It is the strangest of times. I am in lock down alongside millions across the country. This post is both a point in time reflection for myself, and at the same time a thought piece about how we are interacting with one another and ourselves and how this might be impacting us without our knowing.
The jarring and isolating experiences that everyone has had since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have seen some very strange human responses. Some of those responses have been bloody beautiful, for example the whole street singing together in Italy in 2020. Some non-surprising, like the increase in anxiety and stress amongst the general population. The thing that has really struck me is how numb so many of us have become. The ongoing in-out-in-out of lockdown for people living in Melbourne has lead to a lethargy that struggles to overrun the mind, despite positive outlooks, resilient mindsets and all of the baking and craft one can handle. Rising case numbers and barriers to visiting loved ones is stressful but you can only talk about it so much, because there is nothing that can actually be done about it, and to talk about it is to pick the scab and start the panic rising again at the back of your throat. Alternatively, you might have experienced the following:
- The group chat at work is filled with ‘I am so tired I have been online since 6:30am!’ and ‘just ducking out for lunch, I have barely stood up in 4 hours straight!’ like it’s a badge of honour and something someone should be proud of.
- When you call a friend to talk to them they say ‘Oh you know, I’m fine! I haven’t got much to report really! I’m just fine. How are you? You good?’ when you just know they are struggling and are too scared to open the lid for fear of what might come out.
- A comment is said in a zoom meeting. ‘I wish my children weren’t here to bother me working’ while someone sits living in agonising silence over their inability to have a child for themselves during this time.
- Feelings of overwhelming guilt when you try to read the news, get overwhelmed, and return to mindless TV. Feelings of failure as others around you seem to be crafting and creating and you can barely muster the energy to hit ‘confirm order’ on your Uber eats app.
Complex and odd feelings of inadequacy, unexpected loss, sadness, a resolve to stop ‘burdening’ others, all of these things take their toll, yet unpicking them feels impossible.
These little moments build up and they drag you down. After too many of these moments it becomes too hard to pick up the phone to a friend, or link into a zoom catch up. You sit frustrated and envious of people and unable to feel a sense of achievement or progress for the day. It’s hard to hold hope when holidays are cancelled and lives are feeling like they are paused.
I don’t have all the answers, but I can offer what I think are ways to feel more connected to loved ones, to feel hope and to take your mind away from the here and now.
- Consume fiction. Preferably fiction that doesn’t talk about COVID-19. I’m a big reader (hence all the book reviews), but I understand that holding focus isn’t always an option right now. Some alternatives include audible (listen to your books!), fictitious podcasts (just google your preferred genre and give stuff a go – what else are you doing?!) or have a wander through online writers that write short stories about things you like (WordPress have so many).
- Share a laugh. We aren’t laughing very much right now. It’s a super weird time and there’s a lot of underlying tension. If you see something silly happen, if a weird thing happens to you, if you watch something dumb and it gives you joy, share it with someone.
- Look people in the eye. I know this sounds odd. But if you take note next time you are out on a walk, you will see that once masks go on, eyes go down. The eye contact, the smile shared between a stranger, those moments can literally be life changing for people. Really. It’s hard to go slow when you’re trying to whip in and out of a supermarket. Look people in the eye and smile. They may not notice, but they might, and you will feel better either way.
- Send an audio clip to a friend. Top tip – you should get consent before doing this because some people really hate this method of communication. Have no expectation for a returned clip. Just send a little note of love and appreciation, or send a funny observation for your day, you will guarantee a moment of gratitude in return.
- Get off social media. Now. Do it. It’s weirdly hard to take the plunge but it makes you feel SO. MUCH. BETTER! Easiest way to do it is to still keep your laptop logged in but delete your apps off of your phone. It makes it more of a decision than “unlock – open app – scroll…scroll…scroll…*three hours later*”. Even if you just set up time locks for certain apps. Try it. Trust me.
- Assume positive intent. Whether it be a snarky tone in an email, one of the social moments I listed above, or not hearing from someone for a few weeks, assume positive intent. This time is hard for everyone and people express themselves differently. There is no right way to get through this we are all just doing the best we can.
We do not have a lot of control right now. But you can choose how to spend the little moments, and the little moments of course add up to the big picture. It’s also more than OK to push all of the positives aside sometimes and just be sad and scared. There is a lot of joy in this world, right now we just have to try a little harder to find it.