BY SHU-HAN SU, LPC, CADC, CTRTC
Based on the Choice Theory and Reality Therapy by Dr. William Glasser
COVID-19 has impacted millions of lives and created challenges globally. The pandemic has also affected every aspect of our emotional well-being. Work, school, family and various social environments--all of our individual and group interactions have also been restricted due to the lockdown.
Considering this new reality, what are some strategies to understand, cope and overcome our struggles during the pandemic? What are the essential skills needed to manage our emotions during this distressing time?
Choice Theory provides the framework that every individual has the ultimate power to control him- or herself and has limited power to control others.
Practicing Choice Theory allows you to take responsibility for thoughts and decisions. At the same time, it enables you to refrain from taking ownership of other people's decisions and choices. Choice Theory empowers you to take responsibility for your choices and support others in taking ownership of theirs.
According to Dr. Glasser, human beings have 5 basic needs:
- Survival: food, water, money and safety
- Love and belonging: the need to love and be loved
- Power: Feeling of control or achievement
- Freedom: The freedom to have choices
- Fun: the need for pleasure and entertainment
COVID-19 has certainly impacted all of them:
- Survival: Our health has been threatened by COVID-19. Our work might also be jeopardized or may be in an unsafe environment.
- Love and belonging: Social distancing created isolation. For the sick, hospital visits are restricted and social contact is severely limited during recovery.
- Power: We feel a lack of power due to the contagious nature of COVID-19 and the absence of effective treatments or vaccines.
- Freedom: Our freedom to engage in activities or travel is dramatically restricted.
- Fun: Various gatherings, hobbies, sports and recreational activities have been cancelled.
Based on Choice Theory, it is important to recognize what we can and cannot control. Given that we cannot control how COVID spreads or who it infects, how can we manage these changes and choose to meet our needs during this difficult time?
- Survival: Take care of your body. Choose to wear masks, wash your hands and keep appropriate social distance. Maintain your nutrition and avoid alcohol and substances. Seek medical treatment when appropriate and reach out to mental health professionals if necessary.
- Love and belonging: Connect with loved ones while social distancing via phone or video calls, emails and other means of checking in virtually.
- Power: Practice mindfulness to restore mental power and express gratitude to fuel others. Lending a helping hand or volunteering time to help the vulnerable often restores a sense of control.
- Freedom: You can choose to explore new projects and activities you did not have time for previously to gain a sense of freedom. Tackle a home project, plant a garden, learn a new language or try some hobbies.
- Fun: Make sure you schedule time for things you enjoy. This will combat anxiety and improve your mood. Listening to your favorite music and exploring new activities can also help you relax and reduce stress.
I hope this article will encourage you apply Choice Theory to manage stress and anxiety during the pandemic in creative and personal ways. Continue to make healthy and smart choices to meet your needs and those of your loved ones.