March 28, 2020

Pandemic or Pandemonium? Our Lives in this New Experience

Do you lie awake at night worrying, or are you lucky enough to be able to forget about the pandemic for a while and get a night’s sleep?  And if so, do you wake in the morning and instantly feel the dread of another day of uncertainty?  Can you adapt to the new reality of children around the house on a school day? Or a spouse who is normally off working but is now either out of work or working from home? These days, we are becoming more aware that, no matter how much we love our families, we also need some time to ourselves.  And many will be finding this impossible at the moment.  A woman we spoke to decided that she just had to get a job, any job, and to hell with the health risk, just to get her out of the house and away from her suddenly grumpy husband and three very frustrated teenagers.  To make matters worse, the media seem to have no news that is not Covid-19 related.  The stress is relentless. We are All in the Same Boat Whatever small comfort there may be in knowing that we are all in the same boat, all sharing the misery, it’s the ‘unknown’ that makes it worse: When will this be over?  Are we all doing enough to keep our family safe?  Could Covid-19 actually already be in the house?  Even if we escape the infection, will the world return to normality as we knew it?  Will our jobs still be there? Almost overnight, our home has shrunk to a tiny, suffocating, and permanently over-populated space, with no clear structure to day or night.   Over-crowding, enforced idleness, frustration and boredom can create friction between family members, including spouses/partners.   Power struggles can erupt.  Who exactly is boss in this house?  Who left that unholy mess in the kitchen?  Who’s turn is it to do the shopping/put out the rubbish/ etc.?  The break in routine is unsettling, and the lack of privacy is stifling.   Add to this environment the usual emotional and behavioural issues related to children and/or teenagers, and the atmosphere can become dangerously explosive.   A Few Tips on How to Self-Support: Count your Blessings An act of gratitude can change your day.  Start your day with a grateful thought.  You and your family are physically healthy right now, which is something to be thankful for.  Appreciate all the people in your life.   Revisit past times, memories, privileges you have experienced.  You have so many things to be grateful for!  When you are in an attitude of gratitude, it’s hard to feel stressed. Help Others An act of kindness brings us peace and strength. Set yourself a Goal for the Day A goal-achieving action, even of small things, is empowering. Share and Learn Share your knowledge and learn from others around you. Learning nourishes our mind, making us stronger and helping us understand ourselves on a deeper level, so that we see the world from a different perspective. Do Something Do something different at weekends. Celebrate holidays, even though you’re in lockdown. Breathe! Close your eyes, breathe in for a count of five, hold for four, and breathe out for seven.  Repeat three or four times, giving it your full attention.  Breathing mindfully releases tension in the body, and allows your mind to calm down, thus strengthening your coping mechanism. Focus on the Present Focus on the present.  Try not to anticipate the worst-case scenarios that the media are full of.  Simply concentrate on getting your precautions right, both for you and the more vulnerable members of your family. Distract Yourself Go for some healthy distractions, like watching TV, reading books, listening to music.  Distraction will not make your worries go away, at least not in any permanent sense, but being able to take a break from worrying reality is in itself a good thing.  There are lots of YouTube clips on learning new skills, starting a new hobby, following that favourite band from your teenage years. You could learn to practice Mindfulness which is known to be very calming. MInd your Physical Well-Being Do not neglect your physical well-being.  Find a way to exercise. Some of us are still allowed to go for a walk, keeping social distancing in mind. Remind yourself and your family that you will all come out stronger people once this is over.   Help is Available If you feel like talking to a professional about your concerns or anxieties or some of the strains that have suddenly disrupted the dynamics of your normal family, in these most abnormal circumstances, then there is help available.  And it’s available online, with no unnecessary social contacts with the professional. Having a session online may be difficult for you because it can be hard to find a quiet, private space in your suddenly crowded home.  Consider going down to your garage or up on the roof, or sitting in your parked car, creating a private space for yourself to make contact on your tablet or mobile. Finally, we know it’s tough, but hang in there!  As we write this message to you, China is opening up, as are South Korea and Singapore.  Learning from the experience of the countries who had to deal with the pandemic early, Malta took action immediately and, provided we all play our part well, it will show good results in the end.   Stay safe and remember: We are alone together!    

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