These two things don’t really go hand in hand and that’s exactly why I felt like it would be a good time to write a blog post. How do we keep ourselves mentally well in a time of global uncertainty and at a time when we’re being told not to do the things that usually keep us well? I’ve found through supporting people in work and in my own experiences of trying to stay sane that this is proving to be really difficult. For me, going to the gym, meeting friends and being able to keep my house as clean as possible are the ways I feel able to relax when things feel a little chaotic. With my gym closed, social distancing rules and a self-imposed ration on my cleaning products I’ve found myself having a bit of cabin fever outside of work hours.
This is something that people I’ve spoken to through work are feeling too. As professionals we spend our time telling people to go outside, get fresh air, try and maintain social contacts as much as possible, make sure you have a routine and keep easy foods well stocked in the house. These are the things we know make life feel a little better or easier when it’s difficult and these are the exact things we’re being told by our countries leaders to avoid completely, and rightly so.
Covid-19 is no joke, it’s not something to be taken lightly and staying indoors and avoiding social contact IS the right thing to do. However, that means we need to find alternative ways to take care of ourselves mentally. Now, more than ever, we need to be kind to ourselves and practice self care. The things that we should always do but easily neglect are now things that are less of a recommendation and more of a necessity. Those home comforts, blankets, favourite tv shows and old faithful movies are the things to rely on now more than ever. Turning to our online social communities for some solidarity and making use of all the video calling options is something we can do to avoid feeling emotionally isolated in a time of needing to be isolated from others physically.
I know this will likely be old news to a lot of us but for some people staying in and avoiding others is new and it is frightening, especially as it’s government guidance. Online gaming is a great way to stay connected to others with similar interests, not just console gaming but online board games or card games too. There’s also online book clubs, live music events through social media and guided exercise classes that are helping people through. There’s no time like now to explore the arcade section of the forums and have some healthy competition going.
It’s a great time to be present too, I know when things are hard “be present” seems like being told to focus really hard on how bad you feel, but, be present in your surroundings rather than your head. If you have a garden, go outside, feel the sun… or wind.. breathe fresh air, notice plants, notice nature. It’s cheesy but sometimes noticing the bigger picture outside of what’s going on can be comforting and grounding.
Try and be creative. It’s a good opportunity to focus on your skills too, try and get back in touch with the hobbies you maybe once had or the things you want to try again. If you have baking ingredients, give baking a go again, or make a meal from scratch if you have things in cupboards to do that. If you live somewhere that there are people more vulnerable than you who may not be able to get out then maybe offer to help them by picking essentials up for them, walk their dog if they aren’t able to or offer them someone to chat to by phone. For those of us who are a dab hand at occupying ourselves indoors, this is the perfect opportunity to share the resources we have found to do this.
Try and stick to your routine as much as you possibly can while staying inside. Get up in the morning and go to bed at night at the same time, get dressed every day even if you aren’t going out, wash as often as you usually would, eat at the same time that you usually would, speak to people via messenger or video call as much as you would see them face to face and try not to jump straight into spring cleaning your whole house straight away, pace the chores like you usually would.
I’ve heard so many people talk about how confused they are with all of the mixed messages and varying degrees of trustworthy information being offered by all the different news outlets. For me, I have decided to choose one outlet and only one. I check it once every morning and once when I get in from work and I try to stick with this source only. I find myself getting frustrated by comparing my countries approach to others and ultimately, that isn’t helpful for me as someone working in the NHS and seeing things as they unfold first hand.
Really, right now, we need to feel united and looked after in a world where we’re unable to get that from others. So, we need to find a way to do it for ourselves. We need to take care of us, for us, but also for others. This is not something we can overcome by being a team of one and for once, we have the chance to be in a team by staying indoors and avoiding social contact, there really aren’t many times when we can say that!