Taking control of your mindset can be the path out of pandemic distress. Instead of feeling trapped, like a bird in a cage, with a different mindset you start to focus on the things you can control, think of the things you can do, and feel freer. This blog focuses on how to develop the mindset to cope with COVID lockdown.
What allows some of us to cope with the demands of a COVID lockdown better than others? We’re all trying our best to navigate unfamiliar territory and manage uncomfortable feelings and uncertainty. Some people have experienced extra hardships losing loved ones, jobs, and being separated from family. Working from home, whilst it suits some people, puts pressure on individuals, families and relationships.
Studies show that people are more distressed during COVID restrictions. Young people in particular experience greater levels of psychological distress during restrictions. Stress and living alone add to people’s psychological distress during restrictions and lockdowns[i].
The loss of familiar routines has affected people’s ability to cope with the demands of a COVID lockdown. Daily routines help people cope with stress, manage anxiety and ward off depression. With the COVID situation continuing, many people are feeling lost, fearful and directionless. Many are experiencing ‘lockdown fatigue’[ii].
The Australian Psychological Society describes this ‘a state of exhaustion caused by the long-term effects of COVID-19 and the changes it has caused to every aspect of your life.’ Symptoms include feeling irritable, frustrated, angry, sad, anxious and fearful, un-motivated and exhausted. It is important to support each other and reach out for services and support when we need it.
To be mentally prepared for the uncertainty of the situation, we need to develop the skills, strengths and mindset to cope with COVID lockdown. Looking after your mental and physical wellbeing has never been so important as it is in COVID lockdown.
What is mindset?
Mindset is a set of beliefs and attitudes that you use to make sense of the world and yourself. How you think about things influences how you feel and what actions you will take.
Mindset is learnt as a child and reinforced in significant moments. For instance, we all have particular mindsets about achievement, success and our own capabilities. If we’ve had good experiences with learning, we may view our progress as success. We may have developed a love of learning and view feedback or criticism as an opportunity to improve and develop our skills.
However, if we’ve learnt to view mistakes or setbacks as failure, we may avoid a challenge or limit ourselves through not stretching ourselves for fear of failure. These are two different types of mindsets, first coined by Stanford University psychologist, Professor Carol Dweck in children she taught: a Growth Mindset versus a Fixed Mindset.[iii]
Growth Mindset or Fixed Mindset
The Growth Mindset is based on the belief that you can grow and develop your intelligence and abilities and personal qualities through your efforts and experiences. According to Dweck, this belief creates a passion for learning, a passion for stretching and challenging yourself, and for persevering when the going gets tough.
By contrast, the Fixed Mindset is based on the belief that your abilities, intelligence and personal qualities are fixed. You’re either good at something (have the talent or ability) or not. According to Dweck, this generates an urgency to keep on proving yourself time after time and to cover up any perceived deficiencies.
People with this mindset tend to favour tasks that they know how to do well, instead of ones that will stretch them. They may take mistakes and setbacks personally and view themselves as failures. Making an effort may sometimes seem too risky or hard.
In coping with COVID lockdown, a Growth Mindset will allow you to tackle the problems as they emerge and develop your strengths, skills and resilience.
It would also be important to have a Balanced Mindset, one which I will define as acknowledging both sides of your experience, the negatives and positives. This includes your thoughts, feelings and experiences. This will give you flexibility to consider each situation as it arises, to check in with your thoughts and feelings without shutting them down.
A flexible, open mindset gives you the ability to see things in different ways, which is important in helping you to cope with COVID lockdown.
Balancing negative thoughts with positive ones doesn’t mean to ‘just be positive’. That’s often referred to as Toxic Positivity, which means being positive or encouraging others to be positive despite things not being OK. Others can feel guilty or ashamed for having negative thoughts and feelings, which is not healthy.
Instead, give yourself permission to be disappointed or negative, to grieve the losses you’ve experienced and to talk to trusted people or professionals about how you’re feeling. Then try to balance these negatives with some positives. Challenge yourself to find a positive aspect in the situation.
Mindsets to cope with COVID lockdown
Apart from the Growth and Balanced Mindsets that will be helpful in coping with COVID lockdown, you can develop a mindset of your own that uniquely matches the needs of a particular situation.
These are the ones that may help you to cope with a COVID lockdown. The Growth Mindset, a Balanced Mindset, a Dreamer Mindset, the Confident and Creative Mindsets, the Productive Mindset, and a Gratitude Mindset.
For example, a Dreamer Mindset is useful for visioning what you will do when we have more freedom, and planning around that vision. A Confident Mindset will allow you to effectively manage the tasks in your day and set good boundaries with others demanding more of you. A Creative Mindset will allow you to see possibilities in situations and to relax more as a counter-balance to stress and limitations. The Productive Mindset will allow you to make the most of your time and use it meaningfully. A Gratitude Mindset will increase your happiness by appreciating the things you have.
Your personal COVID lockdown mindset
Which mindset do you want to develop during COVID lockdown?
Start with your intention. How do you want to cope with COVID lockdown? For example, if you want to be less stressed and more relaxed, that’s a helpful state to manage uncertainty and change. A Calm Mindset would match that and allow you to view situations as doable.
Being calm means being able to transcend the worries about the future and be present-focused. Putting your energy into the things you can control can bring a sense of fulfilment and meaning. Taking control of your mindset can be the path out of pandemic distress. Develop the mindset to cope with COVID lockdown.
Please contact me if you need a little help with adjusting your mindset to cope with the COVID challenges. I am a Life Coach and Counsellor, Sydney based, and work fully online.
If this blog post has raised any issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.
AIHW has a comprehensive list of contacts, with descriptions of who the service is suitable for.
Useful wellness and mental health App.
Dweck, C. (2014) Carol Dweck: The power of believing that you can improve. TED. Retrieved from: https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve
Kendra Cherry, “What Is Toxic Positivity?” Verywell Mind, updated on February 01, 2021. Accessed July 11, 2021.
[i] The use of mental health services, psychological distress, loneliness, suicide, ambulance attendances and COVID-19 (updated March 2021).
[ii] The Australian Psychological Society. Managing Lockdown Fatigue. Pdf brochure. Accessed July 14, 2021. https://www.psychology.org.au/getmedia/74e7a437-997c-4eea-a49c-30726ce94cf0/20APS-IS-COVID-19-Public-Lockdown-fatigue.pdf
[iii] Dweck, C. (2014) Carol Dweck: The power of believing that you can improve. TED. Retrieved from: https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve