I’ve started a series called “What Happens When…” which is a set of articles targeted at life’s hiccups and how to sit with them, process them and then try to overcome them. I’ve previously covered: ‘What Happens When Life Throws You A Curve-ball’ and ‘What Happens When Your Confidence Takes a Nose-dive’. This has proved a popular and interactive series, with followers on the blog’s woefully neglected social media (note to self: must get better at SM engagement) Twitter and Instagram, and also from the thousands of connections whom I interact with on a daily basis on my all-too active personal LinkedIn requesting different themes, and I have a healthy list of topics to cover (many thanks!). I’d like this series to be as helpful as it can be, so if you have any further ideas or requests for topics, please get in touch.
If you are in need of more corona-based content – specifically as a student then click here for a new series called Learn In The Time of Corona.
*Important note: written, published and correct as on Sunday 15th March 2020*
For this series I normally take requests from followers and connections, however this article was prompted by a question I was asked this morning while recording a podcast (out soon; keep your ears…peeled? Or check out this one here for a chatty fix).During this morning’s recording, I felt I wanted to address the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic, but wasn’t as ‘tidy’ in my answer as I could have been. It has also been brought home to me, especially in the last week, the impact this is having on everyone. This will be affecting us all – indeed some of my friends and family have suspected coronavirus, some of their jobs and livelihoods are threatened, some have had to make decisions to leave their homes and travel back to their families in other countries. Despite the fear, uncertainty and wider ramifications, I want to tap into the fact that there are ways we can help fight this, and win; there are ways we can use our privilege and help us all to get through this as unscathed as possible. And I want to contribute to the positivity and hope as much as I can, while keeping grounded in reality.
I wish I had a neat answer to this ‘What Happens When’ but right now, we are all as in the dark as each other and just taking things day-by-day – it is clear the next few months will be tough. Uncertainty is the new certainty, and abnormality is the new normality – it ain’t business as usual anymore…While I am keen not to add fuel to the fire of an already raging inferno of news, articles and vox-pops – I feel compelled to say and share some positive approaches and pragmatic changes we can make (based on the situation as at 15th March 2020).
What I do feel is important to say is that our own health, and the health of our communities, is paramount; good health is the foundation on which we can build strong, sturdy and substantial structures. While the future is an unknown, this is certain: we will need to make changes and adjustments to our lives. Just because we don’t like what is happening, doesn’t mean it isn’t. Believe me, I would love to just crawl into bed and pull the covers over myself and ignore reality. However, the other thing that is certain is that we can do a lot to help ourselves and each other: we can choose not to add to the (understandable) air of panic, we can choose to empathise with and support our neighbours, we can offer our help, love and care to those that need it and we can take sensible steps to protect ourselves and our nearest/dearest.
I have grouped these musings into categories for ease of reading:
Socialising and Community:
- Social media can be a blessing and a curse. In these times, try to avoid reading or engaging with a lot of the conversations around the pandemic; instead use reliable sources of information like quality newspapers, the World Health Organisation website and reputable news outlets.
- Skype/Facetime/Video calls/Voice notes/Group chats are amazing tools and we should use these more. I already have Skype dates (with wine) lined up with friends who are either self-isolating or have travelled back to their home countries to be with their families. This allows us to keep in touch, stay grounded and help maintain those vital friendships and relationships.
- Check in with loved ones on a regular basis – it’s important to know we aren’t alone, even if we feel isolated or scared.
- Offer help to those who are in the higher-risk or vulnerable categories with practical support like dropping off shopping, collecting medication or even just recommending a good series on Netflix to binge watch. It’s a massive lifeline and reassurance to those who are in these categories to know they have a fall-back – and it takes but thirty seconds for you to send a message or pick up the phone.
- Consider taking part in the #viralkindness campaign. A really positive movement to help those who are self-isolating with COVID-19 keep as happy and healthy as possible.
- We are all a bit scared. It’s okay to feel anxious and afraid. It’s important to be able to voice our fears and share how we are feeling. And also important to remember that we are all in this together, and that we will find a way through together.
- Self-care, and the care for others, is vital under times of stress, illness and uncertainty. It’s important to look after not only our bodies, but our minds too. Feed yourself positive things by investing in good fun, good food, good people, enough sleep and some exercise.
