How do we begin to make sense of Coronavirus? The speed at which the pandemic has taken hold has not given us time to process the sheer enormity of the situation. We are grappling for new information daily but are no nearer to the answers we crave. Whilst we eagerly await the next official set of government regulations and medical best practise, we realise that no one is in charge and none of us have the answers. Life has thrown us a huge curveball.
We don’t yet know how and when this unseen enemy will beat a retreat, and this uncertainty is deeply troubling for some. Anxiety around isolation, jobs, finance, family members and not to mention our own mortality can be crippling, but it’s more important than ever to dig deep and think about what we can control. Anxiety is great at looking into the future and predicting the worst, creating scenarios that may or may not exist, asking questions that cannot be answered. Whilst we are engaging in this type of fearful thinking we lose connection with the present: the things we have more control over, the detail in our every day that we can start to miss. If you’ve heard of mindfulness but you’re not quite convinced, give it a go, it will teach you the skills to do exactly this.
Here’s a tip: the more you look for information to help you feel less anxious, the more anxious you will feel. Try to limit the amount of time you check your social media or the news. Constantly going over information, without any helpful answers only serves to keep the fear part of the brain well and truly fired up. If you can, just check once or twice a day with a couple of reputable sources to keep up to date. Start your morning and end your day by focusing on something that’s meaningful for you, helping the brain to cool down.
Being ‘vulnerable’ (I have a significant immune system weakness) I am isolating for the foreseeable future, and with this unexpected stretch of time ahead of me I am choosing to use it wisely. I have found it helpful to build routine into my day: check in with friends, start some projects I’ve been avoiding, attempt to cook (great for me, maybe not for others), read my magazines, binge my boxsets, begin the online training that was far far down on my to-do list. I’m volunteering for Age UK to help those who are isolated and lonely. Giving back to others is not only crucial right now, but is known to have a positive impact on both physical and mental health.
The double edged-sword that is our digital world means we have never been more connected yet on an individual level we’ve never been more disconnected; loneliness, isolation and busy work lives are responsible for many of today’s mental health issues. But humans are hard-wired to connect and be part of social groups, it’s fundamental not only for our wellbeing but also for our survival. Coronavirus will affect us all in one way or another, but I am also hopeful that it is the jump lead that society needs to jolt us into a ‘we’ not ‘me’ collective mindset. Check in on your friends and neighbours, isolate if you need to, help the elderly and vulnerable, stop panic buying and stockpiling, allow the shops to replenish their shelves, there IS enough to go round. And please, go easy on the toilet roll.