Coping and the Coronavirus
Well the coronavirus has finally hit our sleepy little corner of the earth down here in East Devon. Yesterday we went shopping in the local supermarket to find the shelves empty, very little meat, no bread, rice or pasta and, of course, no toilet rolls. Why toilet rolls?? Of all the things I can think of panic buying, toilet rolls would not be in my top 100. I did suggest to Lou that we should panic buy Easter eggs, but sadly, or perhaps sensibly, she just ignored me.
Up till now, we have been watching the news of this outbreak of coronavirus in China and Italy and other countries. However, now the reality has struck home. Now it is not just something on the foreign news, people around us have relatives that are showing symptoms and now we are being told to isolate ourselves.
Wow!! Suddenly we are no longer mildly interested observers. Instead, overnight we have become part of a vulnerable group and need to protect ourselves. That was a bit of a shock. I can’t say that I have ever felt that I was particularly vulnerable to anything, which was not always a smart mindset. So, this new designation was a bit of a blow to my self-image.
So how to cope with it? I believe there several ways to react in the current climate, some of them positive, many of them not so much. It is one of those situations where you can slip into feelings of helplessness very quickly, and who could blame you? However, I believe there is an alternate way, and this is the one we have chosen.
Years ago, I got sober through AA and one of the most useful tools I found there was the Serenity Prayer. I used this prayer a lot in the early days of my sobriety as it both gave me comfort and reminded me of what I could and couldn’t do. The prayer says:-
God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The Courage to change the things I can and
The Wisdom to know the difference
It is a simple, yet profound, statement of the human condition. I eventually came to learn, or found the wisdom to realise, that I was an alcoholic and had no control over my drinking and I needed to accept that truth. But, if I exercised some courage, I could stop drinking and live a great life in sobriety. The wisdom was realising what I could and couldn’t do, that I may have been powerless over some things but there were plenty of areas where I was not powerless.
Back to the present, after the obligatory period of complaining and concern, Lou and I decided that we were going to look at this unprecedented time in a more positive way. At this point some people might say, how can you find anything positive in these circumstances? Well, to paraphrase the serenity prayer, we can’t change the fact that the coronavirus is here, nor can we change our time of isolation, but we can change how we deal with it. We could sit around complaining (after all we are British and very accomplished complainers) or we could join the ranks of the panic buyers, or just see this imposed isolation as an ordeal. Alternately we could view this time as an opportunity.
After a bit of discussion we decided to take a positive view and regard it as an opportunity. The important word in that sentence is ‘decided’, that is we have made a conscious choice to regard what many see as negative as a positive. Psychologists call this ‘reframing’. It is a positive for us as there are several projects that we have never had the time to start or finish. Now we are going to have the time to do them!
Reframing is just looking at an issue in a different way. It is one of the key pillars of Positive Psychology, counselling and, of course, Bottled Up. Reframing does not change a situation; it changes your view of the situation, which gives more options on how you handle the situation. In Bottled Up we show you how to look at your drinker and/or your drinking differently and therefore find ways in which you can tackle it more effectively.
One good example of this is the SHARE tool. Instead of seeing drinking as the problem which leads to arguments around topics like – “I’m not an alcoholic” or “S/he drinks much more than I do” or “I’m not drunk” SHARE focusses on the consequences of drinking on your life. That way you can discuss the issue in a much clearer or objective way, talking about the damage to your relationship or health, rather than in vague terms such as drinking too much or whether or not s/he is an alcoholic.
Reframing then is an empowering strategy because it provides a broader, less emotional view of a situation and this brings options that could not be seen otherwise. When I got sober, I believed that my life was finished, that all the fun and enjoyment had gone. In reality, my life actually opened up in amazing ways. The misery and terrible withdrawals went and suddenly I had a future full of options. In fact, I had a future!
So, to return to where we started, rather than view this coronavirus initiated isolation as a prison sentence, we have decided to view it as an opportunity to pursue some projects that we have struggled to find time for. Reframing is not just a strategy for coronavirus. Therapists employ it to motivate people, to treat depression and anxiety. Management consultants use it to guide businesses into new areas of profit. And we use it in Bottled Up to help you look at your or your partner’s drinking in a way that empowers rather than shames.
Maybe you could use this time to look at, and implement, some of the program of Bottled Up which is designed to help you reframe your situation and empower you to change your life. Maybe, just maybe the coronavirus could turn out to be a positive time in your life. Be careful and stay well.
If you feel that you need help with your drinking you can join Bottled Up here for free
If you feel that you need help with a partner’s drinking you can join Bottled Up here for free