How Reframing Can Help Us Manage COVID-19

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BY LUKE BROCK

2020 has presented challenges and changes for us all. People are working from home, businesses have closed, travel and personal events have been delayed or cancelled, and some are not able to visit loved ones. These stressors may be promoting feelings such as sadness, anxiety, or anger. Although these emotional reactions are valid and extremely normal, ‘reframing’ may help us to notice a silver lining and ease any difficult emotions that may be arising.

So, what is ‘reframing’?

Reframing is a psychological strategy that involves reinterpreting the meaning of a situation, event, or experience. Reframing can help promote psychological flexibility which in turn can help regulate emotions. It is particularly useful during times that we develop a ‘tunnel vision’ towards negative and unhelpful thoughts. By solely focusing on these thoughts, we deny ourselves of alternative, more helpful interpretations. This may add to the intensity of any unpleasant emotions and reduce the likelihood of engaging in helpful follow-up behaviours.

For example, a person who was to view an unsuccessful job interview as a total failure would likely feel a great sense of sadness and disappointment. Of course, it is natural to feel sad and disappointed after not reaching a goal – it would be unhealthy for us to try to deny or suppress this. However, by solely focusing on the ‘failure’, this individual’s feelings of sadness will likely be quite intense, and they may have little motivation to begin applying for other jobs.

If instead, the unsuccessful applicant was to think of the interview process as a learning experience in which they received a lot of positive feedback, they may lean more towards a sense of accomplishment. Accompanying this may be increased motivation to apply for another job in the future or to refine their interview skills.

It is important to note here that the goal is not to get rid of negative thoughts – at times there may be some truth to these. Instead, the goal is to broaden our perspective on situations and attempt to utilise the thoughts that help us to live a meaningful life.

There are a number of ways we ean apply this when managing the impact of COVID-19:

Working from home is an opportunity to learn how to work remotely

One of the most common changes to lives in 2020 is the increased number of people who are working from home. Downsides to this include less social crossover with colleagues, increased distractions, and alterations in family dynamics. However, the ability to work remotely is a skill that is actively being learnt during this time. In the future, this may mean greater flexibility in where and how you can work.

The loss of employment is an opportunity to restart or take another direction with your career

The loss of employment is a significant life change that can have a domino effect for several other challenges. However, it may also present as an opportunity to change career paths or pursue other directions within your current career.

A reduction in work hours means that there is more time to devote to your personal life

For some, work hours have been reduced or forced leave has been requested. Although this means less income, it may open more time to devote to your personal life. This could be an opportunity to spend more time with those that you live with and invest in growing those relationships. Alternatively, it could be an opportunity to learn a new skill or hobby.

If you are interested in reframing other issues in your life that are causing stress, anxiety, or sadness remember to ask yourself some of these questions to put a new perspective on the situation:

– Is there any silver lining to this?

– What did I learn from this experience?

– How can this experience help me move towards my goals?

– Are there any opportunities that that may come from this?

Luke is a Clinical Psychologist Registrar with experience in a range of evidence-based interventions, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Schema Therapy and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. He obtained a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology from UNSW, and trained at the UNSW Psychology Clinic, the Westmead Anxiety Clinic, and the Black Dog Institute Psychology Clinic. In addition to his role at Think Clinical Psychologists, Luke works in an acute inpatient setting, working with individuals one-on-one and in a group setting.


 

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