I’ve been toying with the idea of writing something about this for a couple of weeks now, but I didn’t feel as if I had anything new to add to the narrative. It sorta feels like the media, our social feeds and well, our entire worlds, are oversaturated with content about coronavirus. I’ve been actively turning my phone off and stepping away from it for fear of everything getting a bit too much. However, this blog is sorta like my online diary and, on reflection, it would be odd if I didn’t share my feelings on what is the strangest time I’ll ever live through.
Back in February, I moved out of my family home and into my own place. I’ve been meaning to write about the whole moving experience, but life has kinda got in the way. I’ve moved into a lovely flat by the sea and it’s been a really positive and lovely experience so far. I’m now 5 minutes away from work, about 30 seconds away from some of my closest friends and 10 minutes from the beach. I feel so lucky. However, the move has come at a weird time. Being ‘locked down’ 45 miles from home, when you’re already trying to get used to being apart from your family and adjust to your new life is strange. And, if I’m honest, to begin with I really struggled.
I’m lucky enough to work for a company that’s pretty forward thinking, and looks out for its employees, so we’ve been working from home for a little while now. It initially started as a test, to see how we’d function if we did all have to self isolate, but the test pretty quickly became a reality. The first week we were all at home I really really struggled – work was intense but the isolation was worse. I’m definitely an empath, somebody whose mood is really affected by those around them. I draw great strength from my friends – their happiness can lift me when I’m feeling down, but likewise I also feel their angst or concerns pretty deeply too. Being alone, I have found it really difficult to try and regulate my emotions – and I know I won’t be alone in this. As somebody who’s very used to being around people, having moved out on my own I was already trying to get used to being ‘at one with myself’ (as wanky as that sounds!), so with this added anxiety on top, it all got a bit overwhelming. Every day brought a new scary headline with it, for every positive advancement, it felt like we took a step backwards the very next moment. As somebody who likes to be in control, I’ve found this really tricky. Obviously, it was the fear of the unknown that scared me. I tried to keep my head down and push through at work, not really telling anybody how I was feeling because I knew I just had to get on with it and get used to this new lifestyle, but by the end of the week I’d sorta run out of steam. Don’t get me wrong, I know how lucky I am to be in a position where I am able to work from home. I’m beyond grateful for the key workers who are still heading out to work, even now, particularly those who are on the front line dealing with this, but I can only speak from my experiences and I found it tough.
I ended the week with a bloody good cry and I’ve done a lot of crying since; at videos of puppies, the news, stories on social media, pictures of my Grandma at her care home, the list goes on. But that’s fine isn’t it, we’re all working out this weird and wonderful new world and our emotions are bound to be a little bit all over the place! But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that we should be listening to our emotions and embracing them. You can’t really push them aside at a time like this, when everything is so up in the air.
Since that week I’ve felt way better – I think we all need a good old cry every now and then, pandemic or no pandemic. I’m feeling lots more resilient and able to focus my mind and am really trying to embrace the whole ‘focus on what you can control’ thing. I watched a Ted Talk recently about accepting a flux mindset; put simply – ‘an ability to thrive amidst constant change’, which really helped me get some much needed perspective and equip myself with some tools to help navigate this new landscape. I’ll post it below if you have time to watch it.
In a nutshell, it tells us to do the following; let go of the future, slow down and think about the bigger picture. In relation to the current global situation, this flux mindset means that we need to make plans with the assumption that those plans will likely change. This doesn’t mean that we should now be of the opinion that nothing will go according to plan and get all ‘woe is me’. Instead, it means getting used to continuous change, and considering that this will likely be the rule rather than the exception at this moment in time. However, I also think it’s OK to be sad or pissed off if your plans have been cancelled – it’s natural to be disappointed that something you’ve been looking forward to is no longer happening. However, with regards to slowing down, this is all about appreciating what you do have, making the most of the little things and actually appreciating the time we have to ‘get off the proverbial hamster wheel’ and take a look around. Whether we want to slow down or not, we don’t really a choice right now as businesses slow down around us, so it’s the perfect time to stop and take stock.
Lastly, when thinking about the bigger picture, we need to try and think beyond the pandemic. For me, this has been the hardest part as I’ve been trying to live day to day because thinking too far into the future is a little overwhelming at the moment. However, it’s important to remind ourselves that this will end someday. Although the lockdown currently feels indefinite, we will pull through this and life will return to some semblance of normal again. Ultimately, the takeaway from the Ted Talk above is that those with a flux mindset will be far better positioned to navigate the weeks and months ahead than those who are simply just waiting for the whole thing to be over and done with. I guess I’m just trying not to put my life on hold and instead am embracing what I can from this experience.
Since moving towards this mindset, I’ve been feeling a lot better. I feel stronger and more resilient and more able to tackle whatever comes my way, be that work or my own feelings and emotions. I’ve been trying to channel my energy into positive things; lots of my colleagues have started a 30 day yoga challenge, I’ve been going for long walks by the sea and appreciating how incredibly lucky I am to be isolating somewhere as beautiful as where I am and I even went for my first run of the year yesterday. But it’s important to also reference that I’ve spent days on my garden chair (no sofa yet!) in my PJS watching Lizzie McGuire on Disney+ (thanks for the hook up, Tom) and eating handfuls of grated cheese. I think ultimately, we just need to be kind to ourselves right now and go with whatever our emotions are telling us. You don’t need to workout if you don’t want to, you don’t even need to get dressed if you don’t want to – you do you, just make sure you’re doing what best benefits you, at that particular time.
In terms of communication, despite being physically further apart, emotionally I feel more connected to my friends and family than I ever have. I’ve had WhatsApp calls, Zooms, Hangouts, House Party quiz nights – and don’t even get me started on the absolutely quality memes that are flying in and out of my DMs. Times of panic and uncertainty always remind me how lucky I am to have such wonderful people in my life, especially my colleagues, who are a constant source of positivity, inspiration and hilarity! Who knows how long this thing will last, but we do know that we’re all in this together (except Vanessa Hudgens, ironically, did you see her video? Yikes). It’s schmaltzy but it’s true. And, as for living alone, I’m getting used to it. There’s nobody to tell me I can’t have cake for breakfast (hi Mum!) or to interrupt me when I’m on important work calls. And actually, after all the noise of the day, it’s quite nice to shut my laptop and just sit with myself and my thoughts. Of course, I’m still having pangs of anxiety and lonely moments, but that’s inevitable, global health crisis or not!
I know that we’re really only at the beginning of this experience and as I said, I appreciate how lucky I am to be navigating this world with a bloody brilliant support system, working for a supportive company, a roof over my head and plenty of toilet paper. Whatever your situation, I really really hope you’re all keeping safe and well. Please look after yourselves, focus on what you can control and try and keep positive. We’ve got this!