Surviving The Pandemic
Surviving The Pandemic: Anxiety, WFH and Keeping a Routine.
During these exceedingly difficult times, more and more people are struggling emotionally
to cope with the changes in our everyday lives.
Many of us are working from home, home schooling, seeing changes in our businesses or
workplaces and feeling no real sense of normality. We are missing friends and family and
feeling more and more isolated. Our lives feel like they are ‘on hold’ as we are seeing fewer
events in our diaries and nothing much to look forward to. Special events are being
postponed; weddings, christenings, birthdays, holidays, religious festivals and on and on.
Education and exams are being delayed and many of us have our love lives on hold while it’s
difficult to meet people. A change in lifestyle is often a knock to our system. Many of us
have lost jobs, family members and experienced a change of circumstances in an organic
way but when it is impressed upon us it often feels more dictatorial and controlling which
gives rise to other feelings of anger and resentment. How do we cope with this ‘not so
changing world’ and try to keep our emotions together while often supporting others as
well as ourselves?
Anxiety is a normal response to an unfamiliar situation, it’s a fear response. It’s likely that
many of us will experience heightened anxiety during a pandemic, you are not alone. We
are not only worried for ourselves but for loved ones and feeling helpless. If anxiety
becomes overwhelming and unmanageable then you must seek professional help from your
GP. Anxiety can be managed, and you can recover. If anxiety is not passing quickly then you
must address it. It’s important to breathe while you are feeling anxiety and listen to your
breathing, don’t hold your breath. While you are breathing, slow yourself down and count
to ten slowly. When you are feeling more relaxed, listen to what your concerns are in your
head. Is there anything you can do about it? If there is, then plan on that, get it out of the
way. If not, then there is no point in continuing to worry.
These are some tips to take into consideration to manage anxiety:
– When the anxiety comes on, take yourself to a different room and take in your surroundings
to get some perspective
– Eat healthy meals regularly, junk food does not energise you
– Have a good sleep routine and stick to it
– Eliminate alcohol and caffeine, which are stimulants
– Talk to someone who will listen and understand.
Depression is something that happens when we can’t see a way for change. It’s likely that
many of us will feel depressed while we are going through the pandemic. Again, if it
becomes unmanageable you must seek professional help. In order to manage depression,
you must have days where you enjoy things, things to work towards and people around you
who care. Healthy eating, exercise and sleep are a massive contribution, as soon as you
change your thinking about a healthy lifestyle you will start to feel better. Sitting around all
day or being bored with your work, eating too many carbs and sugar will not energize you.
You need to have a structure, plans and things to look forward to. For depression to ease
you must make changes, doing nothing changes nothing.
How do I survive the pandemic?
Keep a daily routine as much as possible, this keeps momentum. Get up at a regular time.
Think about the routine that you had before. Did you get up and get straight in the shower.
Cup of tea first? Check your emails/ social media? Go for a run? Getting showered and
dressed isn’t pointless. Taking care of yourself is paramount to feeling good. You might think
that no-one is going to see you, but you will! Remember how it feels to look good, it makes
you feel good and gives a sense of purpose. It also sets a good example to others in the
Keep sight of the beginning of last year and remember that routine, the one that got you
ready for the day. If the sun was out did you go out? If you had a spare afternoon did you go
on a bike ride? Walk with your friends? Learn a new skill? Keep on doing the things that
make you happy and energised.
Try to adapt things you would normally do outside the home; this will keep a sense of
continuation. Exercise, for example, could be done with the help of YouTube or screening
with your friends. Hobbies could be continued with others over video or alone. It doesn’t
matter that no one will see it now, we will all be talking about things we have been doing in
lockdown and it will be exciting to share.
Plan a realistic routine, do this at the beginning of the week for the week ahead. Break the
week into days and include exercise, healthy eating and down time. Mark your time slots in
the day, still have your morning, afternoon and evening. This gives you a sense of real time.
