Michelle shares her thoughts on the rapidly evolving ‘normal’ daily life in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic…
Life has changed – drastically so – for the majority of us, seemingly overnight. Whether we realise or not, humans tend to take great comfort in routine, and what was ‘normal’ a few short weeks ago (going to school, meeting a friend for supper or catching a flight) has suddenly been put on hold.
For all of us, the big questions such as ‘how long will this last’ or ‘will this affect me’ cannot be answered right now. What perhaps was ‘normal’ on Sunday has differed to what is ‘normal’ today, and this is likely to keep changing.
This has potential to cause feelings of anxiety and fear. We are creatures of habit, and having those habits taken away can be very unsettling. Don’t feel silly or embarrassed if you are feeling anxious – current world events are very challenging for most of us, and you have every right to feel upset or angry if you are missing your graduation or your sister’s wedding.
However, we can adapt to what we have, and we can find our own coping mechanisms. Human beings are incredibly resilient and flexible, and it is so inspiring to see clients and friends alike who are embracing ‘today’s normal’ and riding the wave of what is to come.
I have been asked by many what I would recommend to help acclimatise to our new – albeit temporary – lifestyles.
Use this time to connect with loved ones, especially over software such as FaceTime, Skype or Zoom where you can see each other’s faces. Prop up the iPad and FaceTime a friend while you work or while you watch your favourite Netflix show.
Limit Your News Exposure
I don’t need to tell you how many conflicting reports are out there, as you have likely been sent many yourself. Choose carefully which sources to trust, and limit the amount of time spent on social media and news sites. 24/7 news coverage can be hugely compelling but massively contributes to feelings of anxiety and panic. This is especially true if you are already vulnerable to anxiety.
Create A Structure
While your daily routine might differ from before, think which elements of it are still possible and useful (get up at the same time, get dressed properly, have a proper lunch break). Recognise that some aspects will have to be different, but work out what that means for you. Do you need to create a boundary between ‘work time’ and ‘home life’? If so, then try to work at a designated work area such as a desk. Sitting in bed on your laptop is not a long-term solution and will blur those lines. If you don’t have work to do think of one small task you can achieve each day (Clear out your wardrobe, try a new recipe, write some overdue thank you letters). Get outside if you can or try some indoor activity such as yoga.
Have Fun, Be Kind
Our survival instincts will be running amok, but it is important to appreciate the joy, humour and positivity in everyday life – this not only makes the time pass faster but gives us a much-needed dose of feel-good hormones, which sends reassuring signals to our overwrought brain.
Set Your Own Boundaries
If you don’t want to attend an event, travel or discuss the situation with friends, then don’t. Do what is right for you.
Do What You Can Do
This should be a mantra. Think about what you can do to improve your own situation and how best to maintain your physical and mental health. Commit to practicing this every day, whether that’s through daily meditation, eating well, exercise or a sleep routine. Please reach out and ask for help if changes or restrictions to your daily routine mean that you cannot deploy your usual coping strategies.
Keep It Simple
We are having to make a lot of big changes and decisions. This is tiring. It’s great to think positive and make lots of plans to fill the time and at the same time perhaps we can recognise that just getting out of bed and having a shower can be a positive choice for our day.
It can seem overwhelming, but it is amazing to see how quickly we can adapt to a new version of normal. Think of a dog – they are never in control of their environment, they never have much choice but they are great at adapting to each New Today. They come in to a new place, have a good sniff around until they get a sensory imprint of the place, and then it’s familiar so they settle down and are happy.
We are all just having a good sniff of an unfamiliar environment right now.
Author: Michelle Scott
Michelle Scott, of TRC Group in Edinburgh, specialises in long-term recovery from mental health problems