Life is constantly changing!
Are you like me? Did you think you probably had a bit of a handle on what 2020 would bring….work, family, social life…. I know I did!
And now this! A global pandemic! People dying….job losses….physical distancing….essential travel only….working from home….remote learning….no toilet paper….oh dear!
Three crises so far in 2020 and the third we will be dealing with for a long time to come
Here’s how I see the global situation. Generally I’m an optimist, but this isn’t pretty. I feel there have been, not one, but three crises so far in 2020, and the third we will be dealing with for a long time to come.
Things started to change with firstly a worldwide health crisis. CoVid19 or as it is known in Australia, because we love to shorten things – ‘Rona’ – is causing massive loss of life across the globe and massive heart ache for individuals, families, communities, cities, countries, indeed the whole world. It isn’t often we see ourselves as such a global community as we have over the past four months.
Essential health services are doing their best to cope. Not enough people, beds, protective clothing, ventilators and no vaccine. They have had to cope with people’s grief, anger, confusion and lack of appreciation. They are amazing!
Physical health crisis leads to worldwide economic downturn
Secondly this has led to an economic crisis with businesses closing, loss of employment and livelihoods. Demands for government funding and support and a downturn in major industries. All creating confusion, fear and concern for what our lives will look like at the other end of this. Who will survive and how?
We have had constant updates on a changing landscape. Mixed messages from leaders.
Never before has the phrase “change is a constant” been more true.
The often unseen, but definitely felt, mental health implications
Thirdly, and for me the most concerning because I fear it will be longer lasting, is the mental health crisis.
I believe that the current uncertainty, unpredictability and destabilisation has brought to a head underlying mental health concerns for many.
I am seeing and hearing people in panic, the anxiety is palpable. We see fear in people’s body language as we pass them in the supermarket or on our daily walk. Who do we trust? Who is safe?
People have been thrown out of their routine and stability of work, rest and play. Routine we know brings a feeling of trusted calm and a sense of control….gone.
Without work, how do people survive? This is a reality for many. Their worry, anxiety and fears are real and relevant.
People with underlying mental health conditions can see real threats everywhere
Those with anxiety and panic disorders can fear that there are not enough health services to cope with everyone, so who will support them? Will they get the virus? Who will look after them or the loved ones they care for?
I am also seeing people panicked with the loss of everyday routine. Those having to work from home and have their children participate in remote learning. For them, they still have their jobs, their homes, their security, however they are also not coping.
They are being demanding of their schools, who are adjusting their whole teaching strategy to support their students online. They are yelling at supermarket attendants because stock has run out. They are complaining on socials that they have to home-school their kids and have their children 24/7, which they claim is driving them to drink!
In the grand scheme of the crises we are facing – people dying and losing jobs – some people are finding it difficult to find perspective. Their problems are the most important.
Are these the worried well, who have been a growing cohort in our population? Is this another thing that helicopter parents need to worry about?
The enforced slowing down of life has unforeseen consequences
The information overload has caused overwhelm for many. Too many changes, all at once. Their fragility, which has been kept at bay with busy lives, busy children, busy on socials, busy, busy, busy everything, is now being exposed by the enforced slowing down of life.
No longer can people run from their responsibilities, their relationships or their own emotional needs. Everything is confronting them in their own homes.
So where do we go and what can we do?
Self-care and taking responsibility for your own wellbeing is key
People who know me, know that I love the 5 Ways to Wellbeing as a model of mental health and wellbeing. This model covers essential elements of keeping you mentally well and connected.
There are some mandatory things we all need to do to keep safe and well during this pandemic and there are choices we have that will determine how well we mentally survive this, whether we are parents, working from home or not.
Five simple steps through CoVid19
- Firstly follow the health recommendations – all the sanitary guidelines like washing or sanitising hands, physical rather than social distancing, essential travel only.
- Get the right information from one trusted source. Too much information 24/7 is overwhelming. Limit how many times you search for the latest information, especially if you feel a little overwhelmed with the volume and content. You won’t miss out on anything because everyone is talking about it.
- Stay off or limit your time on selected socials. Even before CoVid19 there has been research linking mental health issues and social media. If you do need/like them, limit your time and your sites.
- Follow the general rules for good mental health – diet (including increasing water intake and decreasing alcohol intake for most), sleep (remember you need to be in bed for longer than 8hrs to get 8hrs sleep), exercise (ensure you are getting the right amount of exercise, whether you feel like it or not), talk to those you trust for support (this may be close friends or family, or your GP, helpline or find a psychologist), ensure you keep doing the things you love, the things that nourish you (you may need to find online substitutions for some, but most things are online now)
- Follow the 5 Ways to Wellbeing
- Be Active – move your body daily. 10,000 steps minimum is a great start. Push your lung capacity to grow your aerobic capacity and stretch for flexibility of body and mind.
- Stay Present – our minds have an amazing ability to time-travel, into the past with things we can feel haven’t gone well or things we really miss, or into the future with the constant what-ifs. Both of these keep us unsettled and more than likely to experience mental health issues. Mindfulness strategies vary and all are helpful to keep you present. You may want to start with the breath as it is very grounding. Use your breath as an anchor to the present. Focusing on just 3 breaths can bring you back to this moment, a moment you need to deal with whether you like it or not. Just 3 breaths can calm your central nervous system to help you think clearer, look for options to whatever it is you are dealing with and feel back in control.
- Connect – we have been told to follow social distancing. This is the wrong phrase for your mental health and wellbeing. They actually mean physical distancing not social distancing. At these times it is our social connections that are going to keep our minds and souls nourished. Keeping connected means good interactions with others who support you, or who need your support.
- Learn – we are curious creatures and without work, or reduced workloads and limited brainstorming with colleagues to challenge and help us grow, we need to look for other avenues. Thankfully we have many new ways to learn online, but you can also grab some puzzles online, or connect with friends and play games online – I heard of a virtual Trivial Pursuit game happening (a blast from the past) that sounded challenging and fun
- Give – this is a time where others need our support. We gain greatly when we give to others. Look for ways you can contribute. Give your time, your spirit, your support, your humour, your strengths and gifts. Share yourself around your family, your friends, your neighbourhood (within safe physical distancing rules of course), your online community – the benefits are multi-layered.
We can get through this and get through it with good mental health and wellbeing. Use your strengths, such as curiosity, kindness, empathy, social intelligence, gratitude, perseverance, zest and of course hope.
“Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect” – Margaret Mitchell