Everything has changed these last few weeks. Material products that we took for granted, that we thought we could rely on, are no longer freely available. Movement outside the home is restricted. A general sense of unease, of waiting, of not knowing, surrounds us. Like a blanket, the unease muffles life, and makes it harder to move, both physically and mentally. This is a completely new and unprecedented experience for the vast majority of us, and yet this is where we are right now. Many of us feel lost and in limbo, in this surreal new world. So what can we do to help ourselves, and others, to get through it?
- Accept how you feel
Life is not going to continue as before. Even once this is over, there are lessons to be learned here. And certainly whilst we're in the midst of it, things cannot carry on in the ways we're used to. It is helpful at times like this to notice what's going on for you, to lean into what you feel rather than resisting it. Consider what has changed, and how you feel about it - and find some acceptance around the fact that you're afraid, or that you're not thinking as well as you normally would, or that you seem to keep walking into things or tripping over in your fug and confusion, or that you're not as freely available to your children or partner right now. Whatever we feel is all normal, given the situation, and offering ourselves some compassion around it ('Of course I feel this way, of course this is all I'm able to bring right now') is helpful to move us through.
- Allow feelings to cycle through
Know that it's very normal that our feelings about what's going on will come in waves. We'll have moments where we start to feel very lost in our feelings of fear and uncertainty and anger, but also at other times we may carry on as normal, and even experience delight and joy as we move through the world. That is just as it should be - and we need to work with those more challenging feelings to move them through, to allow our body to get back into balance as a system; it isn't helpful or healthy for us to stay stuck in any of our big emotions for extended periods. For example, when you feel fearful, see if you can tune into your body and see what it wants to do. Move in a way that you feel you need to (e.g. run, jump, shake your body), remembering that this exactly what is needed to help your body move through the sense of threat that it perceives right now. Then pause and come back to the body - notice how it feels, put your attention on it in the here and now. Repeat as you sense you need. Listening to our bodies in this way, helps the feelings to move through, rather than staying stuck and bursting out at others in ways we will regret.
- Look after yourself
We must put our own oxygen mask on first so to speak - in other words, it's vital to attend to our own needs, in order that we can be available to help others. I won't go into lots of detail here (I'll do another post on this and link to it here shortly, with more information), but for now, see what calls you from this list:
a. Keep connecting - with people you live with, and also remotely. Connection is important to let our systems know we are safe. If you're a member of an online community, no matter what that community is, reach out to them, join in with what's going on, be a part of something. Be intentional about this - make the space for it.
b. Find ways to process the emotional impact of what's going on - Listening Time, online counselling, Qigong, Reiki self-treatments, Tai Chi, yoga, breathwork, EFT… Whatever helps you to come back to yourself in the here and now, back to your body, and allows your emotions to cycle through. There's plenty available online, so if you can't access your usual in-person classes, do have a search and see what you can find to tide you over.
c. Do things that bring you into the present - in addition to many of the activities above, singing and dancing are great ways to get present, as it's very hard to worry when you're doing them. They're also great for nervous system regulation - not to mention being fun (it's SO important to still have fun where we can!).
d. Lower your expectations about what you could or should be doing - if you feel like doing stuff, by all means do it (try to stay connected to your body as you're doing it though, if you can - rather than using it as a way to numb your feelings), but if you don't feel like 'doing' right now, honour that too. That goes for housework, paid work, kids' schoolwork (I'll be writing soon about our home ed experiences so you can get some hints and tips for the next few weeks, and I'll link to that here).
- Meet people where they are at
We won't all agree about the best way forwards in this situation, and we'll be confronted by a lot of conflicting information as we move through it all. If you have something to say, then say your piece by all means - after that, people must be allowed to make their own decisions. It would be too easy to let the fear divide us when we disagree. This is also just a great skill to practise anyway - the more we aggressively push our agenda, the less people are able to listen, and we may end up pushing them further from where we'd like to be by doing it.
- Give your children information
Children know what's going on when there's any kind of 'situation'. Whether they hear anyway, through other sources (which, in the current situation, they surely will), or whether they just pick up on the general vibe of 'something's not right', they will know that something is up. Give them some information about what's going on - they don't need tons of detail, and it needs to be at their level - and reassure them that we adults are doing what we can, and that we will get through this. Show them a little of how you feel (rather than pretending everything is fine), and, whilst we can't promise them that all their loved ones will be ok, we can let them know that as best we can, we've got this, and that we will come out the other side of it all eventually.
- Look after your community - or (and) *let them look after you*
There are vulnerable people in all of our communities - and any one of us might be included in that number. Do support others around you as best you can - but don't forget to allow yourself to be supported too. If you need something, ask. If you think someone else might need something, ask. We're in this together.
- Tell people you love them
If this isn't a wake-up call for all those 'I love you's' we haven't said, I don't know what is. And it's not about saying it to those who we think aren't going to make it - it's about reminding ourselves of who and what is important to us, and making sure they know it.
- Don't panic buy
I really wish this went without saying, but it clearly doesn't. Yes, make sure you've got enough of what you need for a week or two (and don't forget you've probably got things in your cupboards that could do with being used up - now would be a great time to do that). But don't buy up 3 months' worth of toilet paper, paracetamol* and tinned goods. Instead, reach out if you do run out of something that you really need - someone will have something, and they may be reaching out to you to return the favour on another front, so speak out if you need something.
(*Don't use ibuprofen if you have symptoms of Covid-19 - it makes symptoms worse. If you use ibuprofen for another condition, contact your healthcare provider about what to do.)
- Get your meds sorted
Check with your surgery if you're worried about running out of prescription medications.
- Notice the helpers
As the inimitable Mr Rogers advised, when times are tough, look for the helpers. We are genetically drawn to notice threat (or perceived threat) over what's going well, so it helps to put some intention onto the positives, to help us maintain a balanced sense of what's going on. If you feel called to, in addition to noticing the helpers, express or just appreciate internally the amazing work being done by our service workers that enables us to receive what we need. If you are one of these amazing people - thank you, from the deepest parts of our hearts. We see you.
- Notice the good
Even amongst all the fear, we must pick out the good stuff. Even though it can feel wrong to take time to appreciate a beautiful sunset when people around us are suffering, we must - because our systems are not designed to be constantly on alert, and it helps no one (and certainly not our children) if we spend all our time worrying about things we can do little or nothing about. Have some worry time, have some action time (where you are doing and helping) - and then, live your life as best you can, giving gratitude for all that you have in this moment.
- Limit your exposure to the media
Be choosy about what you tune into. Be *especially* choosy about what you allow into your mental arena just before bed!
- Remember that this will end
We don't know what the world will look like afterwards; we don't know what damage will have been done. I am holding the intention that we keep the good stuff - the connections we have made, the support for the most vulnerable, the awareness that we don't have everything in abundance forever and ever - and that we make the world a better place moving forwards. We *will* get through this.
- Wash. Your. Hands.
Wishing you all love and health as we move through these challenging times.
**Just a note, to acknowledge that I am VERY aware that I am writing this from a very privileged position, and speaking predominantly to others in the same boat - that not everyone around the world has been fortunate to live through the time of plenty that many of us have experienced in our lives.**