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Being mentally prepared

image2 feb 2021

One of the worst and most challenging aspects of being hit by the unexpected is just that, the problem, issue or setback is  – unexpected – and it could be the very unexpectedness of the event that has knocked you for six.

So, how can you plan for the unplanned or expect the unexpected? How can you be mentally prepared?

Be prepared for anything

Many emergencies come hurtling out of the blue. A topical example is the appearance of the coronavirus. At the beginning of 2020, it seemed to be like the beginning of just about any other year. Then the first cases of Coronavirus were diagnosed – and by springtime, the whole country was in a state of emergency lockdown.

Mentally preparing for an event such as that might involve a combination of what we already know and what we don’t yet know.

In October, Metro newspaper suggested how its readers might mentally prepare for a second lockdown. Stripping out those themes relating specifically to the coronavirus, the essence of that advice was to:

  • learn the lessons from any past emergencies or crises you have experienced – what worked well and what didn’t work so well, and what you did to make that difference;
  • take comfort and reassurance in familiar things – the known knowns – like your home, and establish a routine for getting through each day;
  • look after your physical wellbeing, recognise that as one of the foundations of your mental wellbeing. So, exercise and spend at least some time outdoors away from the house; and
  • tackle the anxiety cycle by defining those things you will be looking forward to once the crisis or emergency has passed and remind yourself that you have survived previous disasters – and will overcome the current one, too.

Philosophy

From the specific case of your mental preparedness – or otherwise – for the pandemic, it is possible to widen your understanding towards a more philosophical perspective.

The website Zen Habits, for example, suggests seven principles that may help you mentally prepare for every and any eventuality:

  • mindfulness is key – the concept of mindfulness has become so widely accepted that even the NHS has recognised the value in sitting still and quiet, paying attention to your thoughts, the sensation of breathing, and the response of your body, and refocussing on these whenever your thoughts begin to wander;
  • recognise the immediate internal response of your body to the news of any unexpected event or crisis and control that response in the way you react;
  • recognise your negative thoughts and feelings – such as fear, anger, anxiety resentment – and know that instead of holding onto them, you can just let them go;
  • be realistic – in an ideal world, we would treat one another in a way we wanted to be treated ourselves. Unfortunately, the real world is not the ideal world, and it may be well to let go of any quest to make it so – simply, be realistic;
  • even in a less than ideal world, some of your responses may be more appropriate than others – make sure you know the difference and react appropriately;
  • be present – as some philosophies might put it, stay in the moment, by focussing on the here and now and not dwelling on past failings or forecasting future difficulties; and
  • gratitude – of course, there are occasions when it might be difficult to muster the enthusiasm to be grateful for whatever you have, but such a positive and accepting attitude is likely to prove well worth it.

Whether you adopt a mainly practical or a philosophical approach, it is possible to prepare mentally for just about any event or catastrophe – man-made or natural.

This data is correct as at the time of writing.

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