“Helping you gain control over the things you want to change”

Fiona Nicolson

Understanding each other and ourselves can help us cope with lockdown

Posted on 10 February 2021

Most of us are feeling heartily sick of lockdowns. But given that it looks like they are with us for some time, I am going to take another look at how we can cope.

We have talked before about how different personality types tolerate the lockdown. Here is something I wrote last year (http://fionanicolson.com/how-understanding-your-personality-type-can-make-life-happier-healthier-and-more-fun/), please have a read of this if you haven’t come across it before. I hope it is a good starting point for anyone who wants to understand how our different personalities influence how we cope with the world. If we cultivate a learning mindset, I think we can be very positive about our differences.
I have worked, as a therapist and a trauma coach, right through the pandemic, continuing to see clients online. One thing I have noticed is that, for everyone whatever their personality type is, there are pluses and minuses to the lockdown situation.

Material circumstances

Of course, independent of this is are the different material circumstances we each find ourselves in. If you are home-schooling children, for example, that will feel very different from the experience of living alone. It is not that one is necessarily harder or easier than the other, but they are very different. And of course, some people have had more adverse circumstances than others, if you have lost your job or if your business has suffered you will have another level of worry to cope with.

Underlying all these different circumstances is each of us as an individual. And how we react to circumstances will very much depend on our unique personalities. We each have our own private belief system, built up from our childhoods. Sometimes our map of the world helps us and sometimes it hinders us. Here I am taking a broad-brush approach, we all fit in certain broad categories and we bring our own quirks, strengths and weaknesses along to make a rich mix of our unique selves.

How broad-brush definitions can be useful

Although you are unique, it can help to look at the broader perspective. It can give you an insight into why you behave as you do. Just as important, it can make it easier to understand what is going on when you feel tension with those closest to you. And we all know how important that is at the moment, when we are often cooped up with partners or housemates for very long periods of times with very little respite.

It may sound obvious to say but different people cope in different ways, and some personality types find it harder to deal with lockdowns than others. Most of us would say that there are some things they haven’t minded, and even liked, about lockdown, and again these will depend on our personalities and how we see and live in the world.

Here is an example. If you are introverted you may find it easier to stay in and see few people, for example. But there can be downsides here as well. People who are introverts often concentrate, to the exclusion of others, on themselves and their own feelings. In good times this can be just fine. However, in a time when there are many reasons to worry about our health and our circumstances, it can become dangerous to our mental well-being. In a situation where we are all at some risk of getting sick or we are worried about our loved ones, a healthy introspection can move from a good habit of self-examination and self-regard to a worrying self-absorption.

If you are an introvert then check this about yourself. If you are overly worrying about yourself then make a definite effort to turn outwards. One way of doing this is to set aside some time every day to do something which absorbs you. By ‘absorbs you’ I mean something you find so engaging that you think just of that and not about anything else, a thing where you are thinking about what you are doing and not about yourself and your feelings.

It doesn’t matter too much what this thing is. It could be a hobby, watching a film or TV series, a form of exercise you enjoy or something else entirely.

It does not matter whether it is something you would regard as important or if it is completely frivolous. It can be anything, as long as it is successfully occupying your mind.

If you cannot think of anything like this immediately then use your memory. A good guide is what you loved doing as a child or in your early teenage years. You may have been an avid reader back then, for example, but the businesses of adult life left you with little time for reading. Recreate that passion, I even know of some people who have gone back to their favourite books from their teenage years and are loving them.

Whether it is knitting, painting or skipping, think about what you used to love. Try it again. The chances are it will still absorb you.
If you do not want to follow the exact same pattern as your earlier years take what you used to love as a guide. Choose something similar but which fits you better now.

Another tendency for those who cope by thinking things through on their own is a tendency to brood and even to catastrophise. If you find yourself constantly worrying about the course of the pandemic or what is going to happen next month take a step back. A good mind exercise here is to recognise what you cannot control and move your thinking away from it towards things you can control. This might mean watching less news and watching more films for example.

Play to your strengths. Take advantage of the quieter times around and enjoy being on your own.

If you are an extrovert you may find it harder to cope. You thrive on crowds and interacting with people and that is hard at the moment. You may be feeling very lonely. On the other hand, you may find the stopping of the social whirl is a time to reflect. I know several extroverts who cannot wait to get back to a more social way of life, but also want to make a lot of changes. Often extroverts can be swept along by whatever is going on in their social world and because they crave people, they do not take the time to stop and choose who they spend time with or how they spend that time. One client of mine is a good example of this. He misses people and he longs for the lockdown to end, but he has decided that, rather than spending as much time with his workmates in the pub after work and going to social events, he is going to concentrate on his local community. He is already planning to re-organise the local football team.

If you are an extrovert it might be worth beginning to plan how you are going to use your wonderful social skills in the future. You can even start planning now.

How well do you cope with change?

Some people like the familiar while others thrive on change and new experiences. This can mean that those who enjoy familiar things find the lockdown easier. But there is a sting in the tail. Many of the familiar things you may have liked are not happening at the moment and the longer this goes on the sadder you may feel. People who love new experiences may experience life as very flat and boring at the moment. At the same time they may be better able to cope with the new learnings we are all having to do constantly. After all, learning to handle Zoom meetings and how to put on a mask in the dark are new experiences even if we would hardly describe them as fun.

Dealing with others

Whatever your personality type you can be sure that not everyone around you is like you. And that is as true if you are just stuck in with your family as when you are in a big office.

Lockdown is tough because our social circle in small. Social relations, limited as they are at the moment can feel like a pressure cooker. Especially if your family or housemates are experiencing the lockdown differently, then at times it can be hard.

There are things you can do to ease the tension. Recognising that different personality types perceive things differently can be half of the battle. For example, if you are a great worrier you may find it very annoying to live with someone who seems to take the pandemic in their stride. On the other hand, if you are a relaxed, ‘what will happen will happen’ type then being in constant company with someone who is always seeing the worst side of things can be draining.

I hope that some of the things I have written on this blog recently have helped to deepen your understanding of our different thinking patterns. Once you understand how others think and that this is not wrong but just different, it becomes possible to talk about it.

Be upfront about it, perhaps even suggest that your significant other reads some of my blogs! Then make some time to talk about how and where the tensions arise from the different ways you are seeing the world. You may find you can learn from each other and develop a more rounded perspective. At least you may find it easier to understand where the other person is coming from.

I hope this helps you. In such challenging times we can all learn new and deeper ways of thinking, interacting with each other and valuing ourselves. It is all very interesting really.

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