Living with Covid

Living alongside COVID-19 – How can we not be scared?

With new Covid-19 restrictions on the horizon this article considers some ways in which we can take control of an ever-changing situation.

Just when we thought life was approaching a resemblance of normality we have been told that restrictions are once again inevitable. Living with this pandemic is, without a doubt, challenging our human need for control and certainty. We don’t like when events in our lives are unpredictable. Indeed, our brains are designed for survival and our need to control is part of that system. So, to keep us from danger, we are programmed to continuously be on the lookout for anything that can cause us harm. During this crisis and due to the unpredictability of the virus, that survival mechanism is been on high alert as we are bombarded by alarming messages from government, media, medical professionals, and if yours are anything like mine, family! Is it any wonder we are scared?

But the other extraordinary faculty allotted to our brain is that of adaptation. Human beings can adapt to almost any situation; but not without first struggling to come to terms with the change. We are in the midst of that change, and we are struggling. People I speak to are unsure, uneasy and frightened about the future and this ‘new normal’. None of us want a new normal, we want the old normal back. However, unless, or until, a vaccine is found we have to accept and adapt and look at what we can do to keep a resemblance of control over our lives.

Here are some suggestions that may help you accept and adapt enough to get through this difficult period.

Be Mindful

I admit that I struggle with mindfulness and ‘being in the moment.’ My brain wants free range to forge ahead and catastrophise about having no work, no friends and a cataclysmic future. However, is that useful? Probably not! Training our brain to stay in the present gives it respite even during these unprecedented times and improves our concentration and our ability to tackle negative thinking. Mindfulness apps are abundant – give them a go!

Be Positive

Being aware of our negative, unhelpful thinking habits is the first step to changing them. Write them down and then brainstorm alternative ways to think. For example:

‘I’m going to get ill’.  ‘I can follow government guidelines. I am healthy, so the chances are that I will be fine even if I do catch the virus’.

‘I’ll never get another job’.  ‘What can I do to improve my prospects? In the meantime, can I work on my CV or enrol in a course? Who can I speak to for advice?’

‘My children are missing too much school – their future is going to be affected’.  ‘All kids are facing the same thing. They are young. They have plenty of time to learn. I can help them do their best and build their self-belief.’

Challenging your thoughts takes time and effort, but the more you catch and challenge thoughts, the easier it becomes.

Be solution focused

Challenging negative thinking also helps shift the emphasis from problems to solutions. No amount of wishing or banging your head will change what you cannot control. You absolutely deserve to feel upset or angry about the impact of the virus, that’s not in question; but eventually you have to ask whether that desperation or anger is helping or hurting. Acknowledge your right to feel the way you do but then take one small action that will move you a smidgen closer to a solution. That action could be something as small as going for a walk to lift your mood and that small change could help you focus on possibilities for the future.


Yes, heard it all before! But, before you lie horizontally on the couch and grab the remote, take a look at the benefits of even short periods of exercise.

  • Those cheeky little endorphins make you feel happier.
  • It’s mindful – If you are like me, you will think of nothing but your next attempt at a breath!
  • It helps with weight loss – how good will you look when they find that vaccine, and you can hit the clubs again?
  • It increases energy levels – no more panting going up the stairs.
  • Helps brain function and memory – I thought of something hilarious, but I’ve forgotten what it was!
  • Helps sleep and relaxation– no more ruminating about those funny wee spikes on the COVID virus!
  • And… can promote a better sex life! Put those trainers down for the moment and read on.

What can I control?

Don’t focus on the control that has been taken from you because of the virus. Instead, concentrate on those aspects of your life that bring you joy. 

Try this. Look through the photographs on your phone and recall the times when you felt happy. I would guess that the things that brought you the most happiness were not material or grand events but instead the small moments with your family and friends; or the small achievements. 

We may not be able to hold large scale celebrations, but we can connect with the people who are most important to us, and we can continue to set small goals and targets each day to give us a sense of achievement.

Yes, COVID-19 is scary, but we can still make small changes to appreciate the life we have.