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Life in the time of Covid-19

Tamsin Embleton, founder of Music Industry Therapists and Coaches (MITC), offers guidance on how to deal with stress, anxiety and uncertainty amid the coronavirus crisis

27 Apr 2020

Life in the time of Covid-19: Coping with stress and anxiety

As the music business tries to adjust to the enormously destructive curveball of Covid-19, anxiety and uncertainty around the immediate and long-term impact of the pandemic is soaring.

We are suddenly stood face-to-face with our own vulnerabilities and limitations. With so much stripped back, we’re aware of the bare bones of what we have in our lives.

We’re also aware of what is absent in terms of emotional resilience, physical health, financial stability, job security, and of the loved ones and support systems we have in place for times of need. Deficits in these areas can be painful to acknowledge, and difficult feelings may arise.

Moving from a ‘doing’ state into a ‘being’ state can be challenging and uncomfortable, especially for the workaholics amongst us who are used to constantly pushing forward, often as a way to avoid difficult underlying feelings. It can be hard to slow down and take time to reflect on what’s happening for you.

Moving from a ‘doing’ state into a ‘being’ state can be challenging and uncomfortable, especially for the workaholics amongst us

During a crisis, anxiety and distress run high, meaning that the focus and playfulness needed to create and achieve can be harder to reach. Motivation will ebb and flow. Be kind to yourself and try to manage the expectations you put on yourself and others during this time. The dust is yet to settle.

Anxiety and stress are physical experiences as much as they are emotional and psychological ones. When the brain registers a threat, whether real or imagined, it engages the autonomic nervous system in a fight/flight/freeze or flop response – kicking the body into action to respond to the threat.

It also impacts us cognitively meaning that our ability to think clearly is compromised – becoming hyperalert for signs of threat, catastrophising, ruminating, generalising, jumping to conclusions or seeing things in ‘all-good’ or ‘all-bad’ terms.

At MITC, we have developed a guide, which can be found at here.

Times of crisis stimulate different responses for different people

Times of crisis stimulate different responses for different people. Some may respond by minimising or denying the threat completely, perhaps even shaming others for feeling frightened or overwhelmed. Others will respond with anger, irritability or outrage, while some may cling to certainties or spill their anxiety out for others to contain. Some will retreat and focus internally, some will go into caregiving overdrive and focus externally.

Many who have lived with high levels of internal anxiety since childhood may even feel an unusual sense of calm – as if the dread they’ve lived with finally has a name and can be shared. The external seems to match the internal, which can bring relief.

Perhaps the current circumstances normalise a quieter way of living, or offer a sort of level playing field. Introverts, those who usually work from home or those who find social situations draining or anxiety-provoking, are likely to often find self-isolation easier than those who rely on social situations for energy and restoration.

Others may feel miserable, withdrawn, disconnected or lonely, struggling with the challenge of connecting to others or a hopeful part of themselves. Often people will oscillate between states, as the self-isolation continues.

It is important to know your personal boundaries

Emotional resilience really means being able to roll with the punches. It’s about recognising the feelings that surface and finding healthy ways to express them. It means coming to a place of acceptance and adapting as best we can to the ebb and flow of what happens over the next few months.

Acknowledge what is in your control, such as how you nourish and support your body during times of stress; how you notice, validate and express your feelings in healthy ways; how you structure your day; how you take care of your environment; how you entertain yourself and how you relax; the relationships you maintain and emotional support you reach for; and the care you give to others.

It is important to know your personal boundaries. Boundaries help us to differentiate where we stop and where another person (or another person’s feelings) begins. They help us to know what is our responsibility and what belongs to someone else. They help us to manage stress by allowing us time to stop, recover and recentre before our resources become depleted.

They also help us separate work and leisure (particularly difficult in the music industry!).

The irony is, that setting boundaries can appear to be restrictive. But it is actually what will free you.


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