What a time to be alive. I say that with utmost gratitude for making it thus far through the trauma of a pandemic, the uncertainty, the anxiety, the breakdowns, and the in-betweens of just trying to figure life out in the process.
We’ve had quite the year and you should celebrate yourself for the courage to not only survive the worst but also possibly thrive. I know it may not look or feel like a victory for some of us but you being alive today is such a beautiful example of strength and resilience. No matter what unfortunate thing happened in the past year, you’re still here – kicking and breathing despite it all.
We’ve been thrust from extreme to extreme. When the pandemic started, we quickly had to unlearn life as we knew it; hugging, handshaking, socializing, how we do business…everything!
We had to learn how to stay connected without physically meeting each other, how to effectively work from home, how to stay safe from contracting the virus, how to quarantine, how to deal with our own fears and/or others, how to stay entertained without going outside, how to keep our heads above water with all the bad news coming in and if you had family at home – how to communicate with them because you spent so much time together. That is the life we adapted to. Suddenly and with little warning.
Now that we have some sort of normalcy, many of us find ourselves questioning exactly how we’re supposed to exist in this environment – especially with each other.
“If I get vaccinated, how about my interactions with those who aren’t?”
“Will I lose my job if I don’t get vaccinated?”
“Do I continue wearing masks or not? And if I wear a mask, will I get shamed by non-maskers and if don’t want to will mask-wearing folks shame me?”
“I love working from home. More time with my family! I hope I never go back to the office.”
“I hate remote work. I’m not productive at home. I want to go back to the office.”
“Will I have enough time for my side hustle if I’m expected to physically show up at my day job?”
“I’m afraid of the commute and public spaces. What if I get infected (or re-infected)?”
“I just want to travel and move freely to see the people I love and I am afraid that these new laws and restrictions mean I won’t be able to for a long time.”
“When will this be over!’
There is a lot that we’re thinking about and rightfully so because we’re all trying to make sense of what we consider to be normal. We haven’t dealt with this magnitude of inconvenience before so every one of us is entitled to interpret it as we see best for us – whether it’s popular or not.
What we mustn’t forget is that we’re collectively going through the trauma of this unfortunate and detrimental event and a little kindness goes a long way in helping us cope. Kindness with each other and kindness with ourselves.
Kindness with each other is about being mindful and empathetic with everyone we meet. People are fighting different battles that we don’t know about – only now made worse by the pandemic; Lost jobs, lost loved ones, worsened mental health, frequent panic attacks, constant worry and fear, dysfunctional family, racial trauma, diseases, and so many other problems. Before you pass judgment, say an unkind word, or make an assumption – think of how you’d want others to treat you especially when you’re going through a rough patch.
The office of National Statistics reports that depression rates have doubled since COVID-19 begun and warns of a looming mental health crisis. Latest studies by the Mental Health UK show that feelings of loneliness have increased from 10% to 26% in the past year, 1 in 5 people feel hopeless, 42% of people have pandemic stress and anxiety, and only 64% of people feel like they’re coping well.
When we treat ourselves with kindness, it becomes easier to treat others the same way. You can’t pour from an empty cup so fill yourself up with compassion, joy, and love. Honestly, this is easier said than done especially when dealing with more complex issues but I’ve come to learn that I must want these virtues for myself if they are to want me too. It’s a mutual relationship that requires my participation and inner work to push through my mental barriers.
Making it through this season means making room for every emotion to be felt – negative or positive. Taking a day at a time and doing what you can to show up for yourself in good and bad times and here’s how you can do that;
Positive Self Talk
How you talk to yourself matters and talking to yourself like you would with someone you love and care for is transformational!
Maybe you’re having a particularly hard mental health day and you’re not as productive as you’d like, don’t label yourself a failure because this one day didn’t go as you’d planned. Tomorrow will come and you’ll try again until you get it right. Examples of supportive self talk include;
I’ve survived this before and I can do it again
My feelings are allowed to exist as they are
The present moment accepts me just as I am
My anxiety (illness) does not define me
I am not attached to the fear (worry/uncertainty) I feel
I will come out of this situation stronger than before
5-4-3-2-1 Grounding technique
You may experience the effects of going through a traumatic event (COVID-19) like anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, irritability, insomnia etc. Grounding calms down our nervous systems when we feel like things are starting to spin out of control.
An example is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique to help connect you with all of your senses:
Name 5 things you can see
4 things you can feel
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
See | Feel | Hear | Smell | Taste
A Mindful drink
Mindfulness is the art of using your attention with intention. Being mindful can be a difficult concept and practice in everyday life when there is no queue to be mindful, are we right? In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear writes that having a prompt for a habit helps with long term behaviour change.
When stress levels start soaring…have a mindful drink. Perhaps during a shift, you are being rubbed up the wrong way or you come home from work/ finish your remote shift at home, you remain stressed or concerned with internal issues at work or even global topics such as the pandemic, the vaccines and so on.
Having a mindful drink is simple, when you drink, ideally a beverage that supports you (for example water) ask yourself:
How are you truly feeling in that moment? (without trying to fix it)
How can you support yourself right now in that very moment?
If you don’t like plain water, add lemon or fresh fruit, make a cup of herbal tea, even an iced latte or hot chocolate if it makes you happy, make sure to enjoy it and feel all the nutrients, presence and energy the drink is giving you.
Remember this one thing, where your attention goes, your energy flows.
Social media is a great place for connection and entertainment but it can also be mentally draining and time-consuming – trade that for something that brings you more peace, activates your creativity and passion, and gives you a sense of productivity and accomplishment. Go back to the basics; loving, listening, learning, and living in pursuit of what makes you happy. Even with one tiny step, this will inevitably lead to big changes.