Thoughts from the couch - adapting to a new way
The world feels very strange right now, it is changing fast and we have no idea how it will play out. If we were to cast our minds back to the beginning of the year, none of us would have believed that, within a few weeks, our lives would be changed by a strand of proteins, that has ripped open the fabric of normality, causing the biggest global crisis since the Second World War.
We are allowed out of our homes to stock up on essentials and have one form of exercise outdoors a day. Thousands of families have been thrust into home schooling. Operations have been cancelled. Bars, cafes, shops, restaurants, clubs all closed. Public gathering cancelled, jobs lost, people being furloughed and couples suddenly living in each others pockets. The unprecedented social distancing measures have changed our lives beyond recognition. Financial ruin and job insecurity weaving threads of fear and uncertainty throughout our world. The knowledge that any one of us could fall ill at any time, or could be already carrying the virus and not know, leaving only nine per cent of Britons wanting lockdown to end.
This crisis will shape history and each of us is becoming aware of what we most treasure and what we most fear. My own life has shrunk beyond recognition. There are many things I miss and some days I feel deeply challenged on a personal level. There are days when I feel just as unsure as my clients, not only of the very real dangers of COVID-19 in the here and now, but how our lives will be in the aftermath. I face a mixture of emotions in constantly shifting measures and allow them to move through me knowing that moments of losing courage belong to a brave life.
Only in hindsight will the contours of the new world we are entering become clear, but in the meantime we need to find ways of adapting to a new way. We are all having to shift into new routines that feel uncomfortable and out of the norm. Many of my clients talk about being forced to look at a new way of living their lives with the changes seeming small to some, but traumatic and immensely challenging to others.
It is not all doom and gloom though as, through the hole that has opened up, we glimpse possibilities of other worlds. Some people are already experiencing unexpected blessings. Our pace of life has slowed down. The skies are bluer with cleaner air. Our daily exercise has given us an appreciation of natural surroundings previously taken for granted. Some parents are enjoying more time with their children. There are newly discovered neighbours and a sense of community, as we gather to show our deeply felt gratitude at the bravery of those working on the front line by clapping, drumming and cheering. We are starting to remember what is important and make space for all the things that we never seemed to have had the time to do. Some couples are rediscovering positive attributes in each other as they are pulling together and starting to see themselves once more as the team they so easily fell into in their early years. Virtual conversations, dinners and parties offering companionship especially to those living alone.
Elizabeth Gilbert author of Eat, Pray Love wrote something I like to hold on to when I feel levels of anxiety and loneliness start biting at my core; “the child is taught from earliest consciousness that she has these four brothers with her in the world wherever she goes, and that they will always look after her. The brothers inhabit the four virtues a person needs in order to be safe and happy in life: intelligence, friendship, strength and poetry. The brothers can be called upon in any critical situation for rescue and assistance. When you die, your four spirit brothers collect your soul and bring you to heaven.” We are no strangers to suffering and while we are all in different and ever-changing mental spaces, it is important to remember as we move through this experience that there are opportunities for us to learn and grow. My hope for all of us is that, when this is over, we realise that this darkness had purpose; that we will all prefer the world we find ourselves in to the one we left behind, but above all we remember that we were not alone.
If you're experiencing overwhelm and anxiety during this time of lockdown then you may find it helpful to speak to someone. If talking to a close friend or family member isn't an option, you may find it helpful talking to a professional therapist. They can offer a listening ear and offer support during this time; many offer online and telephone support.