KNOW YOURSELF - KNOW YOUR ABC's
Dee Chadwick
22 Mar 2020
At this time, so many of us are isolated from family, friends, neighbours, or have had our workplace removed as a place of companionship as well as our way of earning a living. We will almost certainly spend more time on self-reflection that we usually do, whether we recognise this or not. How am I coping with being shut in with my partner for such an extended period? How am I coping with being alone for an undetermined period of time? How long will I have a job for? How can I offer to help and support others? How can I get what I need to keep me fit and well without having to rely too heavily on those who are still out and about?

THE NEGATIVE STUFF

Having said that, I have to mention those who are out to grab what they need and sod the rest of us, whose need may be much more pressing, or who are unable to get out and about. The empty shelves continue despite assurances that there are stocks aplenty if only people take what they really need rather than what they want. This me-me-me attitude upsets me.

I am currently focusing this upset on one particular woman that I have never met. A lady was in a local village shop, and had in her basket the one pack of toilet rolls that was her allocation. A well-heeled woman came in, grabbed 3 packs and went to pay the young man behind the counter. He politely told her that she was only allowed one pack of toilet rolls. She announced that she was having 3. Again, she was patiently told of the situation – at which she threw a £20 note onto the counter and stormed out. My response to people such as this – if honestly buying for others who cannot get out – explain. If not – you selfish *****.

WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF US?

This is a good time to find out more about yourself – so long as this is a form of self-reflection that steers clear of heaping on negativity.

In my previous blog, I spoke of calmness and how being able to call on this is a positive thing at any time, but especially at times such as we are going through at present. A good way of supporting this is by using self-reflection to identify what has led to your lack of calmness. Identifying your ABC’s – a model which is used in various guises in therapy but which we can use by ourselves, for ourselves.

Antecedent – a trigger or happening leading to ..

Behaviour – something that we say or do that can be observed..

Consequence – what happens, by way of feedback, reviews, personal feelings and emotions as a result of the behaviour. This can then feed-back to affect future behaviour in a positive or negative way.

An example may be that you have been asked to give a presentation. You do this and because of lack of confidence, nerves, you feel that you haven’t done a good job with it; your ABC’s would be .....

Your A – the request that you maybe felt you should accept or felt unable to refuse for professional reasons.

Your B – You prepare and give the presentation, aware that your voice or body language show how nervous we are.  You feel that this is obvious to your audience.

Your C – despite any positive feed-back, you allow your personal feelings to take over and convince yourself that your presentation wasn’t any good. Therefore, affecting any future ones. However, if you allow yourself to focus on the positive external feed-back, the opposite would apply to future presentations.

This use of ABC can apply to managing stress and establishing a feeling of calmness around life in general at present. Whilst the situation as a whole is beyond our individual control, we can all do our bit. We can do this by keeping as fit and healthy as we can - mentally and emotionally as well as physically.

Yes, the whole situation of the pandemic may be making you feel worried, concerned, but, bring your thoughts down to much nearer to the personal level. A level over which you have more choices and control even though options may be more restricted than usual. For myself, I am aware that I miss interacting with others – that my behaviour can become one of comfort eating with the consequence being that I feel bad about myself for doing this, and I could very easily step back onto that treadmill leading towards depression.

So – being aware of how I COULD become if I allow the antecedent of not seeing and being with people, I have changed my ‘usual’ B and C. Having said that, I know full well that I still can’t have actual hugs which I miss with a passion. There is nothing I can do about that, and continue to stay well and also hope to keep others well by cutting down on the spreading element of this pandemic. Therefore, rather than sit in my sitting room to write, I have donned a fleece and am in the conservatory from which I can see passers-by. Most are happy to wave and shout hello. Those that I know are coming onto my drive and chatting through the glass. Add in making use of Skype – this morning I helped my granddaughter in London to plant some tomato and vegetable seeds – and I am doing the most that I actually can to lessen that feeling of isolation and keep the happy hormones flowing. I have to say that it was lovely being able to do this against the back-drop of birds singing rather than the usual constant roar of jet engines around Heathrow. A huge positive for me, whilst for others a major problem.

