The world is upside down. Nightly news bulletins are full of grim statistics and an even grimmer outlook. Now is perhaps not the time for ‘building higher’, but rather is the hour for ‘weathering the storm’. Clients in my online practice are describing to me how everything they felt was sure and safe is now up in the air. They can turn up to the supermarket, only to find that the shelves are empty. They have elderly relatives who need care but who are far away, and who are not only self-isolating but are very isolated. Their cash flow is uncertain, and many jobs are shaky. We appear to have been brought to our collective knees in a matter of weeks.
Don’t despair. There are things that we can do to get through this period, however tough it may be at the moment. I wanted to share today an approach which I hope will assist you in considering how to identify your own personal needs, and the needs of those around you, so that you can go about meeting them as much as possible in the coming days and weeks. In the midst of panic, we can forget to keep things simple. Meeting the basics will go a long way towards restoring as much balance as possible, and will provide us with a firmer foundation to stand upon until normality returns.
Philosophers of all ages have divided the human condition up into three parts, namely mind, body and soul. It is by looking at these three elements that I hope to present a more holistic way of ensuring that we (and others) get what we need to come through the coronavirus outbreak intact and in reasonable spirits. We may usually prefer to attend to just one of these areas of our lives, but if we prioritise one strand over the other two, we are likely to end up lopsided and not in the best place overall.
As a therapist, you might expect me to be most concerned in my day to day work with this aspect of the human experience, and to an extent you’d be right. We might include the term ‘mental health’ under the umbrella of ‘mind’, and so think about things such as keeping our mood buoyant and guarding against slipping into depression or excessive anxiety. What I would say here, is that passing low mood and rational worry are not diseases to be concerned about or illnesses to be cured. It is probably a very natural response to the situation in which we find ourselves to feel low about the fact that with the flip of a switch our social life has gone up in smoke, and the things that we normally do to remain resilient are for the time being inaccessible. Not awfulizing the situation can help. While it is natural to be concerned about how we’re feeling about things, try to keep a little perspective and accept that being down in the doldrums may be expected right now. Feeling down is not the same as having clinical depression, and being worried about getting weekly provisions in is perfectly understandable, not a sign that you’re developing an anxiety disorder. I hope that by normalizing our natural human response to the restrictions we may be temporarily placed under, I can allay your fears about ‘mental health monsters’ which you may apprehensively think lie just around the corner.
As the saying goes, ‘a healthy body brings a healthy mind’. You might be a gym fanatic, or an early morning swimmer, yet the chances are both of those activities are now curtailed. Try not to give up on your regime completely. If you’ve got steps where you live, climb up them. Then go back down again. And then back up again. You get the idea. If you’ve got an exercise bike, give it some hammer in front of the TV, and if you haven’t, perhaps use the time to perfect your push-up technique. Online resources piped through a smart TV might allow you to re-engage with (or try for the first time), an exercise class or yoga session. There are alternatives to the after-work run, though perhaps you’ll have to be a little creative and flexible.
This can be a difficult one for some people to take on board. “I’m not religious though”, I hear you cry as you read this. My response would be that it doesn’t matter whether you attend formal religious worship or not, as we all have a ‘spiritual’ side to our life regardless of what we call it. Helping others can be good for the soul. If you’re not housebound, how about contacting a neighbour to see if they need any provisions? If you are confined to quarters, is there a fellow temporary prisoner nearby that you could call on the phone to have a chat with? Retaining our ‘mojo’ is important when faced with a protracted period of disturbance. Even though you might be tempted to despair on some days while living through this corona-mess, let that feeling subside and hold hope in your mind. Don’t think all the time about what you can’t do, but look forward to what you will be doing when we’re home and dry with this outbreak. Keeping our life-force fire burning (and helping to rekindle other peoples who may be growing dim), is a good way of looking after the unseen soul we all carry within us.
I hope that I’ve been able to provide a segmented way of looking at the challenges that face us all in what I’ve written above. I wish you all the very best in meeting and overcoming your own personal obstacles as you work to maintain your own wellbeing and that of those you care about. We can do this, I know we can.
~ Rob Oglesby MBACP (Accred) B.A. (Hons) BSc
Ashwood Therapy provides a discreet, confidential and professional online counselling service by encrypted video call, live instant messaging and secure email. More details, including tips on wellbeing and information on current counselling session pricing, can be found at www.ashwoodtherapy.com