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Posted 28 July 2021

Part 1 – The Psychology of COVID-19: Surviving and Thriving

RCN Blog

Craig Barr, RCN Cohesion, Sharing and Integration Officer and Therapeutic Counsellor, writes on an online training event delivered by Dr. Arthur Cassidy, TV Psychologist and Broadcaster


Stop me if you’ve heard this one, “We’re all in the same storm, but we’re not all in the same boat”.

Why are some people coping during lockdown and others are not, and what might help people survive, and maybe even thrive through this storm? How do we get ourselves into a better boat?

During a talk on “Dealing with the Psychological Pressures of Living Through Covid”, delivered by Dr Arthur Cassidy, part of the “In This Together” Project coordinated by Rural Community Network (RCN) and funded by NIHE, Dr Cassidy explained,

“It’s hard to avoid bad news at the minute. All that daily death and infection rate has a major negative psychological impact on our mental functioning and well-being. Then we get angry at people’s lack of social compliance. We’re also transfixed on the daily vaccination rate updates. It’s an emotional rollercoaster”.

There’s no doubt about it. Lockdowns are stressful events, and we really don’t know if there are more to come. They create uncertainty, anxiety, depression, boredom, and domestic conflict. We cope by distracting ourselves and retreat into nostalgia and child-like behaviours. The temptation is to avoid dealing with the reality of the present or preparing our minds for the future. Comparing a (largely imagined) fabulous past with a dismal (unguaranteed) future is unhelpful.

Dr Cassidy says one possible way that we might better serve ourselves is by discovering gratitude. Focus on the positive things in life to keep an optimistic outlook and visualise even the smallest steps forward and successes. Be grateful for every breath you take, your family, friends and loved ones, the NHS, to give thanks and worship, to visit your favourite (local) outside space, to connect with others (even if that is digitally for now).

How you think creates your reality. When you can’t change anything else the only thing you can change is how you think about it. Eradicate old images of self and rebuild “the new you”. Increase your emotional resilience by gradually facing difficulties rather than avoiding them. See challenges as opportunities for growth and learning rather than opportunities to fail or threats to your ego.

Life is full of stress. Some types of stress are positive (studying for that exam or job interview) and some are negative (worrying about a virus that most people never know they even have). Most negative types of stress are completely uncontrollable and out of our power. If we can accept the fact that a certain amount of risk in life is inevitable, uncontrollable, and even good for us, then we would better serve ourselves. But there are things we can control about Covid, like following expert advice, staying healthy, building healthier habits, and learning new hobbies.

Swimming in the ocean can be scary but eventually everything in the ocean finds its way to shore. Can you hold on? Or better yet, can you learn to surf? When we control ourselves and can laugh in the face of what seems wild and untameable, we create positive emotions and a sense of resilience in ourselves. Never lose your sense of humour. As one French aristocrat during the French Revolution remarked as he was being led to this new mechanical invention called the guillotine, “Are you sure this thing is safe?”.


End of Part 1. See next week’s blog for Coping Tips for Overcoming Lockdown