What do you do when there is so much uncertainty? Learn!
It is a frightening and apprehensive time for us. With so much uncertainty around, we naturally feel scared about what the future entails.
If we act responsibly, then what we know is that most of us will not die – we will be OK. The knowledge that we’re likely to be OK is not the only comfort we can take, because there are other things we know:
- We know that if we keep our distance from other people and wash our hands, we will slow the spread and protect the capacity of our hospitals.
- We know that our government intends to support us financially to protect our jobs, our income and our homes.
- We know that this pandemic will end.
Although I am not an expert on how to get through a pandemic (who is?), it seems helpful to remind ourselves of what we know so that we get through this as best as we can.
The Uncertainty of what comes next
Knowing what we know does not make the anxiety disappear. After all, some disturbing things remain uncertain. Coronavirus is a new disease, and we are not adequately prepared for it. We don’t know enough about how it behaves, and many are asymptomatic or experience mild symptoms.
For the last week, I have had a head-cold and fatigue, which has felt like a sinus cold. As a precaution, I have stayed at home, but the worrying uncertainty is I don’t know what it was. Was it coronavirus? I haven’t had a fever or a cough so public health guidance would suggest not. There is only one way to know for sure – testing!
The world wasn’t ready for this pandemic. We didn’t have the tests or the vaccines in place, but we are trying to change that. Like many, I hope widespread testing arrives soon, especially for frontline keyworkers. While keyworkers may have the option to leave their children at school, for the time being, they are putting themselves in harm’s way. The rest of us need to stay home, so they can go to work and keep the world turning.
What do human beings do when faced with uncertainty?
As I said, none of us has been here before. Some of us have lived through epidemics such as Ebola and SARS, but not many of us. Some of our much older relatives have experienced life during wartime, and they got through it. Many have spoken the word ‘unprecedented’ this week, and for a good reason – no place in the world will be untouched by a coronavirus.
Although these are unprecedented times, human beings can be reasonably predictable. As far as I can work out, people are reacting in four different ways:
- Try to reduce the uncertainty by seeking reassurance, e.g. reading the news too much.
- Take care of other people by over-checking on their welfare.
- Act as if it isn’t that serious and carry on as standard taking no additional precautions.
- Act responsibly, try to remain calm and be kind to others and yourself.
I don’t mean to suggest that you are one of these ways or the other; we shift between them. I’ve seen examples of each in my behaviour over the last fortnight. Perhaps you’ve noticed different ways that people have reacted?
What support can I offer?
Our team of Openforwards therapists and Counsellors are a beautiful family. Of course, I am biased, and I know something that gives me comfort – they are skilled, compassionate and humble.
Together we are learning to adapt and make sense of this new world. It is new for us, just as it is new to you. We need to work from home, and we have switched to offering online and telephone counselling.
While we aren’t infectious disease experts, we are skilled in psychology and behavioural science. We can guide you on ways to cope with this uncertainty, and we can help you to adjust to this new world. Whenever you feel you need some help, we’ll be here to listen.
The Openforwards Weekly Round-Up
When in doubt of what to do – learn. Read with curiosity and soak up what others can teach you because this can give you the wisdom and courage to keep going. Here are some of the things I’ve been reading this week:
- The Psychology of Pandemics – An article from 2018 on World Economic Forum
- I cannot control / I can control – A helpful graphic from The Counselor Teacher
- The Ordinary Corona Hero: You – An article by the elegant and wise, Stephen C Hayes.
- Can I see a therapist online using Skype? – Our latest news on how we are adapting to Coronavirus
Take care and tread gently.
Get in touch
Are you interested in counselling or psychotherapy in Birmingham? Speak to a therapist or book in for a consultation.