This months post is an update on how I’ve been dealing with isolation, Covid-19 fatigue and the ‘mistakes’ I am making during this period. Last month we discussed ways of flattening the curve of our anxiety during this tricky time (https://thedmcclinic.ie/flatten-the-curve-of-your-anxiety/). What I’ve since learned is that this is easier said than done!
In my ‘pre-isolation’ existence I am an office worker who has monthly deadlines, deliverables, targets etc. to look after. I stay on top of it by establishing routines that help me ‘control’ the situation. Over time I soon realised that I was controlling it to the extent that I was squeezing all the goodness out of it. I was surviving in that environment, but not thriving in it. The exact same thing began happening about 1 month into the stay-at-home period we are in currently.
I started off doing all the things I said I would do (Gauging my reaction to things, reflecting on how I was doing, and being disciplined in terms of how much time I spent on social and mainstream media). But recently ‘isolation fatigue’ has kicked in and I’ve let my guard slip slightly. I became easily irritated, losing focus, and I’m resenting the idea of ‘restricted movement’. I was missing the structure to my day, and the sense of flow I had to my week. Weekends had lost their meaning, and the days lost some of their purpose.
However, one thing I was doing well was ‘checking in with myself’ (the 4th of last months strategies). I began spotting my mistakes and observing how I was dealing with these setbacks. From working with clients, I am always struck by how hard we can be on ourselves. We are typically the harshest, most unforgiving judge when it comes to our own mistakes, and in Isolation this was creeping into my day more regularly than I’d like.
In recent years I’ve spent a lot of time with my father-in-law, a farmer in his 70s. If a machine breaks down, or animals break out, I’m always struck by how easily he can shrug his shoulders and simply start again. What would have been a mini-crisis to me, could easily be greeted with a “It can wait until tomorrow” by him. This was a foreign concept to me, because the idea of breaking routine or not meeting deadlines was not in my DNA. I have learned a lot from him. Being able to look at things from a different perspective is quite liberating.
With clients, we work on trying to take a new perspective beyond the harsh limits of our judging selves, and in Isolation I am practicing the same thing. People find it far more rewarding to see setbacks and mistakes as mere experiences, and nothing more than opportunities for learning. This frees us up more and allows us to embrace challenges with a more inquisitive and gentle manner, as opposed to squeezing the life out of them in order not to make a mistake!
I encourage any readers of this blog to ask themselves how they are dealing with mistakes and setbacks during this time. Is there a tendency to be self-critical, self-judging, or regretful? And then assess whether this harsh approach has helped you, nourished you or improved your mood? Now practice taking a different perspective. Flip this approach into seeing setbacks as something that ‘deepens or knowledge’, ‘teaches us about others’, ‘provides an opportunity for self-compassion’.
So, this week I’ve hit the reset button, and have started again being more gentle with myself and less critical of my mistakes. Observing how I and others handle mistakes, provides opportunities for growth that should not be missed. Try to view them from that perspective. Turn your experiences into a series of lessons, not a life sentence of regrets. Remember, ‘Mistakes are a sign that we a trying’. Reset. Start Again.
The article is written by Noel, Trainee Counsellor at The DMC Clinic. If you would like to discuss how any of the topics mentioned above are impacting your mental health, please contact The DMC Clinic to arrange an appointment.