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  • Writer's pictureDr Victor Thompson

Tips and books to help you survive the Coronavirus Covid-19 self-isolation

These are testing times for all of us.

How are you doing?

I imagine that like everyone else, there are a few cracks appearing – in your psychology and perhaps in some of your relationships (with those that you are locked away in confinement with).

While I have been able to continue to offer psychological support and therapy to my clients, I have been thinking about the stress that we have all been under. There have been significant changes in our:

  • Patterns of work or study

  • Incomes and the financial threats we face

  • Opportunities to move and do exercise

  • Shopping – where we go, what’s in stock, people stockpiling…

  • Socialising – not being able to spend time with people other than those that we live with (unless we work in an essential face-to-face setting, so manage to get out of the house for that during the day)

  • Perceived risk of ill-health with the Coronavirus

  • Worries about the health and survival of our friends and family

It’s been tough and it is likely to continue for some time. No one knows for how long that this will continue. Perhaps the screw, or restrictions, will be loosened soon. Only to be tightened once more. Maybe they will be tightened more, without any prior loosening. Who knows? No one beyond our circle of Officials. Maybe no one in the Official circles either!

Our own situation and stresses are likely to be similar, yet different to anyone else’s. The same situation, or stressor, will commonly affect two people quite differently. This, in part, depends on our upbringing, personality and how we appraise or interpret it. As the old psychological adage goes:

‘It’s not what happens to you, but what you make of it that matters.’

While this adage is often repeated, it can be helpful to pause and consider it for a moment, as it reminds us that there is an option here: We can interpret or find meanings in situations – including this one that we find ourselves in – in ways that are more, or less, helpful. If we are seeking to exert some control over our situation – which we all should be doing (right?) – then let’s set about seeing things in more helpful ways.

I remember reading years ago about a simple, yet clever study, on happiness. In this study, a group of participants was split into two smaller groups. The first group, were asked to write a paragraph starting with ‘I’m glad that I have…’ The second group, were asked to start their paragraph with ‘I wish I had…’ On finishing their paragraphs, the participants were asked to rate their mood. Then the participants were asked to write a paragraph with the other start sentence. The researchers found that participants created a better mood, when they started with the ‘I’m glad I have…’ The ‘I wish I had…’ starter similarly caused a drop in mood and less happiness.

Those paragraph starters caused participants to think of very different things – what they had and appreciated, or what they didn’t have and wish they did. This study shows how what we think about can have important implications for our mood.

Okay, it’s time to take control of what we are thinking a bit more. And, as a consequence, to help our moods to improve.

To help you with your journey through Coronavirus, I’ve got 5 book recommendations. They will teach you about how others survived much worse. I give you this list to inspire you. To show you what people can deal with, when necessary. To teach you some skills. To help you see things differently, in a more helpful light. To learn a little. To help at least a little. Here’s the shortlist:

One of the first books to give an insight into life within the SAS, the hardships, the missions, being captured behind enemy lines, torture and interrogation. It will make you feel grateful about your freedoms and comfort.

In December 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor-in-chief of French ‘Elle’ and the father of two young children, suffered a massive stroke and found himself paralysed and speechless, but entirely conscious, trapped by what doctors call ‘locked-in syndrome’. Using his only functioning muscle – his left eyelid – he began dictating this remarkable story, painstakingly spelling it out letter by letter. You’ll feel better about your lack of limitations, when compared to Jean-Dominique Bauby’s.

This is a great time to skill-up, to learn some survival skills for when you are unleashed and free to get into all kind of scrapes as we seek adventure from the world. Bear Grylls will teach you many useful skills, including:

- How to survive a bear attack - How to fly a plane in an emergency - How to make fire from virtually nothing - How to drive off-road - How to navigate using the stars - How to administer first-aid - How to escape a burning building - How to survive the most extreme conditions

The topic of solitude is explored by a man who knows more about it than most of us. Written Terry Waite, a man who spent 5-years held captive in solitary confinement in the Middle East.

Learn about Louis Zamperini, as he transforms himself from child delinquent to Olympic athlete. Then his athletic career is halted by the outbreak of Second World War, where he serves in the aircraft division. Downed into the Pacific Ocean, he and other surviving members of his bomber face an uncertain future in an inadequately stocked life raft. Surely things couldn’t get worse. But they do….

It is amazing what happens to some people and how they respond.

I hope that these books help you to read something that is applicable to these times, helping you get through this period more easily. Then emerging after self-isolation ends, better prepared to explore the world.

Until then, keep well!


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