Worry is when we imagine a ‘terrible future outcome’ and get caught in a loop of overthinking to try and escape the anxiety the ‘terrible future’ entails.
Worry masquerades as problem solving, and that’s why it is so enticing.
In reality, problem solving starts at one point in time, moves through a process, and arrives at a final destination.
Problem solving is a little like getting on a train in Manchester and later arriving in London.
Worry, however, goes nowhere, it is an endless process of ‘ruminating’ or over thinking, that just leaves us more anxious and even depressed.
Worry is a little like getting on the Central Line in London, and just going around and round.
Why Worry About Covid-19.
For sure, Covid-19 has created endless things to worry about.
First, is the physical safety of ourselves and those we love.
How do you ‘stay safe’ from the virus … and what are ‘reasonable’ precautions to take.
What if I, or someone I love, gets Covid-19?
Second, is the economic implications of Covid-19.
Will I lose my business, my job, and what about those you love who may be even less fortunate?
We are unlikely to die from Covid-19, but we are all facing the implications of the economic shutdown.
These circumstances create the perfect conditions to foster worry as a strategy to cope.
Intolerance of Uncertainty.
The first thing that predicts worry, is our tolerance of uncertainty.
We can all cope with some degree of uncertainty, but if the uncertainty in our circumstances increases, we may breach our capacity to cope.
The one thing that is certain about Covid-19 is that its implications are uncertain.
We simply do not know if we will get the virus, and if we do, how sick we will get.
Similarly, the economic situation is dire, and it is impossible to predict where the world will be next month, and certainly not next year.
Covid-19 uncertainty has pushed the majority of us beyond our capacity to tolerate it.
If you are not anxious, you are not paying attention.
Negative Problem Orientation.
The second thing that predicts worry, is if we feel the current challenges exceeds our capacity to cope.
When we feel our capacity to cope has exceeded our resilience, we call this a ‘negative problem orientation’.
In the first weeks of Covid-19 we were all presented with a barrage of problems to deal with.
We had to decide how best to protect ourselves from falling ill.
We may have lost our job.
We didn’t know how to use the technology to work from home.
We had to make quick strategic decisions about our businesses.
We had to buy food, and yes, toilet paper.
Faced with a multitude of new situations that required new strategies to cope, it is unsurprising that many of us felt ‘overwhelmed’, which tested our capacity to cope and respond.
Many of us were simply panicked and even paralysed, in the face of the mounting challenge.
How to Cope Better.
First, is to radically accept that the world we face IS uncertain right now.
No amount of worry will fix that, however much we try.
Second is to deal with the immediate problems we face, one at a time.
A good metaphor is to cross our bridges when we get to them, not before.
We feel better able to cope when we are solving one problem at a time.
A third strategy is to try and limit your worry to a set time each day.
This strategy accepts that you will worry but helps you to defer it to a specific time.
If you find that you’re worry persists and you simply feel unable to cope, it is important to get help.
If you need immediate social support, The Samaritans is a 24-hour helpline and can be contacted on 116 123.
Like many therapists in both the private and public sectors, I have moved my practice online.
I can help support you by FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or telephone.
Even though many of us are socially isolated right now, you don’t have to go through this alone.