Massive change can bring a huge sense of upheaval for people. If that’s what you are feeling, then be reassured that you are not alone. I feel it too.
And a sense of fear or anxiety can play havoc with how and what we pay attention to. We can miss a lot while we focus on actions to make ourselves feel better.
Or we may react by sticking our heads in the sand, and refusing to do anything different. Because if we changed our behaviour, then that would be admitting that all this is real, and that things have to change.
This is real. Things do have to change.
In my 30 years as a psychologist, here’s what I’ve learned people need to help them get through a crisis:
These are things that you need to live your life; money, food, shelter and good information. You may have a lot of this in place already. Ask for support if some of this is lacking for you.
Be considerate of others’ needs too. The supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open and stocked throughout the four weeks. You also need to pay attention to what is happening around you and check advice about how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
But make sure you don’t overdo your exposure as it can make you feel worse. Limit your consumption of media to do with Covid-19. Get what you need and move on. Check two or three times a day and then get on with what you’re doing next.
We know that the biggest protector in times of emergency and crisis is social connection.
We need to stay connected with the people we know and love when at times we need to be physically apart.
You can still talk to your neighbour over the fence, you can still say “hi” when you pass people on your walk (get some exercise when you can), but stay 2m away.
Let’s get creative about ways to stay in touch with people. I’m looking forward to seeing some typically Kiwi ingenuity to help with this.
Four weeks is a long time and when we’re not going to be able to do what most of us usually do, I’m betting time is going to feel like its passing a lot more slowly that usual.
Structure helps in lots of ways. Not only does it help you to organise time and what you’ll do, a structure acts like a container, so the anxiety you might feel from time to time doesn’t feel like its going to spill out and colour everything that you do.
Structure also helps to occupy you, but also everyone in your household.
Here’s some ideas: Schedule yourself some regular activities for each day of the week. Maybe Monday morning is a baking morning, Tuesday afternoons are for gaming and hanging out with your buddies online, Wednesday afternoons are for an online group exercise class, and Thursday and Sunday mornings are for catching up online with groups of friends or family online.
And you maybe want to theme each of the weeks, as we go through them. Get up at a regular time. Make sure you dress for the day. Keep a structure; it really helps.
In recent times, there’s been a lot of talk of looking out for each other and kindness.
Check in on those around you to see how you can help, in a safe way, if they need assistance. But check in with yourself too.
Give yourself a little time to get used to this. It’s a big disruption.
And if you end up in an argument with people you are close to, remember that this is a difficult situation for everyone. Try to repair the rift – we are going to be here for a while.
When people go through tough times, one of the first things they stop doing is the stuff that gives them pleasure, that brings them joy.
So make sure to get your full variety five portions of fun a day. This is a great way to keep your spirits up, and you find ways to do these with others too.
Practice these 5 ways to wellbeing:
If you haven’t heard of the five ways to wellbeing, these are the daily habits of healthy, happy people that are are easy to say but harder to do.
They are connect, give, take notice, keep learning and be active.
Practise these, but also add another three: eat well, remember to relax, and get enough sleep.
So if you see a lot of repeated messages over the next few weeks, know that it’s because people miss things when they’re preoccupied with their own thoughts and feelings.
They can find it hard to look up. But when they do, then they need good information, know how and where to get what they need.
We all need structure, we call need empathy. Sometimes we need one more than another. Let’s keep working on this over the next four weeks. Together.