First, it needs to be clear: not everything is uncertain! So divide the mountain into smaller heaps. People tend to say that everything is getting away from them. But even in the current overall situation, there are still things that are stable. That may be a relationship, contact with children, even a job. Looking particularly at these areas can offer support. Then there are areas that are unstable but where I can still manage alone. And in the other areas, it helps to talk about it. For these, we can seek out conversation partners with whom we find it easy to discuss certain topics. After all, it’s not as if I’m the only person who has this problem. These conversations can be a relief, not only to me but also to the person I speak to. So together we can create a little bit of mutual security – just by supporting each other, even though we may not be able to change the situation. We can build security by thinking things through together.
The pandemic is interfering with our lives in significant ways. How can you deal with this type of external determination, for example if you are affected by forced closures?
Yes, this ‘other-determination’ is certainly also making people angry. And there are plenty of constraints at the moment. Think of the opposite case, when people must work despite illness and without holiday – healthcare workers, for example. Or single parents who are working from home and managing home schooling at the same time. There is immense pressure there. The important thing is for people to celebrate their self-determination, even if it’s only in the tiny things. Even if my shop is closed or if I have to work like mad, there are quite a few things that I can decide for myself. This is where the focus should be: I still control a large part of my life myself.
What can we do with the anger that you mentioned?
The question is: where do I invest my energy? This is essential, especially for business owners who are naturally worrying about their very existence. They can invest their energy in anger about the constant closing and reopening. But, rather than directing the energy and aggression that arises into battle, it is probably more sensible – if possible – to channel it into creativity. In other words, to think about what you can do. I believe that creative people, thanks to this self-determination and their ability to find something that lets them deal with at least part of the problem, are coming through this time better.
Mental breakdown can take various forms. When it’s depression and anxiety, then it’s best to do something for yourself. Whether that means taking a bath, going on a woodland walk or listening to music depends very much on the individual. But when I realise I’m about to explode, I have to get moving in order to break down the aggression. And it might be advisable to do this alone. On the other hand, if I’m feeling helpless, it’s probably better to go for a walk with a person I trust and with whom I can talk. So it depends a great deal on the situation. It is important for people who live completely alone in lockdown to maintain their telephone contacts. They should set out fixed times of day for these calls. The advantage of this is that it gives you something to look forward to a couple of hours beforehand and lifts your mood. And it is something reliable. Ideally, you would also have people to contact anytime you’re thinking ‘I can’t take this anymore’. And there are blogs, for example at www.erstehilfefuerdieseele.at, with tips to help you get through these times. Things like that can also help.
Children and young people are another matter entirely. They are being affected very severely at the moment – young children more because of their overburdened parents, while teens are experiencing impacts such as the consequences for the school system. With regard to festivities, it works best to say, ‘Let’s have a fun and creative celebration within the family now and catch up on the big party with friends later.’ Funerals are particularly difficult as there is no making up for them later. They need to be done in a personal way, with a certain depth.
I believe that creative people are coming through this time better.Dr. Günter Klug
Well, these customs are usually very old and in the times that they originate from, large events rarely took place. So one option could be to go back to the origins. That can be exciting because a custom has perhaps taken on quite a different significance or style. The rituals that we connect with these feast days also play a big role, and we can get through many uncertainties by keeping up particular rituals with friends or relatives. I know young people who have celebrated ‘together’, each in front of their own screen – and they had quite a party. But it depends a lot on what you have experienced. At a certain age, when I have experienced something quite often, I can bear its occasional cancellation quite well. It makes me look forward to it even more the next time. This is the same for holidays as it is for Carnival. But for an 18-year-old without much experience under his belt, it is of course more difficult.
About ... PDoz Dr Günter Klug
Doz Dr Günter Klug is a specialist in psychiatry and neurology and, since 1997, a registered psychotherapist. Klug has worked in psychosocial care for 30 years. He is President of pro mente Austria, the Austrian umbrella organisation for associations and societies for psychiatric and social health, Chairman of Psychosozialen Dienste Steiermark (Styria Psychosocial Services) and Medical Director of Gesellschaft zur Förderung seelischer Gesundheit GmbH (Society for the Promotion of Mental Health).
© Photo Credit: Günter Klug