- Exercise – an essential for a healthy mind and body. I’ve talked about the power of exercise a lot, but this may be harder if you are self-isolating. YouTube has loads of amazing (and free) home workouts which don’t require equipment or the great outdoors, and the Guardian just wrote up some of the best at-home workouts here. With Spring nearly sprung (hooray!) comes better weather, so if you can, take a sniff of fresh air and get out into nature or clean and open your windows and tug back the curtains if you can’t get outside. I’m dusting off my balcony furniture and scrubbing the wood floor in preparation for some sun-bathing, al-fresco feeding and exercise even if we have to self-isolate/quarantine; so if you’re lucky enough to have some outside space – now is a great time for a spring clean.
- Food – there has been mass panic-buying across the world. While understandable that people are concerned about stocking up, this is neither helpful nor community-minded. Making sure you have a small stack of tins and dried goods is sensible to tide you over. Think creatively: Would a regular, normal-sized home or click and collect delivery of food be a good approach in the coming months? Would creating weekly meal plans control any urges to strip the shelves of your local supermarket? Are you wasting food or not making the most of leftovers? Have you considered baking your own bread or making your own pasta? All these little things will also help you feel more in control and prevent panic-buying.
- Fun – chances are we are going to have to be cancelling/postponing some enjoyable activities. But perspective is key here – having that gig you were looking forward to cancelled isn’t the end of the world. Stream a recorded live concert at home from Spotify and have a living room rave (there’s a brilliant range of them from Muse (recorded in Milan) to Adele (recorded at the Royal Albert Hall) to David Guetta (recorded at Tomorrow land). Don’t want to go to, or can’t go to a restaurant? Why not create your own restaurant experience at home and invite a few local friends over? Break out the board games, renew your interest in books (I highly recommend ‘Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine’ on the list linked), create a top ten film list and share it with friends (you can even watch them together over a video call if you are isolating), take up a new hobby. There is a lot of fun to be had…
- There are already huge economic side-effects to coronavirus. This will be, quite naturally, contributing to our sense of concern of the long-term repercussions of the pandemic. While we do not know what the future holds, we can take precautions and utilise the tools developed countries are lucky enough to enjoy.
- Work from home – technology can greatly benefit us in these times – so ask your work for support in deploying/using these tools if you need it.
- Keep in touch with employers/tutors/institutions/official bodies – monitor updates and create honest conversations. Two days ago, I myself voiced (in very carefully worded emails) my concerns that sufficient precautions weren’t being taken by my LPC provider regarding two exams I have scheduled on Tuesday (17th March), with 1000+ students in one room for seven hours. What happens next and what decision I make, I don’t know yet – but starting those proactive conversations was beneficial for me, my class and for those in authority to consider (who aren’t commuting to, and sitting in, the exam hall).
- If you are in an application cycle, self-employed, retired, reliant on savings/investments, job-hunting, or lack job security these times will be especially stressful. Think about ways to manage your money, budget (free apps like Yolt can help you set budgets and see at-a-glance where you are spending money) and consider alternative sources of income. Remember that we are more than just our jobs – our true value is in our health, and our ability to create and continue relationships. While this may be cold comfort – hopefully there is some warmth to be taken from the fact that we are in this together and if we create an environment where we are all looking out for each other people will not be left behind.
Protection and Precautions: (correct as of 15th March 2020)
While the virus isn’t fully understood and scientists have a range of advice and views, the following is pretty much agreed upon:
- Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene – wash your hands, minimise touching your face, keep clean high-touch surfaces, don’t share towels or toothbrushes (anyone who has watched Love Is Blind will understand that toothbrush sharing is a contentious area in relationships even in non-pandemic times).
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow.
- Consider social distancing – that means less handshakes and more peace signs and smiles.
- Self-isolate if you have a dry cough (not phlegmy) and/or are running a fever. Recommended advice on timescales of quarantine vary, but the general rule seems to be fourteen days, with a minimum of seven.
I think the most important takeaway from all of this is that this gives us an opportunity to show how nations, communities and individuals can work together to help limit the effects of this pandemic. Illness is a leveller – we are all in the same boat, however some of us are luckier than others in having access to medical support, food and a safe roof over our heads. Let’s try to think about what we can do for each other, not just for ourselves.
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