Yesterday, I was planting seeds myself and I did this in the shelter of my garage, rather than on the table tucked away out of sight. I could feel the sun on my face and wave to those passing by. Whilst it doesn’t fully replace hugs, it certainly goes a good way to lessening the isolation. I will also keep reminding myself that I have a home, a phone, a computer – and whilst at times I may find it hard to recognise whether my glass is half full rather than half empty – at least I have a glass!

Such little tweaks to routines, our way of doing things can make a difference – a difference big enough to influence our well-being in a positive way.

WE ALL HAVE A PART TO PLAY

I had a flyer from a group set up to offer local support through this pandemic. So many people offering to shop, to cook and deliver a meal, cut grass etc. I imagine that there are many similar ones around – maybe our equivalent of the Italians singing from their balconies! It’s great to see the most positive aspects of we humans.

I have been so fortunate to have offers from friends and neighbours who know that I don’t have family around to come to my aid for such things. It means so much, but I have also been able to offer my voluntary services too, even though I can’t get out to do so. I still have my ears and my voice available though, so have offered to work on a therapeutic basis with anyone for whom their feelings of isolation have moved beyond the need for a quick chat. I am reliant on others who maybe deliver shopping to pick up on these feelings. The network that has been set up will hopefully mean that such messages will filter through. Being able to give back will also help me to feel a useful member of society rather than all of a sudden being designated an old biddy.

I am about to put a pile of magazines outside at the end of my drive. My hope is that these may help others to while away some time. I will also be going through my books and doing the same with them. It all adds to giving me a supporting role.

KEEP IN THE HERE AND NOW

It is so easy, if we get a bit low, to dwell on the past – the what if’s. What if I was still married, what if I had family nearby? This type of thinking doesn’t help. OK, it is good to let your thoughts drift back to past happy times. Past beaches visited, past gardens ambled around – these being the kind of places I encourage my mind to wander to and use for relaxation.

At present, it is best to remain in the present rather than look down the tunnel leading to the future. A future that is hard to imagine for some, and one which will be inevitably changed for so many more. Thinking about, worrying about that future is a waste of energy, especially if this worrying was to wind up out of control to become catastrophising. I have to say that this is easily done if catching up on the news.  

I am, though, preparing for this future, however it may turn out to present itself, by taking baby steps. My plans are all short term – which also allows for me to still experience a sense of achievement. Yep – the kettle went on for a brew when I had planted up all of my seeds, and the same will happen when I finish this piece. Previously, I would probably have probably included a biscuit. But, I have only one packet – my favourite – plain chocolate wholemeal and those were bought for a later, to be decided, happening dependent on how the virus progresses.

I have to say that, for the first time in years, I have left my watch off and put a sticker over the clock in the corner of my lap top. I am freeing myself to chunk up my day according to need. Chunks that include necessary tasks as well as more teaching my granddaughter via Skype with my granddaughter, as she is out of school. Then there are chunks that could well be taken up with phone or Skype therapy. The rest – chunks in which I go with the flow of what my mind and body need to remain fit, healthy, and as content as I can be. To do this, I actively tune in to my body especially to prevent slipping into bad habits. Some online yoga or pilates, art and craftwork, striding out around my home or yard, getting stuck in with making my garden a place that I can enjoy in the weeks to come. Even, dare I say it catching up on sorting out my filing and clearing mail from my lap top!!

CHECK OUT THE RAIN

No – I don’t mean that wet stuff that I am sure we in the UK have had more than enough of. I mean an acronym from psychologist Michele McDonald, encouraging us to apply some of the ways of mindfulness.

R – recognise what is going on in our mind and body with reference to what is happening around us at present.

A – accept and allow the experience ’to be’ – as in we didn’t want this pandemic to happen, but it did. We can’t rail against this storm in order to change it.

I – investigate how you are feeling about the pandemic and the way it is affecting your life.

N – not identify – rather be aware of what is happening, but not letting it dominate, take over. This is the hardest bit, but the most fulfilling and beneficial when it becomes a part of how you behave.

Another useful article ‘Feeling Overwhelmed? Remember Rain’ written by Tara Brach goes into more detail than I have been able to.

Remember that I am still open for therapy by phone or Skype. Take care and keep well.

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