I have been wanting to write to you all for sometime, but for once words have failed me.. I am sure like me you have been bombarded with so called advice on how to cope, strategies to try to reduce anxiety, stress and fear in what has become and continues to be the greatest test for us since World War 2.

Be gentle with yourselves right now, the warm embrace of self-kindness makes our suffering bearable and by following the advice and direction given we can all do our bit to save lives.

I have chosen to operate from a place of hope and love rather than fear – so the things I do to protect myself from the virus are because I love and care for myself, and the things I do to stop myself from spreading it to others are because I love other people and want them to be well and safe. Putting that into writing did seem a little pink and fluffy!

Then this morning I received an email from the founder of Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy and my trainer, Trevor Silvester – there are few, who’s words have truly resonated with me over the past few weeks however I have re-purposed Trevors email for you to consider as they did resonate positively with me.

The challenge:

The late Jeremy Bentham – jurist, political reformer, and philosopher urged us to ‘deal with life as it is, not how it’s supposed to be’. This is not easy. Our brain likes certainty, so when something shakes ‘normality’, it will either do its best to continue as before – even if it’s heading you towards a cliff (often referred to as denial) – or it will access your memoragination for guidance. (Memoragination describes an almost simultaneous process of our memory along with its established beliefs, values, fears, phobias, etc. and our imagination, working together, to form a prediction (conscious or unconscious) of how our future will play out in any given situation.)

With a shift from normality as big as Covid -19 it’s not surprising that many people have no frame of reference from their past. This is literally like nothing we have ever faced before – we are unable to see a way forward.

Often the felt response to this is similar in character to depression; the brain wants you to stop and bed down for a while until the situation ahead becomes clearer (our protection response which can lead to us to freeze). Or, if the brain matches it with

negative events from our past – like previous experiences of poverty, redundancy, loss etc – then if the match is strong we will experience anxiety (a fear of what you foresee as the outcome) and respond with fight or flight, or depression if your default with stress tends to be to freeze.

So, the great rollercoaster of emotions we are witnessing (and sharing) are perfectly normal, they’re just us responding to the situation as our brain is interpreting it. It’s good to remember that what we are taking to be lacking would be luxury to 80% of the world, and amazing safety for millions of refugees. It’s not what’s happening, but what we make of it (perhaps write that on your fridge).

The solutions:

In times of great uncertainty remaining inILOC (Internal locus of control) is a good idea. That is the secret. And it isn’t easy. Anyone who has worked with me will understand what it means to be ILOC and its importance. In brief Locus of control is the degree to which people believe that they, as opposed to external forces (beyond their influence), have control over the outcome of events in their lives.

How do we do this?

1. For now, it’s impossible to plan long-term, so lower your gaze. Deal with what’s in front of you. What are the problems to be solved today?

2. Operate within your circle of influence. Pay attention and give energy to those things you can control, not the things you can’t – these are in your circle of concern, which is much larger, but over which you have little power.

3. With our normal rhythms disrupted, create new ones. Have a list of things to achieve each day. Achieving them is a successful day. Keep them smallish and achievable. Include exercise and something novel – like learning a new hobby (juggling is great for anxiety and creativity).

4. Secure your base. Sometimes appropriate protection is growth, so you might need to shrink or postpone your plans or ambitions. Don’t try to keep your life/business bigger than it can be – make it what it needs to be, not what you’d like it to be. Look at what you need to sustain you and your family now and make that as safe as you can. This is your launch pad for when this is over.

5. Keep connected to people with a growth mindset. We feed what we focus on, so the more you tune into negative messages the more you’ll be primed to look for them.

6. Forgive yourself. This is not about being relentlessly positive. This is a difficult time with things happening that will have negative consequences for all of us to some degree or another. It’s appropriate to grieve for the future that will no longer be there, to fear the loss of things we love or hoped to, to hurt for the people suffering. All feelings are ok to feel, so don’t judge yourself by them. Cry for a while. Sit in a dark room for a while. Moan about the unfairness for a while. F*@cking go for it. Then rub yourself down with a wet wipe, get up, and work the problem that’s in front of you.

When this is over we can look back at what we learned, how we grew and what we’re grateful for. For now, take one step at a time and remember to love who you’re connected to. Take some time to serve others if that is right for you.

One day this will be a story you tell. What character would you like yourself to be in it? Treat it as that story now. From the wisdom of Maria Sirois, ask yourself ‘Who am I in the presence of all this?’

As part of my support for the NHS, Emergency Services and other Key Workers I am offering FREE online sessions / calls to anyone experiencing overwhelm, stress or anxiety.

Anyone can talk to me in complete confidence, no judgement, just listening. If appropriate I can teach some simple calming techniques to help with all that is going on, bringing about a sense of clarity and perspective. Email me direct at: contact@sharonherbert.com

So please forward this blog post to anyone you may know who could benefit.

The purpose is to help support the community I live in as best I can. Wishing you all that is good, keep safe.