Minutes ago I was wandering around the kitchen wondering what to write about for this week’s issue of the East Cork Journal. I fully intended to avoid the “C-word” but then I saw this article. I can’t resist a good mnemonic – and when the author (Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap) then generously gave permission to share it – well, I couldn’t resist. So here it is, edited heavily, full version link below.
How to “FACE COVID”
F = Focus on what’s in your control
The Corona crisis can affect us in many different ways: physically, emotionally, economically, socially, and psychologically. All of us are (or soon will be) dealing with the very real challenges of widespread serious illness and the inabilities of healthcare systems to cope with it, social and community disruption, economic fallout and financial problems … and the list goes on.
The single most useful thing anyone can do in any type of crisis is to focus on what you can control.
You can’t control what happens in the future. You can’t control Corona virus itself or the world economy or how your government manages this whole sordid mess. And you can’t magically control your feelings, eliminating all that perfectly natural fear and anxiety. But you can control what you do – here and now. And that matters.
Because what you do – here and now – can make a huge difference to yourself, and anyone living with you, and a significant difference to the community around you.
A = Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings
Silently and kindly acknowledge whatever is ‘showing up’ inside you: thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, sensation, urges. Take the stance of a curious scientist, observing what’s going on in your inner world.
And while continuing to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, also ….
C = Come back into your body
Come back into and connect with your physical body. Find your own way of doing this. You could try some or all of the following, or find your own methods:
• Slowly pushing your feet hard into the floor.
• Slowly straightening up your back and spine; if sitting, sitting upright and forward in your chair.
• Slowly pressing your fingertips together
• Slowly stretching your arms or neck, shrugging your shoulders.
• Slowly breathing
Why? So you can gain as much control as possible over your physical actions, even though you can’t control your feelings. (Remember, F = Focus on what’s in your control)
E = Engage in what you’re doing
You could try some or all of the following suggestions, or find your own methods:
• Look around the room and notice 5 things you can see.
• Notice 3 or 4 things you can hear.
• Notice what you can smell or taste or sense in your nose and mouth
• Notice what you are doing
• End the exercise by giving your full attention to the task or activity at hand.
C = Committed Action
Committed action means effective action, guided by your core values; action you take because it’s truly important to you; action you take even if it brings up difficult thoughts and feelings. Now obviously that includes all those protective measures against Corona – frequent handwashing, social distancing, and so on. But in addition to those fundamentals of effective action, consider: What are simple ways to look after yourself, those you live with, and those you can realistically help? What kind, caring, supportive deeds you can do? Can you say some kind words to someone in distress – in person or via a phone call or text message? Can you help someone out with a task or a chore, or cook a meal, or play a game with a young child?
And if you’re spending a lot more time at home, through self-isolation or forced quarantine, or social distancing, what are the most effective ways to spend that time? You may want to consider physical exercise to stay fit, cooking (as) healthy food (as possible, given restrictions), and doing meaningful activities by yourself or with others.
Repeatedly throughout the day, ask yourself ‘What can I do right now – no matter how small it may be – that improves life for myself or others I live with, or people in my community?’ And whatever the answer is – do it, and engage in it fully.
O = Opening up
Opening up means making room for difficult feelings and being kind to yourself. Difficult feelings are guaranteed to keep on showing up as this crisis unfolds: fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, guilt, loneliness, frustration, confusion, and many more. We can’t stop them from arising; they’re normal reactions. But we can open up and make room for them: acknowledge they are normal, allow them to be there (even though they hurt), and treat ourselves kindly.
So ask yourself, ‘If someone I loved was going through this experience, feeling what I am feeling – if I wanted to be kind and caring towards them, how would I treat them?
V = Values
Committed action should be guided by your core values: What do you want to stand for in the face of this crisis? What sort of person do you want to be, as you go through this? How do you want to treat yourself and others?
Your values might include love, respect, humour, patience, courage, honesty, caring, openness, kindness … or numerous others. Look for ways to ‘sprinkle’ these values into your day. Let them guide and motivate your committed action.
What can you do to look back at in years to come and feel proud of your response?
I = Identify resources
Identify resources for help, assistance, support, and advice. This includes friends, family, neighbours, health professionals, emergency services. And make sure you know the emergency helpline phone numbers, including psychological help if required. Also reach out to your social networks. And if you are able to offer support to others, let them know; you can be a resource for other people, just as they can for you. One very important aspect of this process involves finding a reliable and trustworthy source of information. The World Health Organisation website is the leading source of such information.
D = Disinfect & distance physically
I’m sure you already know this, but it’s worth repeating: disinfect your hands regularly and practice as much social distancing as realistically possible, for the greater good of your community. And remember, we’re talking about physical distancing – not cutting off emotionally.
The full version of this article with more in-depth explanations of each point is accessible here
A good selection of short exercises to quieten our minds is here
A colleague Rosarii Ryan put a great deal of work into gathering these resources all together onto one page – thanks again!
And remember that mental health practitioners are in the list of essential services that continue to provide services. If your therapist doesn’t or cannot provide online work check this site (there are others too of course) for those who do. Check here and you will find also a list of therapists who are offering their services for free at this time.
Here is a resource pack for professionals including pieces that teachers can use.
The Psychological Society of Ireland are also in the process of getting a list together – keep an eye on their website for updates on free and low cost COVID related therapy.
And finally, some wise words:
‘When you’re going through hell, keep going’.W. Churchill