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"Take things one day at a time"

Sunday 22 March 2020

"Take things one day at a time"


A local counsellor has shared his top tips for de-stressing in these uncertain times.

With everything going on at the moment, it can be difficult to find time to look after ourselves. Cliff Le Clercq shares his advice on how to think positively and reduce anxiety...

""Keep calm and carry on!" was the invocation of the British Government as World War II approached. 

These days we see war reduced to an image on a screen, and it always seems to be somewhere else far away and doesn’t really affect us.

Now along comes Covid-19: seemingly real and unreal at the same time, an emotional earthquake where suddenly nothing is predictable. This disorientation is very distressing and we lose our bearings in the tsunami of uncertainty.

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Pictured: Uncertainty is often the root of anxiety, Cliff explains.

Fear and dread take over and we ask angrily, 'Who is responsible for this? Can we trust what we are being told? We question leadership: do they know what they are up to? How safe are we in their hands?' Any change of information brings more doubt.

And we who have lived most of our lives relatively safely, viewing the worlds woes from afar, are suddenly immersed in a pandemic of global proportions. Scary? Yes.

And many of us are thrown, some badly. Deep anxiety abounds along with confusion, anger and big questions: what is happening? Who’s in charge? What can we do?

As a therapist who sees clients with anxiety, I really understand the sense of panic with loss of control. This is an unknown to us and some folks feel like they are in a sort of surreal movie.

Doctors surgeries are swamped with calls from the worried well, seeking reassurance. It is a time where holding our nerve will pay handsomely. But how? No one knows what the future holds. History has a few answers: we have been here for millennia, survived war, pestilence and famine and we will survive and continue. Even of those infected, most are said to recover. Our real wealth lies in the experience of our tribal elders who survived the occupation; their legacy is proof of the strength of the herd.

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Pictured: Cliff suggests looking to history to draw on the "strength" of those who survived the occupation.

The economic landscape will change and long term maybe for the better.

The gig economy has taught us a lot about flexibility and ad hoc work, with multiple streams of income. The 9-5 commitment allows no time for pursuit of other avenues or re training for new opportunities, even though some will say better the devil you know. For some, a semblance of control and order is badly needed. Many sources of employment are in a state of flux and fear of economic insecurity is very destabilising but socially we are a good community and the Dunkirk spirit is alive and well here.

Will life change? Yes. We may take some enforced time off to inventory ourselves and a break from the endless grind may provide some much needed new perspectives. Flexibility will be the key to emotional and financial survival. 

Your life is not over. Some of our plans may need to change, you will get enough to eat, most of us will still live to remember this and a new normal will emerge. The experience may well make us a better society. The motto of the marines says 'adapt and adjust', and so we must.

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Pictured: A brisk walk outside can "remind you the world still works".

I would be remiss as a therapist if I did not supply some practical tips the reader can use to reduce stress. When our fight or flight response is triggered, our worst fears emerge from our imagination with horns on: 'I won’t be able to…..' fill in the blank. Employing diaphragm breathing to ensure a good oxygen supply to the part of the brain that works things out can be done like this:

Blow out through the mouth until you can’t force any more breath out, then breathe in through the nose and hold the breath for five full seconds. Count the seconds to yourself and do not be tempted to rush. Release breath slowly then forcing all remaining breath out again and repeat as many time as required until calm returns. You cannot do this properly and not get a reduction in stress. 

And please do not hover over social media looking for the next bulletin of drama. If you are prone to suffering from anxiety, this will will only re-feed the fear. Catching up on the news twice a day is more than enough. 

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Pictured: Staying away from social media can help to reduce anxiety.

Recognise if you feel frozen into waiting to be afflicted. Try to break the mood by doing some housework. If weather allows, brisk walking on the beach or countryside will remind you the world still works.

And take things one day at a time; too much future staring aggravates anxiety. If you are ok now... then you’re ok now."

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author, and not of Bailiwick Express.

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