As I finish writing this, it’s now two weeks into New Zealand’s lockdown and it’s only in looking back over the previous two weeks that I realise how much has changed in my headspace in that time.
What follows is the basis of a conversation I had with Chris Lynch on Christchurch’s Newstalk ZB on Thursday 26 March, which now feels like a lifetime ago, so much has changed during that time. It’s a bit of a personal post, this one, but I trust that it is helpful on some level.
With so much change coming at us so fast during this time, it can feel somewhat like a rollercoaster ride. Our emotions can be all over the place. One minute sharing a silly joke with a friend and feeling hopeful, the next dissolving in tears and rocking in the corner whilst trying to comprehend the scale and ongoing ramifications of our global plight.
That’s been my experience, anyway.
When you’re having a moment, reach out or ground yourself where you are and focus on your breathing. Try not to catastrophise. I have personally found that in these situations it can be helpful to distract yourself by doing something else rather than trying to logically problem solve.
Your brain isn’t working properly – this will manifest differently for different people. I’ve been scatterbrained, struggling to hold a thought, forgetful, irritable, irrational and lacking focus. All clear indications that your brain isn’t working all that effectively. Work with your brain when its functioning well and let it have a rest when it’s not, such as during these moments. Accepting this and working with your body and mind instead of trying to fight it will save you energy and is the most self-compassionate thing you can do.
I’ve become so much better at recognising the triggers and signs of “crazytown is coming” and heading it off at the pass by getting out of that particular thinking groove and into another. This is where distraction or deliberately switching from one focus to another has been especially helpful. You may have to physically move your body to help your mind make the shift.
Ask for what you need
If someone in your bubble is going through a freaking out wave try and get out of their space or tell them to remove themselves so that they don’t infect you with their panic or other fear-based emotions. You may need draw on your best assertive communication abilities. If you need a hug, ask. Be honest and maintain boundaries. Likewise, don’t assume people are on the same page as you are in any given moment. Don’t guess what someone needs, ask them. Make sure you tell them what you need (and don’t need). It’s absolutely OK to not be OK!!!
Where’s your focus – fear or gratitude?
Something that I have really had to dig deep on recently is creating awareness of where I’m placing my focus. If it’s fear-inducing stuff, then I have to consciously decide not to feed that particular beast and again find ways to direct my thoughts in other directions. This is where taking comfort from people and things within your bubble and virtually connecting with people outside of it can really help. Dial up your appreciation and you’ll almost instantly feel better.
Massive shout out to all the people spreading a bit of a laugh and putting smiles on our faces! I have seriously leaned on the humour, much of it very dark, that’s been going around the internet and on TV over the past few weeks. I marvel at people’s creativity and ability to bring a humorous approach to such challenging circumstances. Where would we be without it?
Pay attention to your sources
Where do you get your information from? Who do you follow and listen to? Who gives you comfort? Who do you trust?
I’ve really had to make sure I limit my intake of media and social media, otherwise it can be overwhelming, confusing and downright irritating. One of the reasons I have deliberately not shared a lot of advice is because I myself have felt at times completely inundated by facts, data and even well-meaning repetitive advice. Hearing the same things over and over again has led me a number of times in recent weeks to tell people that I have had enough of it and can they please limit the stream that they send me.
This is one of the things I have most appreciated about social media – I can limit my intake and scroll past anything I have seen before or which I believe to be irrelevant or fake.
Getting organised gives us a semblance of control, and I think that is really important in the current circumstances when so much is beyond our control.
To assist with this I’ve created four lists:
- jobs and things to be done around the house
- work-related tasks and projects
- exercise ideas
- fun and entertaining things to do.
If I’m aimlessly wandering around the house looking for something to do, I go to the list. In this way I feel like my immediate world is (relatively) orderly and that I am making slow but steady progress, which feels really good. It also helps our whole bubble. Getting to some of the manual and repetitive tasks around the house also provides a welcome distraction from the gloomy news and stops the (over)thinking for a bit.