We can do this!
Whether we want it or not, the Covid crisis has taken over our daily lives. Now the measures are being eased still further and compulsory schools will reopen on 11 May. The end of home-schooling may be good news, but it will not resolve the fears and insecurity of many families. For example, families containing people who are particularly vulnerable. But other parents, too, are worried, and are currently asking themselves a lot of questions: will my child still find an apprenticeship this summer? Can the necessary hygiene and distancing rules be observed at all in school? What will we do if someone in the family falls ill? How can we alleviate the grandparents’ loneliness, despair and creeping depression? When will the grandparents be able to come and visit us again? Or how will we organise and pay for childcare outside the family? Questions about questions. And not all of them are worries and insecurities, not by a long shot. Because many families are struggling with constantly living in each other’s pockets, family conflicts, or the lack of balance outside the family structure. All this can trigger negative thought cycles.
This article is meant to help you deal with your fears and feel less afraid. You will also learn how you can experience happiness and positive emotions, and how you can do something good.
The article was written by our colleague Miriam Scammacca. She is a social worker and works in the Child and Adolescent Health Department at the Zug Canton Amt für Gesundheit. At this point, we would like to say a big thank you to Miriam!
Dealing with your fears
Who profits from uncertain times like the corona crisis? Fear. On the one hand, as a feeling it is essential to survival. For example, it is meant to warn us of dangers, which also makes sense to a certain extent. So we comply with the measures to protect us against the new coronavirus. But fear also has its negative points. It can block us and restrict our quality of life. Frequently we cannot describe our fears accurately.
Did you know that fear is contagious, if we are not obviously aware of it? That’s why confronting your fears and searching for solutions is not just doing yourself a favour, it’s doing a favour for your children and those you love most. Firstly, therefore, you need to admit to yourself that the situation is difficult before you try to make anything better. So that fear does not overwhelm us, we need first of all to make space for it. This means that, to start with, we need to ask ourselves what we are afraid of. Doing this may stir up additional fears, but it will help to classify your own vague feelings.
Try the following exercise sometime (Source: www.swippa.ch):
- On a piece of paper, write down 15 things that scare you in your day-to-day life.
- Cross out ten points that cannot be changed.
- Set your priorities for the remaining five points that you can change. Consider what you could do to make these things better, and who could support you in this, in case you don’t get very far on your own.
- For each individual fear, ask yourself what need lies behind it and what you could contribute to developing a constructive coping mechanism.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
(Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr)
We cannot suppress anxious thoughts, because then they only bubble up more often. But we can decide how long we will indulge them for, and how much power we want to give to our worries. It is better to direct our attention to things that do us good: relaxation, maybe by taking a hot bath, or reading an exciting book? Or would you rather let off steam in the fresh air? Or maybe just bake something?
“The greatest decision of your life is that you can change your life by changing your mindset.”
Many people are finding the current time very challenging. But take a look at who comes better through a crisis. These are the people who successfully find a purpose in difficult times, or even see the good in them. In the best-case scenario, this enables us to become stronger in a crisis and to boost our abilities.
Positive Psychology, a school more interested in human strengths than illnesses, is researching how people can grow through crises and trauma. Research, and the use of positive interventions, show that there are very few situations in which we cannot work on our own wellbeing. At the same time, however, feeling that there is something we can do is precisely what we find helpful in such situations.
Reducing your fears
There are various strategies that could help you to reduce your fears and worries. Here we describe two of them in a bit more detail:
“Mindfulness exercises” are intended to bring people back into the here and now, alleviating bad feelings. If you become more mindful, you can wait more patiently, and you will also feel physically healthier. Learn more about it under the heading Mindfulness and in the article Be in the here and now.
What is known as “flow experiences” can curb negative feelings. This means that you do something, get excited, and forget your worries. It’s easiest to produce a flow when you’re doing something challenging. This happens when people immerse themselves in something. You can take advantage of the corona crisis, for example, to try new things or revive old, neglected hobbies. So, ask yourselves the questions: how did I used to get into the flow? What have I wanted to try out for a long time now?
Experience happiness and positive emotions
Glück besteht aus vielen ganz unterschiedlichen Aspekten. Der hedonistische Teil - also das StrHappiness consists of many quite different aspects. The hedonistic part – seeking sensuality and sensual enjoyment – is something that many people experience when they meet others, go out for a meal, attend cultural events or when they have fun and do things. But lockdown is putting a spoke in everyone’s wheel right now. We are consuming less, travelling little or not at all and can no longer do anything in a group. All this turns the focus onto our inner resources; do we feel inner harmony with ourselves and our relationships? Obviously we can experience happiness and positive emotions despite the restrictions. However, lockdown is prompting us to reach for new sources of wellbeing, to discover new sources and to foster them all consciously. Many questions are preoccupying us: what brings me joy? What feels good? When am I in my element? What is important to me? What would I like live/experience more of?
We have put together a few ideas for potential exercises that you can do yourself. Maybe one of them will resonate with you, so just give it a try:
- Every evening for at least a week, write down at least one thing that seemed meaningful to you that day.
- Every evening for at least a week, write down at least three good things that you experienced during the day. What were you thankful for today? The effect will be boosted if you also write down the reason why you are thankful for this thing. They can be little things, like a shop assistant smiling at you when you went shopping, a beautiful flower in a field near where you live. It could also be larger things, though, like joy in your fantastic flat, or relief that a friend’s health has improved.
- Would you like to intensify a positive emotion, for example, to experience more humour in your daily life? What can you grin or laugh about? Every evening for one week, write down three funny experiences/observations, with the feelings they triggered in you. You could also extend everyday humour by reading jokes, deliberately watching comic films or swapping funny film recommendations with others on WhatsApp.
After just a week of consistent practice, your perception of your surroundings will change considerably. Your brain will focus more on the positive and you will become more aware of how many good things there are in your life. Happiness in the sense of wellbeing is something that can be trained – like a muscle that grows when you regularly lift weights.
Do something good
Do you know what the fastest and most efficient way of getting rid of a temporary low mood is? Helping other people! By doing something good for others, your brain will reward you with a warm cosy feeling. If you are finding it very difficult to break out a negative cycle of thoughts, think about who you could make happy or do a favour for. Even if the other person does not directly express their gratitude, your brain will still release happiness hormones. And incidentally: positive feelings are contagious too! If you experience more positive emotions in your daily life, you will indirectly foster positive feelings in your family members too, and so contribute to a good vibe.
“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
We hope that this information and these exercises will help you to ride out these difficult times a little better. If you would like even more information, you can find helpful links, sources and other interesting articles here:
- Corona tips for families in Zug Canton
- Get through the corona pandemic with virtual self-help groups
- Forget your corona worries in the flow
- More strategies against fear
- A book tip: Lyubomirsky, S. (2018): Glücklich sein. Warum Sie es in der Hand haben, zufrieden zu leben. Frankfurt am Main. DE: Campus Verlag