Don’t start each day with down time, have a reason to get up. Many people find exercise
the best start to the day, it generates energy and motivation, even ten minutes can make a
difference. There are lots of ten-minute exercise routines on YouTube you can follow, there
are regular ones, some for children and some for the elderly and disabled. It might seem an
effort, but 10 minutes goes so quickly and will help you feel great!
You will know what the best times of the day are for your activities. Put order to them so
that you are not putting yourself under pressure to do chores when you are least interested.
It might be best to get work, housework or home schooling out of the way early in the day,
this is when you should be best energised. The afternoon might be for more interesting
activities and the evening for relaxing. Without putting extra pressure on yourself, prioritise
your tasks and reward yourself when you are able to get things ticked off your list.
If you have workdays, plan when this will be, stick to regular hours if you did before working
from home. Try and do it in a block rather than here and there. Fitting it in around other
things will feel disorganised. If you are fitting in home schooling, depending on the age of
the children, plan whether working together is best or having separate slots for each works
better. Have your workspace ready for the morning. Clean your lap top screen, clean your
glasses if you have them and have a cup of tea or glass of water ready. Don’t be interrupted
by domestic appliances needing attention, you didn’t empty the washing machine before on
a workday. Fit that into a natural break or lunch to help keep focus. Make sure your
employer knows you are home-schooling and ask for support if you need it.
Everyone who is working from home and home schooling are struggling with time. Don’t be
fooled by the social media posts of others who seem to be doing really, really well. If they
are then great, but the majority of us are not. You are not a superhero, do what you can and
don’t sweat what you can’t. Once you lose focus and start feeling like you are failing, feeling
guilty or letting people down then you are on a downward spiral to just that.
Downtime means taking time just for you. Ten to fifteen minutes may be all you need to
shut down and do something relaxing, this will make such a difference, particularly if you
can do it a few times a day. A power nap can be taken in this time. During your downtime
you must not be disturbed unless there is a genuine emergency, you will relax better
knowing that you will not be disturbed. Turn off your phone and devices, relax your body
and choose something that doesn’t need too much brain activity. Find what is best for you,
it could be reading, knitting, doing a jigsaw puzzle, sleep, meditate. Speak to your friends
about what they are doing to relax to get new ideas. You will know what you would get the
most benefit out of so make sure this fits in to your everyday routine. Think about what you
did before to relax and don’t let go of your crafts. A duvet day is acceptable on occasion but
not every day.
The first lockdown for many was a bit of a novelty. The weather was great, it was like being
on holiday. Many of us learned new skills and realised our potential in new ways. For those
of us not working, we could get up later, eat when we liked and do pretty much what we
wanted, but this one….. not so much fun. Most of us dried up with the first one, as we were
ready to get back to our normal life but then to be held back again with further restrictions
has been a knock, especially as many of us have lost Christmas and the dark months loom.
I am sure you are hearing all around you that people need someone to blame for the
difficult situation we are in, whether that’s the government or your employers or the
education system. This has never happened before in our lifetime and many individuals
working on easing the pandemic are using their skills for the first time in a crisis. They are
making decisions in, what they believe, are the best interest of either the public health or
the economy. Mistakes will be made; good decisions will be made but they do not always fit
in with our own vision of what things should look like. Understand that we are going
through this and the virus will not listen to any amount of complaining, it doesn’t care. Its
sole purpose is to survive, and it will do that by spreading amongst us and mutating and we
need to accept that and focus on managing our emotions in the best way we can. Constantly
worrying or complaining isn’t going to help your mental health just make you feel rubbish.
Try not to tune in to too much tv, radio, social media that is spouting constant negatives
about the current state of the virus. Allow yourself a short time in the day to catch up with
what you feel is important information and leave it at that.
This pandemic cannot last forever. It is hard but we can get through it. We need to adapt to
our new environment and accept the changes as they happen but if we take care of
ourselves and others, we will get through this much quicker with our mental health intact.
Take care and keep safe.