These are strange days indeed, everything looks the same but its all changed completely. And we’re all doing our best to change with these frightening circumstances. The world has suddenly shifted to a hostile, unknown territory where we once had everything mapped out, secure in our knowledge of our place, our environment and how we fit into it and now we simply don’t know anything at all.
Its a challenge for sure. One we all need to successfully step up to because our actions matter more than ever before, as we will impact other people in a real life or death outcome. This is not a drill, it can no longer be dismissed as hype. Its real and its happening to us all.
These are scary times, but we are all still the same person we were before the coronavirus hit, with the same challenges and triumphs, the same hopes and fears, joys and disappointments. The outside world may have changed completely but our internal landscape stays the same. And this lack of certainty, this sense of things being out of our control is only going to exacerbate our personal insecurities, fears and anxieties.
The limited contact with other people, the lack of distraction and stimulation from our usual routine of work/friends/social activities is going to bring out our internal conflicts. We’re now unable to get away from our personal demons by shopping, or drinking or working (insert your distraction method here) And although food and tv and video games will substitute for a while, we’re going to run out of snacks and get bored sitting on the couch with Netflix or Amazon or whatever streaming service you use.
You have to decide why this isolation is so important. You are not responsible for this suffering, nor are you able to control it. However, you can take responsibility for your actions in staying socially isolated and you can control and limit your interactions with other people, especially those in the highly vulnerable section of your community.
How do we cope with isolation?
When you’re struggling with this its important to recognise that this is the right thing to do. Not just for others, but for yourself and your family and friends too.
This is a real crisis, we have no idea what the outcome will be, we are being challenged and threatened by something we have no control over. And that makes us feel really vulnerable.
You may feel out of control, but you care, so take time to acknowledge how difficult it is. It is hard to isolate yourself, its hard to not be able to fix things and stay still and allow things to play out.
But think about what you do have control over. What can you choose to do in this situation? Who do you want to be in this situation?
You can choose to be brave and courageous, you can choose to stay disciplined in your efforts to isolate yourself and your family. You can choose to share resources and not panic buy and strip supermarket shelves of food and consumables that vulnerable people, doctors, nurses and other emergency services might need too.
I already lead a fairly self isolated life, but choosing being a hermit vs having social isolation imposed on you are very different things. I’m one of that group labelled as ‘vulnerable’ to the coronavirus so should stay as far away from other people as possible. In my usual day to day life I can decide to go out to the shops or meet friends anytime I want but to have to stay in to protect my life and the lives of others, to reduce the stress on our already overloaded NHS and its marvelous personnel makes me anxious and antsy and want to immediately go out and break ‘the rules’.
I have to say I learn to towards the anarchic, to breaking rules, disobeying authority and I think there’s many like me, who when told don’t do that, immediately rebel and do exactly that. But I have to access my inner grown up now and impose new discipline on myself.
I do not want to be a moron here, I choose to put my health and everyone else’s first. I choose to not put more demand on a service already creaking at its seams.
So, how do we make different choices so staying in becomes the automatic choice.
First, recognise that such a change isn’t going to happen overnight and you have to plan for your own rebelliousness. Have checks on your behaviour. If you always leave your key in the door, lock it and put the key somewhere that will take some effort to access. I’ve put my car keys upstairs in a shoebox on the top shelf of my wardrobe.
Stick a sign on the door, ‘Is this trip life or death?’ Might seem overly dramatic in the UK right now, but not so in Italy or Spain or Iran, and will probably be the same here shortly.
I live alone but those living with others you could hide one of every pair of shoes so there’s no pair sitting together just waiting, invitingly for you to step into them and step out.
Use this time proactively: sign up for an online class, learn a new skill – something you always wanted to do or improve on.
Make a list of all those household jobs that never get done and start tackling them one by one: the cupboard under the sink, the one under the stairs. Washing baseboards and corners in ceilings where spiders lurk, put up those shelves, sort out wardrobes, clear out your books. Build a pile to donate to your favourite charity.
For me. I’m going to read all the books I’ve bought but never got around to reading as I kept buying more. I am going to challenge myself and my intellect, do brain training games and puzzles. I’m going to write and maybe explore my creativity in other ways with drawing and painting.
There’s many ways we can explore our inner world and get to know ourselves better. Start a meditation practice, dance, play, do yoga, Youtube brings all sorts of expert classes into your home.
Look out the window and the world outside looks the same. But it is now a very different place. We all need to adapt to these changing times, we all get to choose to be the person who helps or the one who obstructs efforts to minimise the spread of the virus.
We need to change our behaviour, to be brave, to be kind, to be generous, to stay away.
Times like these define us, are you going to be a hero or an asshole?
Be a hero, I know you can.