The impact of COVID-19 has rolled through most of this year and it is predicted we will continue to feel its’ effects well into 2021.
Along with the physical effects of this virus there are countless ways it is effecting us psychologically. This includes an increase in anxiety disorders, depression, loneliness, confusion, anger and some PTSD symptoms (Black Dog Institute, n.d.). Even without experiencing one of these serious mental health concerns there is also an added layer of uncertainty that permeates our day to day lives at the moment.
A large part of our make up drives us to avoid uncertainty, it is through certainty that we feel safe and move into a mindset of “thrive” instead of “survive”. This is why governments, employers, and parents strive to provide certainty – we grow more, work more, develop more and spend more when we feel certain about what’s next.
So what’s happening for us at the moment? Emotional times layered with uncertainty make us perceive unpleasant events as more unpleasant than we would during times of certainty (Bar-Anan, Wilson & Gilbert, 2009). This might manifest for us as perceiving slights where there is none, or in greater suspicion of those around us, or not being as generous as we used to be with either our time or money, or perhaps everything just feels a bit more “meh”.
There’s another side to this though. The research by Bar-Anan et al. (2009) also tells us that during times of uncertainty we see pleasant events as more pleasant. Our perception at either end of the spectrum is amplified during times like these.
What does this tell us? I could write now about the importance of choosing your mindset or adjusting your attitude but for many of us there are serious consequences to this uncertainty. Maybe you’ve lost your job, maybe you’re missing a family event, maybe you’ve lost a loved one? It’s normal to grieve and worry and “adjust your attitude” isn’t what you want to hear at the moment. Maybe though, when you’re ready, or for those who haven’t been as impacted we can start to seek out the pleasant. It doesn’t matter how small, thanks to uncertainty the pleasant feeling will be amplified! “Tiny Wonders” are all around us and if we seek them out they will seem all the more wonderful and full of awe when the wheels have come off everything else.
Bar-Anan, Y., Wilson, T., & Gilbert, D. (2009). The Feeling of Uncertainty Intensifies Affective Reactions. Emotion 9(1): 123-127.
Black Dog Institute (n.d.). Mental Health Ramifications of COVID-19: The Australian Context. Retrieved from: http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/20200319_covid19-evidence-and-reccomendations.pdf
Martin, J. (2020). Tiny wonders helped me through depression. Now they’re making lockdown bearable for Melburnians. ABC News. Retrieved from https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2020-08-30/melbourne-lockdown-moments-help-overcome-depression-isolation/12601672