Earlier this week we did an episode about sickness and consent. Today on the podcast we talked about how to deal with the stress and coronavirus. Below are the main tips and resources we mentioned…
Self-care and kindness
Self-care is vital to look after ourselves when stressed or sick and to get in a good enough place to support others. Default to the basics: enough food, drink, sleep, movement, and breathing. Consider what self-care and being gentle look like for you because it’s different for different people. We covered some of this on our gentleness podcast on Patreon earlier this year.
Being kind to ourselves is a vital counter to worry and anxiety, guilt and shame. It’s about recognising three different kinds of kindness:
- Kindness towards ourselves which is a good foundation for daily life and also helps us recover – and increase our capacity – when we’re sick or struggling
- Kindness alongside others – where we’re kind to them and they’re kind to us in a mutually supportive way
- Kindness towards others when we have more to give than them, based on our particular capacity to offer, for example, financial, practical and/or emotional support
It’s not that one of these is better than the others, it’s about recognising the need for a balance of the three, and also what we need at a particular time, and focusing on that.
Dealing with our feelings
When difficult feelings like worry, fear, panic, guilt, shame, grief, etc. come up it’s great to:
- Notice them
- Normalise them: it is so understandable and normal to be feeling such things at this time
- Evaluate their intensity
- Soothe and ground yourself with high intensity feelings
- Stay with the feelings and be friendly towards them with less intense feelings
- Seek help and support if it is too hard to bear alone
Dealing with news/media around it
This situation would be completely different if it had happened a decade, or even five years, ago. Now far more people (although of course not everyone) have the capacity to work from home, we can stay in touch with close people face-to-face, and we can get information quickly about best practice during this time. However, we also have a portal to all the information ever in our pockets and news and social media can exacerbate – as well as alleviating – stress.
It’s helpful to divide out information from analysis. When you’re struggling it can be a good idea only to access information news rather than analysis and debate, and perhaps to only do this a limited amount (e.g. once per day). The NHS website provides a full update of the current situation, and Justin recommends Dr. Ranj Singh on twitter.
Connecting with others
Along with news media we might think about how we engage with social media at times like this. We did a podcast all about social media last year on our Patreon feed which covers this more generally. It’s about curating your social media so it becomes a supportive place rather than one that exacerbates anxiety for you. It may be that smaller whats app groups or similar are a better way to do connecting with others. It can also be helpful to have more face-to-face mutually supportive conversations.
Ongoing consent is vital here – checking in with yourself, and each other, about what kinds of conversations feel okay and what don’t.
When it is possible to go out into the world and connect in your neighbourhood, just by exchanging smiles or conversation with shopkeepers and people in your community, this can help with a sense of connectedness.
When isolated, scheduling regular calls with others, and doing practices like Tonglen (which focus on how we’re all connected through our tough feelings) can be great.
Dealing with uncertainty
Uncertainty is often one of the things we find hardest when crises hit, but it’s worth remembering that life is always uncertain. We did a podcast on hopelessness and despair on our Patreon last year which might be helpful if it puts you in those places.
It can be useful to remember times in the past when the worst case scenario has happened, and how those were dealt with – day to day – and how they did pass in time. Often the fear we have about such things happening doesn’t match how they will actually be if they do happen – which is so unpredictable – and reminding ourself of this can help. It helps to try to be with the situation as it is rather than exacerbating tough feelings by worrying about how it might be and adding an extra layer of stress. Putting specific time aside to talk with others or journal or think intentionally about what you’re worried about can be a helpful way to prevent the noise of worry from being there continuously.
The Taoist fable – who knows what’s good or bad – can be a useful to remind ourselves that we don’t know what might come from this current situation: individually, collectively, or culturally.
Deciding what to do
It can be very hard to decide what to do when situations are so uncertain, for example when to cancel commitments, or change working practices, or decide not to travel, or seek help. After we have the best information available currently, what then can we do?
From a consent perspective, we’d like to encourage you – if at all possible – to keep tuning into what feels right for you. If in doubt (if you are a ‘maybe’ or a ‘not sure’) then default to a ‘no’. It is also totally okay to try moving towards doing something, and then to step back again if it doesn’t feel okay.
Remember that we all have different needs in terms of our immune systems, our capacities, the degree of background stress or trauma we have going on, and it’s okay for each of us to be where we are given that, and to have different capabilities and limits.
Hopefully as the culture shifts to recognise that we need to live and work in different ways at these times – and generally – this will help support us to make the decisions that are best for us and everyone else.
© Meg-John Barker and Justin Hancock, 2020