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Cancelled by COVID –19: managing disappointment in a pandemic

September 2020

Life as we know it changed back in late February with the arrival of the first case of coronavirus in Ireland. And it’s been constantly changing ever since, as we’ve learned to live with disruptions & disappointments to our daily lives. But just when we thought we were learning to live with the virus, Ireland’s recent spike in cases has led to increased restrictions and regulations to help slow the spread of the virus. And whilst these are in place to help keep us safe, they have an impact on all our lives, leaving many struggling with feelings of disappointment, anger, sadness, anxiety and more.

Although the pandemic has given us an opportunity to slow down and reflect, it has wreaked havoc in many ways.  Lives have been lost and long-term health has been impacted. Livelihoods have been paused or lost causing hardship, stress and anxiety. Anticipated events or plans for the future have been cancelled, curtailed or re-imagined, such as weddings, birthday parties, travel, new jobs, reunions, graduations and other important life events.  The resulting stress & disappointment can be tough to manage.

Trying to navigate the constant changes inevitably stirs up emotional and logistical challenges. For those who have been particularly impacted, a feeling of disappointment is natural. But a sense of loss or grief can lead to more serious mental health concerns, such as intense feelings of anxiety or even depression, if not addressed in a healthy and proactive way.

To help manage your disappointment, regardless of the cause, try following these simple steps

Acknowledge Disappointment

Although it’s uncomfortable to deal with negative emotions, it’s important not to ignore these feelings and to address the underlying issue. Disappointment is a sad and painful feeling that descends when expectations and positive feelings are disrupted. If eagerly anticipated plans are cancelled, it’s reasonable to a range of emotions.

So, it’s good to remind yourself that it’s okay to feel this way. Expressing these emotions and then allowing them to pass is both positive and constructive. It can help strengthen your own personal resilience. 

Listen to others who may be struggling too.  And remember, everyone’s perspective is different. What may seem a small hurdle to you, may be a major challenge or disappointment for someone else or may be a last straw in a series of disappointments.       

Accept the New Normal

Recognise that the coronavirus pandemic is outside of our control. We can control our own behaviours to help keep the virus at bay. But we cannot control those of other people. Besides, the virus doesn’t follow rules & regulations.  So, it’s helpful to face up to reality, however painful. Talk about your experiences and how you feel, and listen to others too. Make time and space to be alone with your thoughts and feelings. Disappointments may heartfelt, but it’s helpful to remind ourselves that by following guidelines and making sacrifices, we are helping to save lives. Recognise that we have done this before, we know how to do this and it is a temporary situation.

Find your Support System

As with other emotional or mental health concerns, having a strong support system around you can help in dealing with disappointment. Confiding in in someone you trust can bring some relief.  Talking about your concerns can ease those strong emotions and give some comfort. Reach out to family members, close friends or even co-workers if you’re feeling disappointed or have had a set back. Be open and receptive to their advice.  It can help you gain a new, fresh perspective on your stressful situation. 

Be Kind to Yourself & to Others

In showing kindness to others we often get a boost to our own mental wellness too, with a sense of satisfaction or happiness. Offer to help somebody during this time – collect groceries for a neighbour, call someone who might be lonely or throw a hand in to do some household chores or errands. These small actions can be powerful, and can mean alot, especially now.

Likewise, be kind to yourself.  Take the time to practice self-care.  It’s important. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries and take some ‘me time’ to do something you enjoy doing, especially if you’re feeling tense or anxious.  It can be something as simple as taking a walk. Getting out in the fresh air can lift our mood.

Find a New Perspective 

After finding a more positive outlet for your feelings, it’s time to look at things in a new way. That much needed overseas trip may have been cancelled, but now’s the time to explore those places you’ve always said you’d visit at home. Even though you had to cancel your big birthday bash, perhaps you celebrated over video chat with friends and family including some who are far away and couldn’t attend the planned party.

Take a moment to reflect on your situation and try to focus on what you’re grateful for. Practicing gratitude can help you cope more effectively. 

Manage your Expectations

The next step is to prepare yourself for any possible future disappointment. It’s impossible to avoid all forms of disappointment, but being able to adapt to unforeseen changes will help you be better prepared the next time your hopes or expectations aren’t met. Trying to be adaptable can help build resilience.

So, take a deep breath, pause to consider your options, reframe your initial expectation in the context of your new situation and learn as you go. We’re all with you.  We’re all learning as we go too.

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