• Therapist Kelly Hearn has launched new online reflective groups where participants can share their different feelings about coronavirus and the lockdown

  • Our therapists and counsellors are still available to offer therapy online – find your professional here 

It is just over a month since the UK was put into lockdown to halt the spread of Covid-19. The coronavirus and resulting changes to the way we live our lives have unleashed tremendous existential anxiety. Social distancing practices also leave us with more time than usual with our own thoughts, often an uncomfortable place to be. In this environment, psychotherapy feels more relevant than ever. If therapy is, as Jungian analyst James Hollis put it, ‘the challenge to live with the reality of one’s own soul,’ this feels a particularly fruitful time to do so. 

Psychotherapists have a wide lens into the experiences of many. So sometimes our job includes normalising the broad spectrum of emotions our clients encounter. This perspective is important, as individuals often take a critical or judgemental stance towards their own abilities of coping with adversity. They feel they aren’t doing enough, or they are somehow ‘missing a trick’ everyone else knows, when in fact they are mostly having entirely human reactions to extraordinary events. Covid-19 has hit us all, albeit in different ways, and so it is entirely understandable we’re not quite sure how to process it all.

Various iterations of the sentiments below have been heard recently in my client sessions (often followed by the refrain ‘Is this normal?):

‘I’m a usually anxious person, but I feel strangely calm now…for once the outer world reflects my inner one…’   Is this normal?

‘I define myself as a high-functioning individual, but yesterday I couldn’t get out of bed…’  Is this normal?

‘I haven’t been physically next to a person for four weeks, but I’ve been in closer touch with family and friends than ever…’  Is this…?

‘I am surrounded by family, and I’ve never felt so utterly alone…’  Is…?

‘Is it wrong to say I actually prefer life like this?’

I am lost without the joy of completing my daily to-do list…?

My sex drive has gone through the roof…?

‘I’ve lost all interest in sex…my partner is now at my side all day, every day… why would I want to be even closer?’

‘I’ve learned to appreciate the small things, the stuff I never noticed before…’

‘I know I should be grateful for what I have, but I am also just so angry…’

This time together is saving my marriage…

‘Quarantine has made us both realise our relationship isn’t fixable…’

‘I can’t help thinking this is exactly what we all needed, no matter how painful it is…’

‘If one more person points out silver linings to me I’m gonna lose it…’

The range of emotional responses I’ve sat with in the last several weeks is wide and fluctuating; there are frequent references to ‘riding waves.’  The types of statements above have been trailheads, openings to much larger and longer explorations of key existential themes. Isolation and loneliness.  Anxiety and fear.  Grief and loss. Meaning and meaninglessness. Crisis and transformation. The list goes on. There is a palpable desire to dig deeper. It’s not surprising sales of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning are skyrocketing.

All of which lead me to believe there is an appetite to come together, albeit virtually, to talk candidly about some of the emotional challenges of working and living in the time of Covid-19. We may be physically distanced, but the need for social connection has never been stronger. Hearing each other’s thoughts and anxieties helps us realise that we are not alone, and all that we feel is indeed normal.

In the coming weeks, I am launching Online Reflective Groups, a series of bi-monthly thematic discussions allowing time for sharing personal experiences and views facilitated by a psychotherapist. Groups will be limited to six participants and offered free of charge for the time being, in this unusual period when we all try to make sense of our ‘new normal.’  For more information or to register interest, please contact [email protected].

Kelly Hearn is a verified welldoing.org therapist in London and online

Further reading

Has lockdown damaged your sex life?

Parenting in lockdown: managing changing roles and responsibilities

7 ways to manage relationship conflict in lockdown

A simple creative exercise to manage coronavirus anxiety

What has the coronavirus crisis taught us about home?