Are you isolated at home? Are you separated from elderly parents, friends and family? Do you have children and young people who no longer have interaction with their peers? Or are you sending them to school and overwhelmed with worry? Are you in financial crisis? Having difficulty getting food or other supplies?
These are unprecedented times and many of us are suffering. If you have pre-existing health conditions and disabilities and in particular, mental health conditions like anxiety, OCD or depression, this is a remarkably difficult period of our lives.
I have watched loved ones crumple in past days, terrified of what might happen if I fall ill, due to my high risk. I have felt tears overwhelming me, fear rumbling in my belly – not just from the virus, but the worry about not being able to get life-saving medications and supplies, the worry about my loved one’s mental health and our future financial situation.
But I have taken this approach:
1. You can only control what you are able
This means your thoughts and your actions. Choose to tune into your thoughts and try to stop any runaway thinking, that makes you feel that all is lost. Choose to take actions that protect you and your loved ones, rather than trying to follow usual activities. It feels strange to be in the current world, you might feel like you are in another time, or on another planet. Take the steps you need, to think and feel as good as possible, under the circumstances. Flexibility is important.
3. Meditation and mindfulness are CRITICAL now and into the future
Learn how to do simple mindfulness, relaxation and meditation exercises. You can use apps like Smiling Mind and Headspace. It is important time that will make your days easier and your sleep calmer. Make sure to involve your children in these activities too.
4. Social distancing and self isolating don’t mean social disconnection
Create family chat groups, use video hook ups and other digital ways to stay connected. Some people are creating these for their children too. Take a morning photo and send it to your family and friends. It is vital that you stay in contact with loved ones. People are streaming karaoke and book reading on their social media channels, we are seeing virtual concerts and conferences. Stay in touch with the world.
This is a beautiful example of how to get involved.
5. When it comes to home-schooling, give yourself and your kids, a break
If you can keep kids home, take time to really see them, talk, play games, go for walks, build things together, do puzzles, use online learning resources, but don’t worry about trying to replicate school. If you can do online lessons from your school, and you want to, don’t try to replicate school either. Set a system to suit you. Keeping their minds and bodies active is the important thing. How you choose to do that, is up to you. Children need to be protected from too much information about the virus and its impact. They need reassurance that we will be alright and that things will get easier in time. They need to know you have things under control, you are providing for them and keeping them safe. Allow them to voice their feelings with you and discuss these aas a family.
6. Routine and something to do and look forward to are VITAL
Get up and dressed, have your shower, give yourself a facial and have a bath. Make plans to do things around the house, write, read, set a home exercise routine, bake, garden, deep clean, go outside into nature, at least once a day. I have heard of people having date nights in the caravan in the driveway or the family room in the shed. Or watching all of the old adventure series as a family. It is a great time to immerse yourself in the world of books and film – it gives your brain a much needed break. Don’t act like it’s a short holiday, because it could be months. Take time to slow down and do the things you enjoy, but intersperse this with a routine, keep yourself busy.
7. Hang in when it comes to dealing with the uncertainty of financial situation and employment
If you’re in financial crisis, I hear you. It’s frightening. I tried all day to get onto Centrelink yesterday. Get all the information possible and try to apply for everything you qualify for. Try not to panic and take one day at a time. It might take a few weeks or more, for us all to be able to access Centrelink and other financial supports, such as banks. Hang in there.
8. Use social media thoughtfully
Get the information you need about what’s happening, but don’t stay stuck on social media all day – it will drive you to despair. Use the positive sides of social media to seek inspiration, listen to people reading and singing and sharing recipes and ideas for home schooling. There are lots of groups popping up now. Why not start a personal one for your own family and friends?
9. Don’t hoard!
There’s a difference between stocking up on basics so you minimize the need to go into shops and hoarding. Stock up, don’t hoard. That is all.
10. Try not to use alcohol and drugs to get you through
This will create more problems and make you more vulnerable to illness because your immune system will be compromised. Use exercise and mindfulness instead. Seek help from online counselling resources if you are struggling with these problems.
11. Remember this too shall pass
We will get through it, even if it’s the rest of the year. We must try to stay as positive as possible, but also don’t ignore fear, worry, sadness and anxiety- let these feelings come, notice them, acknowledge them and share them. They’re real and valid. Then, put them in your lap or let them float into the sky, breathe them out, and breathe in the love from those who fill your heart.