With social distancing becoming necessary, how will you survive, socially isolating for the greater good?
Who would have thought at the beginning of this year, the phrase ‘social distancing’ would be part of our vocabulary or that it would have such a necessary yet sinister significance to it. Especially, when we as a species are so driven by human connection. We are social creatures by nature and we are being asked to abandon social norms within our cultural context and therefore social distancing, I fear, is going to have a huge knock-on effect to our mental health.
What is social distancing ?
The government guidelines on social distancing make it clear that it is necessary to reduce social interaction between people in order to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). Walking and being outside is ok as long as we are keeping a safe distance, but the latest reports suggest that this is not happening.
Are people in denial of the devistation that this virus is creating in its wake? I don’t know if you heard the radio broadcast on LBC from Jack, an intensive care consultant on March 20th just before restaurants, pubs and schools were shut down, but it’s worth a listen.
It just brings it home, how desperate things are becoming and in my opinion, how we now need to start enforcing our own lockdowns where at all possible. Not only for our own safety but for those who we may unknowingly infect and to help minimise the strain on the NHS until a vaccine can be found. I hope by now you know that this is not the flu and a flu vaccination is not going to save you from this crisis.
Accepting a temporary way of living
I have been wanting to reach out for the past few days to write about this current travesty, but honestly, I’ve needed some time to get my head around the enormity of what is now being required of us individualy, nationally and on a global scale. I, like many, have been following the daily updates obsessively and I have watched how we as a nation are reacting to the fear, anxiety and reality of this pandemic Coronavirus (COVID-19.)
What the hell……. and that’s putting it mildly. I don’t know about you, but my anxiety is high and survival mode has kicked in. I am trying to keep my fears in check and whilst I may have years of mental health training behind me, I’m still human and going through this unpresidented and shocking time too. There is a strong desire to protect my own loved ones and those within the community that are vulnerable and who may need that extra support. And it is important for me to continue to hold the fears and anxieties of clients especially during this current climate. But to be honest, the reality of what we are facing is only just starting to kick in.
Last week I was still seeing clients face to face, wanting to support them though this craziness, believing that with no underlying health conditions and not wanting to live in fear of this virus, that I would take my chances and become part of the ‘herd immunity’. But along with Jack’s radio phone-in, I came across this article on ‘herd immunity’ a few days ago, which made me feel quite silly for the way I had been thinking.
I appreciate fully that it’s not just about me or you. For every person we are in contact with, we are at risk of contracting the virus and passing it on to others without knowing because we have no symptoms yet or we are asymptomatic.
Consequently, those we infect, will also be infecting others and if not careful, we may be the cause of other people dying. If we do not comply with social distancing and also pass COVID-19 on to our loved ones, we may also be sealing their fate too. I’m not sure how we square any of that away at the end of the day? Please think about that if you are still gathering in groups, visiting others, leaving the house unless it is absolutely necessary or standing right behind someone in a checkout queue. At least leave a meter behind the person in front. IT HAS GOT THAT SERIOUS NOW!
To make things worse we are hearing now of COVID-19 affecting middle-aged people and younger people who had no idea that they had underlying health issues until they were already in hospital, fighting for their lives. Yes, there are those more vulnerable but seemingly, we are all facing unknown risk. Full recovery is not guaranteed and we have no way of knowing yet, the aftereffects to our respiritory systems.
So how am I surviving social distancing ?
Well it’s early days for social distancing and perhaps far too late given the drastic rate in the death toll we are seeing now. Restaurants and schools closed on Friday, (for the majoriy of children), and I have been distancing properly since then. This means that I have not been able to spend time with my mum today for Mother’s Day. There were tears from both of us as she picked up her present from outside the front door, with no hug, kiss or connection. I know how fortunate I am that she is still in my life, but today has been really difficult.
My son is coming to terms with never taking his GSCE’S and hoping, like so many across the country, that the grades awarded will be a fair representation and that this will not affect their future with further study or employers later on. They have missed out on this right of passage, including their prom celebrations, and whilst perhaps trivial compared to the scale of devastation the nation is facing, unexpected endings do impact children’s mental health heavily, especially those less resilient.
I have watched my son break down today with the realisation that socialising with friends and his girlfriend can no longer occur for the forceable future. Do you remember your first love and how nothing else but them seemed to matter? Yeah it will feel like complete torture for them. It’s been heartbreaking to watch the realisation set in for him; social distancing is really not an easy concept to get our heads around is it. It totaly goes against the grain!
But at the minute I am taking the time to process and adapt and I am not putting too much pressure on myself. We are so lucky. No friends or family have been diagnosed yet and I cannot begin to imagine how it must be for others.
Thinking of these social groups:-
- Have lost loved ones from this evil mutation, who are fearing for their lives in hospital, for those loved ones who cannot comfort sick relatives, say goodbye or attend funerals.
- Are working on the front lines of this war, putting themselves at risk daily, with talk of protective clothing being in shorter supply, not enough hospital beds and equipment to sustain the fast growing trend of those infected and who have family at home fearing for these brave soldiers safety. Not to mention the life and death choices they may be faced with in the coming weeks.
- Are caring for sick ones at home and feeling the pressure and fears that this brings for them and their loved ones.
- Who have had surgery postponed or who are considered to be in the highly at risk categories or pregnant mothers/couples who may be wondering what kind of world they are bringing such new precious life into and how to protect it.
