Coping with shifting priorities during COVID-19

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Sarah

14th May 2020

It’s a strange time at the moment. That’s an understatement right there.

Millions of people are inside their homes unable to go about everyday life, to see their loved ones, to get hold of food. Not to mention the fear, the undercurrent of anxiety we’re all feeling. The world leaders who seem to be more bothered about keeping an economy going than whether thousands of people will die needlessly in the meantime. We’ve never seen anything like it. Who knows if we’ll ever experience anything quite the same again?

You might be struggling to work remotely for the first time. Video calls while the cat struts across your keyboard and the dog is barking its head off just outside the door. Or maybe you’re dealing with children that need your attention, crammed into a small space and unable to see their friends for weeks. Maybe you’re in a house with people you’d rather not be.

It feels a bit like the world is one of those spinning rides at an amusement park and we’re trying and failing to stand up straight.

Getting used to a whole new way of life, now and as we start to understand how things are going to have to change in the future. Our attention may have shifted toward things that demand immediate focus, which leaves certain things neglected.

There are only so many things you can focus on at once. I know this. You know this. But that doesn’t stop you from feeling bad about it.

How can we manage the guilt and other negative feelings that come with the new way of life we’re experiencing?

I think we can all agree that things are uncertain right now. Uncertainty brings a whole host of negative feelings: anxiety, fear and feeling a loss of control. We’ve scoured the net for some ideas that might make dealing with it all a little bit easier. 

List of things we can and cannot control.

Structure & goals

Making a daily routine can help to make sense of the uncertainty. This might be as simple as having specific times you get up and go to bed and eating regularly. It might also help to set small goals (which might be as minor as getting yourself or the kids dressed without any tantrums).

A routine also helps if you’re not used to working from home. There’s a risk that work can merge into your relaxation time as you can never quite get away from it. But doing 30 minutes of exercise or cooking dinner at the end of your ‘work’ part of the day can draw a line in the sand to separate the day.

Not to contradict myself or anything, but it’s worth keeping in mind that things aren’t normal at the moment and we need to cut ourselves some slack. So if you have a few days where your routine goes down the drain, you’re not alone. None of us are going to feel great every day, some days have to be written off as a bad day, and that’s OK.

Other people

Support

In this article Clinical Psychologist, Meg Jay shares some of the ways people cope https://ideas.ted.com/8-tips-to-help-you-become-more-resilient/.

It turns out that people who manage well are good at relying on other people. If you have people to check in with, do this regularly, online or on the phone. 

Compassion

I recently had one of those work calls with too many people stretching the limits of their broadband. Six very important people on the line. At one point, a little voice piped up on the line, “Juice, juice, please mummy.” 

The woman whose daughter it was, was clearly embarrassed, apologising profusely for the interruption. But the thing was, none of the rest of the people on the call cared. We all know we’re struggling to juggle various roles and that’s OK! A little bit of compassion for yourself and other people can go a long way. 

Look after yourself

It might be as minor as making sure you’re drinking enough water. It could also be keeping an eye on how much alcohol you’re having or whether wine o’clock is getting earlier every day. Stress and anxiety can mess up our sleep patterns, but regular exercise — even just doing some leg lifts while you’re making a cuppa might help. 

If you have a little bit of outdoor space, or even just space on a window ledge, you could order some compost and some pots and try your hand at gardening. 

I think that all gardeners are secretly optimists. How could they not be? We watch our plants push their way out of the darkness into the sunlight. There’s something very therapeutic about seeing something you planted sprout up and grow. 

If you’re worried about your mental health, or how you’re coping at the moment, the Samaritans have some great resources that might help