Aren’t these unusual times? I don’t remember another time in my life when we were being asked to be so careful. And as most of my work and volunteering is about being with people, social distancing feels completely alien to me.
I know that I am not the only one to be experiencing some anxiety at the moment. And I am one of the lucky ones. I don’t own a small business, or work on a zero-hours contract. My family doesn’t rely on free school meals to be able to feed our children. We don’t have to buy small amounts of shopping every few days because we can pick up a week’s worth in the car. The people living in my house are all under 70. However, both my of children are in the “at risk” category. Even without thinking of people in the wider community, we are vulnerable because of this.
Even if we are not one of the worst-hit groups, social distancing may be putting us under pressure. What can we do to maintain a healthy mental balance?
1. Stop checking for alerts every few minutes
In fact, how about only checking once a day? I’ve been away from my laptop for a couple of hours, and the web page in the corner is telling me there have been 50 new notifications since I last refreshed the page. It’s too much. If we want to be in less of a state of panic, checking before and, if we have to, after work is enough.
2. Reduce your use of social media
Actually, some of the memes aren’t useful. We know that it could be lovely for us to spend quiet time at home with our families, but this does not mean it will be as lovely as suggested. This is particularly so for those people who know that if they are not at work, their business may not be there when they return.
Rationally, we may know that our situation is much better than that of other people. At times like this we can count our blessings. In reality, however, all sorts of anxieties may be surfacing. And this is okay! We can listen to ourselves and voice our fears. They may be less pressing than the fears of others, but they are still valid. Denying them is not helpful. We have to be conscious of how we are feeling inside before we can help others.
4. Find a safe space
There are people who make us feel more anxious. These are not the people to express our feelings to! Talking to people who are not in panic-mode can be a good idea. On the other hand, sharing with those that will be patient with us is essential. Finding a space in which we can talk, or message, those that will not judge us for our fears can really help.
5. Work out what we can control
We can’t control the virus, that’s for sure. We can, however, make sure that we follow guidance to make sure it does not spread further and faster than our health service can cope with. Also, we can take note of social distancing rules, however much we don’t like them.
There are other things we can control. For elderly people who are now practically housebound, we can offer support. There are lots of ideas on social media about how we can put a card through a neighbour’s door and offer to shop for them. My feeling is that many of them would appreciate a regular phone call. They may be fine and not need anything material. For all that, if they are unable to meet with other people, loneliness may become extreme. We can ring a few people a day, and encourage them to do the same, so that their isolation does not become such a great burden. Let’s go for physical, rather than social, distancing.
6. Breathe – and pray
When we feel the panic coming on, we can stop and breathe. Take notice of how your body reacts once you slow down your breathing. Take a few moments to still your body and your mind. And for those of us who pray, ask the Lord for help. Just taking the time to do this helps us to feel more calm. I’m not talking about a desparate plea – more of a time of peace with the Lord. Tell Him how you are feeling, and ask for help to reduce your anxiety. It is amazing how the power of prayer can make a difference.
Do you have a safe space in which to share?
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