How is everyone doing? After quite a few weeks at home I have most definitely experienced the whole gamut of emotions. I have felt anxious about lots of different things: what kind of reaction will I and people close to me have if we catch the virus? Will we be the lucky ones with mild symptoms, or will we succumb to more serious symptoms? What impact is it all having on my children? Will it have long term consequences on them? When will it all end? I have felt worried when I read about people being nasty to each other, and the pandemic seemingly bringing out the worst in people on occasions.
I have felt sad, especially when reading about all the people who have lost their lives. I have felt sad for all the people who live by themselves and are lonely, or people in care homes who can no longer have visitors – it definitely makes me appreciate the constant noise in my own home.
I have felt massively frustrated at times, trying to juggle the seemingly endless amounts of schoolwork (so glad it is the holidays), with keeping my other children entertained and trying to keep the house relatively clean and tidy. I have felt frustrated with the monotony of each day, the endless request for snacks, and the pressure I have put on myself to give the children ‘fun’, ‘magical’ experiences at home.
I have felt suffocated at not being able to leave my house with no end in sight, and then resigned to the fact this is just something we need to do and we can manage it, mindful of the fact that keyworkers don’t have that choice. I have felt guilty for feeling angry and annoyed at staying at home, especially when I think about how the virus will impact countries where the basic necessities that we take for granted will not be on hand, never mind all the luxuries we have. Where the very act of keeping their hands washed may be impossible. It certainly makes me check my privilege. I have felt guilty about the amount I have told off my children. I am trying really hard to be patient – it really is not their fault and their world has been turned upside down – but it is hard, especially as they seem absolutely intent on braining each other.
I have felt grateful for modern technology that allows us to so easily connect with our family and friends around the world. I have felt heartened listening to people clapping for the NHS and other vital keyworkers. I have felt joy dancing with my kids in the kitchen.
One of the things I do know is that each of the emotions I have felt over the last few weeks has been valid and understandable. It is ok to feel sad, anxious, angry, happy – they all serve a purpose and they all have a place in our lives, especially at the current time.
The experience of emotion only becomes problematic when we feel it so strongly and for such a long time that it stops us from being able to function properly (and even then, there are some situations where being completely overwhelmed by emotion is totally understandable), or when we experience it when the situation doesn’t match the emotion we are feeling (for example, feeling scared when there is no actual threat).
I think it is also helpful to remember that sometimes people display one emotion, but may also be feeling something else. This is particularly the case for anger. When I used to work with adolescents, we would often get referrals for anger management problems, particularly in adolescent boys. But what often underpinned the anger was sadness and anxiety. But to allow ourselves to experience and show feelings of sadness and anxiety, is to allow ourselves to feel vulnerable. And sometimes people find that hard to do. This can be especially hard for males if they have been raised in a culture that, consciously or otherwise, makes them believe that showing any kind of vulnerability makes them weak. It is much easier to therefore channel these emotions into one that makes us feel like we have control over the situation, one that makes us feel ‘stronger’, and that tends to be anger. I have reminded myself of this when I have seen the way some people have reacted to the pandemic; I think for some people it may be their way of trying to gain some control over the uncontrollable.
Something that has definitely helped me with my anxiety, frustration and sadness has been to try to accept these feelings when they come, sit with them for a while, and then try to let them go. Because whilst it is absolutely ok to feel scared about what is going on at the moment, it isn’t that helpful to feel it all the time; to be so overwhelmed that you can’t focus on anything else. And that is where distraction and reframing how we are looking at the situation helps.
I have also been trying to reframe the situation to see some of the positives in it. Here is my list: 1. We are all really enjoying having family meals together, which is something we tended to only do at the weekend. 2. My 4-month-old is getting to spend a lot more time with her Daddy, which is definitely helping their bond. 3. We are being much more thoughtful around our consumption of things, planning more and wasting less. 4. We finally got around to planting those herbs I bought 2 years ago…. (not entirely convinced they will grow, but they are at least no longer languishing in a box in my cupboard).
So, I have been doing some (not all!) of the activities that have been recommended by people. I definitely made the mistake that first week of trying to do EVERYTHING that was being posted for free online and trying all the ideas people were sharing. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is amazing so many people are giving up their time and wanting to help each other. Except 1. It was exhausting trying to do them all. 2. It was stressful and frustrating, especially when my kids engaged with most of them for about 2 nano-seconds and the rest of the time was me trying to get them to take part, and 3. I really don’t like painting/play-doh/baking/anything involving glue. So, I am cutting myself and my children a bit of slack, and doing some activities we all enjoy, and occasionally doing ones that they enjoy but I don’t.
How have you all been finding things and what things have you used to cope?