THE QUESTION: “One of my strategies for getting through life is always to have something to look forward to – even if it’s just catching up with a mate for a beer. But COVID is ruining everything. So far we’ve had to cancel a big family holiday, we’re celebrating birthdays in lockdown, I can’t go to the football…
I’m aware these are minor problems. But life is feeling increasingly bleak at the moment with no positives on the horizon. To be honest, it’s really getting me down. Any ideas on how to handle the situation?” Neil
The Expert: Dr Kieran Kennedy,
Medical Doctor and Psychiatry Resident
The reality is the current situation is really bloody tough. At the same time, you need to still allow yourself to look forward to things, even if they’re much further ahead.
What I’ve been saying to people is, “OK, let’s project forward, maybe even to the start of 2021. What would you like to do when lockdown does finally lift and this situation blows over?”
Pick a point in time and plan something whether it’s for yourself or your family. What kind of trip do you want to go on? Where do you want to go?
I know this doesn’t immediately solve anything, but it can be a welcome distraction and give you something concrete to look forward to. When you plan things, it can make them a little more real.
You need to give yourself permission to fantasize a bit as that’s an important part of having hope and staying positive. You need to allow yourself a break from this current reality that’s so stressful and bleak.
Another thing that a lot of my patients have found helpful is using the “switch-up technique”. This is the idea that you don’t necessarily have to cancel everything. You can often adjust your plans to make them a bit more lockdown friendly.
For example, a week or so ago, I’d arranged to catch up with mates for drinks and a dinner. Then we went back into lockdown. We could have cancelled everything. But we got together on Zoom instead, had a drink and then all put on a movie on at the same time. Sure, it wasn’t the same. But it was still fun and did give us some social time.
Avoid the temptation to just cancel everything. See if you can adjust your plans to make them COVID-friendly. That way you’ll still get some of the benefits and won’t completely miss out.