- Are living on their own completely isolated with no friends or family and those living on the street who may be more suseptable and who are finding lifeline resources reducing in number.
- Where isolation at home may feel just as unsafe as being out in the community. If this resonates with you, then please utilise the following contacts if you need to:-
- Alchoholics Annonymous (AA)
- Narcotics Annonymous (NA)
- National Centre for Domestic Violence (ncdv)(self referral)
- National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)
- Are part of any business, self-employed person and employee that has been impacted financially. Yes the government are stepping in thankfullly, but will it be enough and how long will we face an economic down turnwhen this storm finally passes?
- Who are key workers and teaching staff that are taking care of keyworker children.
- Who, as scientists, are feeling the presure and working around the clock to find a vaccination and any other group I have not thought of at the time of writing this.
- Who keep finding the supermarket shelves empty!
Only a month after Caroline Flack’s death, shocked the nation and the #bekind slogan that then so popular on social media, now, so quickly seems forgotten.
As a lifelong student of psychology, I cannot deny, I do understand the panic, wanting to protect our children ourselves and the vulnerable, frightened, having no idea, how long this may go on for and wanting to provide for our loved ones.
But at the same time, it highlights the real lack of regard and sense of community that I have seen diminishing over the past few years. We seem to have become a nation of entitlement, instant gratification, there seems to be a much bigger gap between the have’s and have not’s, an increased level of racism and much less consideration for others. What a really sad state of affairs, especially at a time when we need to all be pulling together.
Don’t get me wrong there are wonderful charities and individuals out there supporting anyway that they can. But to hear that anyone, and in particular the NHS staff, the elderly, vunerable and children/adults who cannot access the food/ toiletries that they need, either in store or online (no delivery slots available)….and with those with food intolerances servere or otherwise, needing specific foods that are unavailable on the shelves…….well there are no words.
So, whilst I have taken the last few days to collect my thoughts, understand and accept my moral and ethical responsibilities, console my son, support my mothers anxiety and check in with friends and family, I am preparing to work online from home and stay at home indefinitely.
I am on an emotional rolercoaster at the minute and that’s okay. I have cried at the fear and anxiety of the ‘what if’s’ and the sad stories that others are facing. I have laughed at the light hearted and funny posts on social media from others, that are doing their best to make the most of such difficult times. And my heart has overflowed with compassion and warmth of the solidarity and sense of community from other countries on their balconies. I do hope we get to a similar place soon.
How can you survive social distancing ?
Perhaps now is a time when you are not working or home-schooling, to:-
- Spend quality time with people in your houshold, get out the pack of cards, board games, bat and ball, football in the garden or creative materials,
- Designate spaces within the house that you can agree to claim as your own, especially if you share a bedroom, so that you have a place to retreat to if you need to.
- Follow a routine if you can. We need good sleep to boost our immunity.
- Teach young people useful life skills that we never seem to get round to or home-schooling if approriate.
- Complete the tasks around the house/garden that we never seem to have time to do,
- Exercise, Davina has a 30 day trial to online exercise (at home) and wellbeing information, (including anxiety) with no financial commitment necessary. We can also still walk, jog or run outside, keeping a safe distance.
- Stay hydrated and eat as healthily as you can. Remember, if you are more sedentary over the next few months, your body will not require the same level of calories for weight maintenance.
- Endulge in a good book,
- Connect with nature,
- Netflix or box sets that you haven’t allowed yourself to indulge in.
- Meditate – Headspace are offering a free section in their mindfulness app called ‘weathering the storm” to help with your anxiety levels through COVID-19
- Be creative- Now is a great time to access that inner child and doodle, colour, stone painting, painting by numbers (there are some great designs on Amazon) to keep you busy. Creativity is a great source of mindfulness and relaxation.
- Focus on being a source of support for the community if you can. Whether that be through delivering supplies/medication or being a listening ear, checking in by phone or becoming an email/letter pen friend.
- Try to limit your exposure to the news, perhaps only once or twice a day. Now is an ideal time to shift off grid, put the technology to oneside, step out of the rat race and take a breather for a bit. That is if you are not depended upon as a key worker.
- When connection feels needed, Facetime or Zoom/Skype friends and family
- Manage anxiety with the downloadable FREE GUIDE to living with worry and anxiety amidst global uncertainty by ‘Psychology Tools.’
- If fear takes hold for you or your little ones then practice the following grounding techniques on the chart.
- Plus- breathe, using the 4 7 8 technique ( 4 seconds-breathe in through the nose. 7 seconds-hold your breath. 8 seconds breath out through your mouth- Repeat. )
If the situation becomes overwhelming
If things are becoming overwhelming then contact your GP, the Samaritans or maybe look for professional counselling support. (not someone who has completed an online course as suggested by the Duke of Sussex earlier this week. These courses do not supply the training necessary to hold such grief, loss, fear or sadness, safely, and counsellors with online training are not held accountable by an ethical membership body.)
Many qualified counsellors including myself- Courage2be Counselling Services are offering a sliding scale regarding fees, to help and support anyone via online/phone counselling who are in need of support during this extremely difficult time, who may also be struggling financially.
Please reach out if you need to, perhaps we can survive social distancing together?
Leave a comment right at the bottom of the page and tell us how you are surviving social distancing. It would be great to have a variety of ideas for us all to tap into.
Stay as safe as you can and take good care of yourself and each other.
Above all #bekind, life is hard enough right now.