Nights drawing in, Covid anxiety, winter blues, Christmas panic, it’s all going horribly wrong

Or is it? 

Many therapists are currently inundated with enquiries. Each client bringing their own dilemma, or needing a place to reflect, or wanting to examine a crisis that needs unpicking with an unbiased and empathetic listener.

The issues are similar to those that haunted us in 2019 but they seem now to be overshadowed by much darker personal and world views.

It’s becoming apparent that people feel optimism is thinning out and sessions are now often a case of damage limitation, as creative thoughts become harder to justify. 

Any positive interjections get overwhelmed and hope is harder to find.

The bias towards negative thought is the proven tendency that the dark emotions have a stronger and much more long lasting effect than the positive ones.

Think about how easy it is to slump into a sleepless night reflecting on a perceived slight or a critical remark. And how this never seems to tip into the opposite frame of mind if we are praised or validated. 

The bad news sticks, and if we look at it, 2020 has been peppered with tragedy and uncertainty. 

Negative images stimulate far more electrical activity in our brains than positive ones. 

As we know in therapy, the past shows up in the present and the difficult patterns ingrained from previous experiences can have a searing effect on current responses and triggers. 

The opposite sadly doesn’t compute. 

Creative or positive past and present experiences just don’t have the same impact. 

Much of this is historic, humans were pre-programmed to be hyper-vigilant in the face of danger. Back in ancient times, errors of judgement could prove fatal.

So, that’s how we can better understand collective and unconscious negative primal responses, but interestingly the older we get, quite often the more contented we are. 

Life has thrown its challenges and age gives a better perspective. 

Often it’s comforting to reflect on happy times and strangely these memories can give more pleasure as life goes on. 

Long relationships have usually survived because the parties concerned have learned to focus more on the good than the bad, and to accept each other and not be floored by flaws. 

Picking our battles only works if we can judge which skirmishes are just not worth the energy of fully engaging in all the tiring negativity.

It’s about minimising that negativity. Problems unfortunately have a far deeper and longer lasting impact than solutions or resolutions. Compliments drift away much sooner than insults. Fury can linger longer than joy. 

Statistically anger is flaring nationally as a reaction to the pandemic – can it be true, as reported, that one in twelve of us is no longer on speaking terms with someone due to a coronavirus argument? 

Remember that underneath anger is pain. Access yours, and try to see theirs, it’s all fear related and it’s better to understand this is a reaction to anxiety and loss and not personal

Much of our attitude can colour the way we perceive experiences that affect us.

In reality for many of us, there’s far more to celebrate than to mourn.

Question those negative thoughts. We have the ability to zap them, to disempower them and to see that we can give them far more control over us than they deserve

We hear a lot about the ‘Rule Of Six‘ well, here are mine – to give a steer out of the shadows and into a lighter place – it’s not all doom if we tackle those dark and invasive thoughts.

• Check out of any situations that cast unnecessary gloom over your day. Just step away, physically if possibly, or mentally If not 

• Turn off continuous news feeds, skip the endless sad and angst making stories and comments. And do stop reading about and then inviting comparison to others lovely lives (they’re really not as lovely as you imagine)

• Switch channels If programmes start to feed the negative sprite on your shoulder. Ditto that dreary novel you feel you should finish.

• Detach from friendships that are constantly  more ‘drain’ than ‘radiator’ – you know who they are. Be brave and just disappear – self care is needed right now to feed the creative relationships and engage with loving friends and family who will reflect this back to us.

• Ask yourself if the problem will still be relevant in a month, a year, a five year span. Almost certainly not.

• Chanel your thoughts into a diversion. 

A walk (we know what green space can do for our mood), a small treat, a snack, a warming cup, a hot bath, a riveting Podcast. Enjoy the moment and avoid speculating on future circumstances. 

Don’t let facts become thoughts and never let thoughts become assumptions 

We apparently have around 6,000 thoughts a day and 98% of these are the same ones we had yesterday and even more frightening 80% of them are in the negative category.

This is plainly our instinctive and historic defence mechanism and not at all a realistic reflection if we can put it in perspective. 

Sadly, our tendency is to lean into the fear rather than checking out to happier thoughts

It can sound very trite to be asked to ‘count our blessings’ but factually it’s a shoe-in for a lighter frame of mind.

James Taylor put it beautifully back in the day. His survival and creativity is pretty inspirational, overcoming severe addictions and tragedies and arriving in his seventies with a seemingly contented outlook, enduring relationships and a powerful body of inspirational work

Secret of Life James Taylor

Christina Fraser