The pandemic of Covid 19 has presented many of us with challenges and pressures we were not expecting. It may have triggered your “inner critic” to kick into over drive particularly when we are struggling with expectations of productivity, motivation, juggling competing demands such as child care, home schooling and working from home. When we are faced with the very real financial strain and distress during the pandemic, it could be free reign for our “inner critic” to take over and undermine our efforts to do the best we can in very difficult circumstances. There is a real danger that negative thoughts can overwhelm us and lead us into a spiral of anxiety and distress.
What is the Critical Inner Voice?
“The critical inner voice is a well-integrated pattern of destructive thoughts toward ourselves and others. The nagging “voices,” or thoughts, that make up this internalized dialogue are at the root of much of our self-destructive and maladaptive behaviour. The critical inner voice is not an auditory hallucination; it is experienced as thoughts within your head. This stream of destructive thoughts forms an anti-self that discourages individuals from acting in their best interest.” Lisa Firestone, Ph.D
During the Covid 19 Crisis it is possible that self-critical thoughts may enter your mind, playing on the uncertainty of the situation. You might find yourself criticising yourself for not being a great “home school teacher” for your children, you may question how worthwhile your friendships are if you haven’t heard from friends in a while, you may feel so alone that you fear people have forgotten about you and don’t care about you. You may judge yourself for not being “productive enough” and “squandering” your self-isolation because you were not super creative or constructive. It’s possible that you are not as productive when working from home as you try to juggle so many conflicting demands at one time. When times are challenging, we are presented with the opportunity to revert back to the “critical voice” in our head which tells us we are “not good enough”, we “haven’t done enough”. Such thinking leads to feelings of inadequacy, incompetency and defection. Such emotions lower our mood, can lead us to turn to unhealthy habits of avoidance, procrastination, substance misuse and dependency.
How can we avoid the trap of the “inner critic”?
Manage your own expectations: Understand that you can only do what you can do in one day. Some days are more constructive than others and this is OK. Tomorrow is a new day and you can keep chipping away each day. Talk about your feelings with your family and friends, share the load with your partner if you have one and ask for help when you need it. Remind yourself that what you are doing, IS ENOUGH
Practice Self Care: Identify what helps you bring out the best in yourself
Exercise daily: Go for a walk or do a yoga class on line, ride your bike
Stay in touch with family and friends, reach out to others and stay connected
Stay in a routine so you are getting a good sleep during the night and waking feeling refreshed and productive in the morning.
Set Goals: Set realistic, achievable goals for each day so you feel you have achieved what you set out to do. This can give you a feeling of satisfaction and proves to the “inner critic” that you are not hopeless and you are slowly but surely ticking things off the list.
Practice Self Compassion: Break the cycle of self-judgement and criticism and learn to accept your efforts as “good enough” and that perfection doesn’t actually exist. Try to encourage yourself and acknowledge the efforts you have made and the improvements you are slowly making, rather than constantly criticising yourself. Criticising oneself isn’t always motivating, it can reduce our self-confidence and self-belief.
Putting your “inner critic” into isolation during the Covid 19 Pandemic may help you to maintain and sustain good mental health beyond the pandemic and allow you to pursue and fulfil your full potential for lasting personal wellbeing.
If you think you would benefit from meeting with one of the Psychologists at Brooke Street Medical Centre, please make an appointment with your GP to discuss your personal situation.
At Brooke Street, all medical and allied health professionals including Psychologists can offer telehealth and face to face appointments. Please do not hesitate to contact us on 03 5427 1002.