(You can listen to the Podcast here)
Many of you will be feeling isolated and anxious as we exhibit sensible precautions to avoid spreading or contracting the virus, and this can lead to mild depression and other similar emotional reactions, especially for those who are either lone-isolators or are finding themselves 'trapped' in a less than pleasant environment, for whatever reason. This can even be the case for those finding themselves at home with loved ones 24/7 for the first time.
What is important at the times when you feel emotions surfacing more than usual, is to recognise the signs, and to find some outlet for them before they become too strong and start skewing your perspective, making even small issues magnify into big issues.
Outlets can be any activity which focuses the mind away from the everyday issues and irritations, onto something needing concentration. For those able to do so, meditation works perfectly for this, but I find there are lots of fairly everyday activities that can have the same effect, a favourite of mine being anything to do with nature, such as tending plants or lawns, potting on seedlings, re-potting containers, cutting out any die-back of some shrubs (if this is the right time to do so of course) and tidying up the patio/garden.
Some find housework provides a similar respite from the intensity of being in each other's pockets all day, every day, whilst others focus on exercise, the benefits of which I have spoken at length about (see my last blog/podcast), to give themselves that personal time, so important at times like this.
For some, though, who are the ones looking after the rest of the family, making sure everyone is doing OK, getting the shopping in, and trying to deal with whatever business or formal paperwork is required for maintaining some sense of working, the sheer barrage of issues to deal with and people depending on them, can take them to breaking point quite quickly, and they will need greater support than just finding themselves an outlet, before something 'snaps' and they send that emotion inwards into depression, or outwards into arguments and even violence in extreme cases.
Obviously the challenge in these cases is getting the right help quickly, with GP surgeries either closed or working 'online' only, and therapists and counsellors being flat out with helping those who have managed to get onto their books.
If you find yourself in this position, the most important thing is to recognise the issue, and talk to someone about it, and not bottle it up. Pressure like that rarely goes away on its own.
Talk to your GP, even if it is on the phone, as many are doing with patients currently, or phone a good friend or other family member you can have a confidential chat with, just to get a different perspective on the things that are stressing you, as this can often make you see them as smaller than you think they are. If you can get access to a good therapist or counsellor (maybe you know one already), give them a call or arrange one with them. They can give you the 'ear' you need, to talk about your struggles, and they can also offer some practical things to do to manage your emotions better before you let them get too out of hand.
One great way to get things into perspective is to draw up two columns on a page, and on the left write down each issue you are worried about or struggling with (leave about 10 lines between each one), and on the right side, write what you think a plan would be for dealing with each one (hence the 10 lines spacing). If you don't have a plan or cannot think of one right now, that is OK, just leave it blank, and come back to it later. One of the other 'plans' might provide some ideas for this issue.
If you do have a friend or good 'sounding board', or better still can get a regular bit of time with a therapist, coach or counsellor, even if it is only on the phone or via a video call, you can use this sheet (or sheets if you have many issues) as a tool to work through with them. You will be surprised how many issues you can take off the 'worry list' when you have a plan for each. The fewer things eating at you in your mind, the less stressed you will find yourself.
Obviously, this is a single tool, and your circumstances might well require a much deeper level of support, especially if you are struggling with being 'thrown together' with a person, or people, you are not getting on with, or your relationship is not good to start with, but often having a plan to avoid as much overlap of time when you are in the same room together, can offer some respite, and that gardening, housework or exercise outlet can provide that option. The deeper issues can then be addressed once the access to professional help, or other options are once again available.
It is certainly not unheard of that times of adversity have rekindled relationships that were thought of as irreconcilable, and the simple act of looking at issues one at a time, and working out where the issue lays and how to plan for addressing it, can highlight aspects of relationships you had both forgotten.
Above all, find someone you can trust to talk to. We generally find things are easier to deal with when broken down, and having another view helps to see this.
If you are struggling, or know someone who is, use my contact details and drop me a line. I can help, or put you in contact with someone who can if I have no spare slots, and if money is an issue right now as it is for many, my services are free under my COVID support effort until 15th June, and for those starting with me prior to that date, will remain free for the duration of their therapy.
Stay safe, be sensible, DO pay attention to the advice and you can get through these difficult times, and even come out of it better than you went in.