My Best Advice for Coping with Pandemic Life

As Australians tentatively prod the early weeks of 2021 to see if the year’s open to reinstating past freedoms, the shadowy shocks of 2020 grumble threateningly just below the surface of our days.

Is COVID-19 going to surge forward with renewed energy after a quick kip? Can we capture new mutations in their infancy, weed out the runners and lock it down, from all we’ve learned by watching the world spiral?

Change is coming in the US but incredible damages, deaths and mayhem continue to roll through as the days creep. Tensions with China run high, fuelled by trade posturing and photoshopped propaganda while reports say they’re locking down millions of souls again. Sweden has apparently been mauled by the bug they thought they’d outsmart. Many of us have spent long periods shut in our homes, grappling with unexpected changes to every aspect of our lives. In the UK and much of Europe many hospitals, and people are barely coping.

Hope is necessary. Simplicity is necessary. A period of withdrawal and holding tight to what matters remains necessary – like it or not. Patience is essential. This is not our time to explore too far from home, to move around much. Distant adventures will happen again. This is a time of finding wisdom and adventure in smaller spaces.

There are still many places to explore. Weathering the pandemic can be reframed as a call to focus on inner worlds, tap into creative thinking and build personal resilience, because there’s less social distraction and movement. For me, it’s been a time to connect with others’ inner lives when they ask, through writing and virtual conversations, forming new layers of connections when the physical layer isn’t possible. For the first time in my career as a psychologist I’ve worked with numerous clients over great distances and small, without a single in-person client contact.

Many therapeutic relationships were forged during lockdown over the telephone, without ever seeing each other’s faces. There was a certain liberation from expectations in our mutual confinement and a new solidarity awoken by the unprecedented, shared experiences the pandemic brought us.

The best advice I could offer to so many was simple, but it’s a profoundly life changing thing – check your inner dialogue. Tune in and listen to it often.

Get into the habit of noticing the way you speak to yourself in your own head and make sure it’s compassionate, warm and forgiving. If you would not speak to a little kid or a friend harshly or judgmentally, don’t speak to yourself that way.

Take a break from judging and expecting more from yourself than you would reasonably demand from others you love. Treat yourself kindly and you will be stronger and cope better with everything, than if you run yourself down and judge yourself. Explore your inner world a little more deeply when there’s less to see outside and in the spirit of Marie Condo’s cleaning up, declutter any self-talk you find in your inner dialogue that doesn’t ‘spark joy’.