Coping in strange times
The lock-down continues. How are you coping in these strange and different times? Are you in your host country, unable to go out and work? Or maybe you’ve been repatriated to your home country and are trying to settle without the possibility of “normal” life. Or perhaps you were on leave when lock-down happened and you are unexpectedly facing a long stint in your home country with no immediate prospect of going back to your host country?
There are so many possible scenarios out there. Here are some thoughts about coping and using the opportunity you have to go deeper.
There are some basics to healthy living which we all need to be doing at this time, though possibly with some added creativity: connecting with others, eating well, exercising, sleeping. We need these whether living on our own or with others. Routine of some sort is helpful for most people too, i.e. getting up at a similar time each day and having periods of activity and rest.
I would also suggest that touch is one of the most basic needs we all have. It’s long been recorded in infants that without touch they cannot thrive. The same is true of adults. Those living in families or groups may have more ready access to touch from another person.
However strange it might sound, though we can all deliver touch to ourselves. Spending a bit of time gently touching our bodies each day, or hugging ourselves on a regular basis, can go a long way towards making up for that lack of physical contact from elsewhere. Granted, it’s not the same as receiving touch from someone else, but it can help.
Below are some other suggestions for coping in strange times. I’m only going to go into each of them briefly, as there are other resources elsewhere – but hopefully the links will provide further thought.
Live day by day, in the present moment
With everything the news is throwing at us and all the uncertainty at the moment of how or when any lock-down might be lifted, planning ahead is nigh on impossible. When might I be able to go back to my host country? Or when might I leave? When might I see this person again? We just don’t know.
Rather than dwelling in the uncertainty of the questions, we need to be living literally day by day. Being with what each day offers us. Fully rooting ourselves in the here and now so that we don’t miss out on what the world is offering us today. The art of mindfulness is a tradition which helps us to live in the moment. It can help alleviate some of the anxiety that can come from living in the “what ifs” of the future.
Get into your body
We’re taught in the West to inhabit our heads much more than we inhabit our bodies. But our bodies can tell us so much about what we’re currently experiencing. Focusing on our bodies can stop the thoughts swirling.
- stop to smell the roses
- stand barefoot on dew-covered grass
- hug a tree! No kidding – I even saw an article from Scandinavia suggesting people do this as a substitute for hugging others at the moment! Try it!
- listen to the birds sing
- check in with and relax your aching shoulders (or other parts of your body) that hold too much stress
- do some exercise or stretching
- eat something different
- focus on your breath and watch it go in and out of your body; if anxiety is an issue, breathing more deeply can be calming
Take the opportunity to re-evaluate and to dream
Just like with re-entry, being stuck is a good time to dream. We so rarely allow ourselves uncensored dreaming time. Now is a good time to re-evaluate, to let your imagination run riot. To spend some time assessing what you’re currently doing and whether that still fits with who you are. And to have a think about what you might like for the future.
Who might you like to be or to do or to have? The more specific you can be, the better. For example if you come up with “I want to be a good wife” – what specifically does that mean, what would it look like to be that person you want to be? Or “I want to have job security” – again, what does that mean, what qualifies as security?
What would you like to see happen that you’ve never allowed yourself to think about? It’s easy to discount things and berate ourselves for having desires – but they can be crossed off the list later if they aren’t fair to others in your world. Be open and receptive to what comes up. There’s an exercise you can to do to help you think about this where it says “download.”
There are many things you can do to help yourself during this time. If you would like accompaniment during this time to find a way forward to just as a means of checking in with someone on a regular basis, I am very happy to do that online. Get in touch to find out more.
My next blog will focus on more things you can do: working on your identity based on your responses to the crisis; gratitude practices; and countering our perceived need for meaning.
Best wishes during these strange times!
29th April 2020