it is complicated but right now it might be seen that the combination of bad news, conflict in our structures of authority and the ongoing uncertainty are causing a perfect storm of conditions that are causing distress.

So what can we do about it?

1. Try to ensure you can recognise when you are starting to struggle - catching a struggle early can be really important in limiting the impact of the concerns on you. Do this by identifying the warning signals, ask yourself what happens to me when I am struggling? Examples might be - being impatient with others, perspiring, feeling lightheaded, snacking, thinking too much. If you find this difficult ask people close to you what they think happens when you are having a tough time.

2. Know the things that make you feel better, what does relax you, make you smile, break your cycle of negative thinking? List those things that have worked in the past, examples might be exercise, watching a favourite movies or show, listening to music, dancing, cleaning, talking to a friend, meditating.

3. When you have been able to create some distance from your difficult thoughts and feelings ask yourself what was happening for you before you started to struggle? Do you remember where you were, watching you were doing, who you were speaking to, what you were reading. Do this so that you can identify the trigger for you starting to feel bad.

4. See if you can connect something around the current situation to difficult times in the past or an issue that seems very pressing right now. If for example you did grow up in a home with conflict and you are reminded of that then it is important to remind yourself that whilst they might bring up similar feelings what was happening then is not what is happening now. This situation is different and you are different. 

Otherwise if there is something very pressing and financial concerns are very common right now, then understanding how important it is helps you to find the focus to look for a resolution.

5. Finally, share your struggles with someone you trust. Voicing our experiences helps us to make sense of them, often to say them out loud is enough, whilst at other times we might need to decide on a new course of action, either way it’s a start.