Tiring and intense
I don't know about you but I already feel tired and exhausted by the intensity of the world around me. The exposure I am getting to information appears to be relentless. When I open my eyes in the morning there is normally a new message 'what have you missed about Coronavirus overnight?', I throw the phone to one side. HH reads a lot about it and is coping in his own way by being interested, today he informed me that more men than women are dying from the virus, it was important to him however, a life is a life regardless of the gender. The BBC seems to have the news on all the time with commentators 'videoing' from somewhere in their house to let me know their views. I am exhausted by it all.
I felt quite low after Cathy and I decided to close the office for the duration of the Pandemic. Cathy has been able to continue doing some online work, I am not so fortunate as my internet is really poor and I run the risk of clients being cut off halfway through sessions and never being able to re-engage with me. I felt at a loss taking it all in and the speed in which these changes had occurred. I was suddenly at home, two pot plants in my hands and with a host of things that are now no longer a certainty in my life, like my trip to see my daddy whom I had not seen in about a year.
Along with millions of other people I am being asked to support my child through 'home schooling'. Educationally not an issue, but the politics of the school and the unfamiliar territory they operate in (even down to EVERYTHING BEING ON LINE = NIGHTMARE) is taking its toll on me, HH and the poor child now looking to us for the impossible equation answer. I feel disorientated, things seem a bit surreal, I feel at a loss and I can't quite put my finger on why.
Cathy and I have to partake in regular supervision and of late we have both been having additional supervision with an experienced counsellor whilst she completes her supervisors course. Last night I had my last supervision session with this person, an unexpected termination to our relationship, one I found rewarding and supportive. Her last act was to send me over a link to a free Zoom therapist and coronavirus webchat (I had never heard of Zoom before this!) that was being offered to help them gain personal stability and improve their resilience during this crisis, because let's be honest if counsellors can't be stable then our clients won't be able to gain the stability and security they need from us.
So I took my head out of the sand, signed up to zoom and with about 3 minutes to spare joined in the Zoom meeting. There were at least 100 counsellors on line, from all over the UK (including Jersey). There was an on line discussion led by Professor Paul Grantham, that sought to take the first steps to help my working community re-engage and start to move forward towards how to best provide a professional and effective service in the light of this Pandemic.
Therefore the points I will make below are not my own work, they are words of advice from Paul on how to best help our clients manage these difficult times BUT lots of what he said really did hit a cord with me and are actions I will be putting in place myself. It also made me realise it is OK to be uncertain and confused. It is OK to make decisions I would never normally make e.g. close the office however, it is also necessary to start to make plans for moving forward after this situation is brought under control.
I pass on his advice with hopefully his blessing and in good faith I hope I have replicated his supportive advice as truly as possible:
Over exposure to Information
As I have pointed out above I feel over exposed to information. It is coming at me from all angles Facebook, Internet, my phone, the TV the list is endless. This event has certainly made me realise what I pay attention to is in part a reflection of my belief system. If we only listen to certain media outlets then we are likely to amplify our own beliefs about the situation. Paul's advice would be to try and access a range of different information outlets, in this way you are more likely to be able to make sense of things in a balanced way.
It may be wise to look at the news/information only once a day at a certain time. I have set myself the 10.45pm Newsnight slot. Outside of that I do not overindulge in the outpourings of information. Choose outlet's you can trust and feel present a good open and honest assessment of events. Try to avoid dipping into articles, read fuller articles that give you more information. Try to avoid opening the array of emails/facebook posts you will see, get shared to you or you get copied into. Remember Facebook and other social media sites store what we look at and then throw stuff back at us they think we would be interested in, a great example of having our beliefs and thoughts amplified and reinforced.
You have control over what you choose to look at and see and this is a great time to start practising this skill. This can be challenging if you are socially isolating living with someone who has a different view and is looking at things more regularly. It is OK to say 'I get its important for you to look at things more often, but I have decided that is not want I want to do and so perhaps we need to agree we will not talk about it'. It is hard to say 'please stop' however, it may be really necessary to do so. It has certainly produced some tension in my house.
People may be feeling out of control which is likely to bring additional anxiety and distress. At the moment we all may feel we have little or no control over what is happening, we are caught in the middle of a storm with no vision beyond it. However, we are likely to have more control than we think, granted with a few restrictions upon us. Many things have not changed, they have just adjusted. Engagement with others is from our home. Work (if you are still working) is taking place via Video. Think about what you can control and actively work to make sure we recognise and celebrate the control we have been given. Take a moment to think about the things still well within your control, possibly write a list:
Things I can control
What I eat
When I eat
When I get up
How I dress
When I do the home schooling
How I treat other people
When I do my work
How do I exercise
When do I exercise
Does my dog really need another walk?
What do I need now to keep me happy and functioning (in Tina's case potting compost!!)
What I order from the internet
When I watch TV
When I go to bed
Be wary of being hypervigilent. It is possible you are seeing threats everywhere. On your letters - is the virus there? People in the street - stay away from me. The more we look for threats the more likely we are to see them. At the moment we all need to be extra cautious and follow the advice we have been given which is:
Keep at least 2 meters between yourself and others
Only go out for essentials
If you feel you may have the virus defiantly stop number two and stay in for the time required by the government
This is a proportionate need for caution and respect, try to avoid it becoming an indication of out of control and an invisible threat.
The need for routine is critical, the structures we normally rely on in life are currently absent (they will come back) and therefore the structure of setting and maintaining routines for you and your family is critical. Work gives us structure, we are at a certain place at a certain time for a specified period. We go and do certain activities at the same time every week. Most of us shop the same time every week (and probably put the same things in their basket every week), our children's schooling has a beautiful cylindrical nature to it from September to July, often our lives can be measured through their school years 'gosh that can't be another year done' providing the structure of a school day and their clubs/activities. All that has suddenly been temporarily halted.
So it is important for us now to set our own routines and I could be so bold as to suggest this may be an opportunity to establish some new habits and shrink the size of the other ones.
These are some of the routines is may be good to establish and some are incredibly easy:
Get up at about the same time - don't lounge around in your jim jams - get dressed do the normal things you would do, on a 'non-pandemic' day
Make sure Breakfast does not turn into Brunch !
Exercise at the same time each day (save the dogs legs)
Meals with the family, at a set time, at the dinner table
A timetable for the home schooling - stick to it
Kids bedtimes, keep them constant
Reduce your intake of coffee (and alcohol ???)
Keep sleep consistent - have good sleep hygiene
Do something different each day - read that book you wanted to, start an online course, try a new hobby
Get the family together and let each person decide what they would like to do as a family once a week (so far in our house we have ... watched a film together, played a board game together, cleaned the garage together (HH's suggestion), each person cook's a meal once a week)
Do not get lured by box sets (I know they are so tempting!!!) you will loose whole days of your life !
Be excited by different food and the opportunity to make changes to what you eat.
Finally our goals - we all have them, some of them explicit e.g. loose weight; others just aspirational 'mow the lawn more often'. Goals are an important part of our lives and represent a way to improve and achieve. However, at the moment our goals may need to change and adapt, the old ones can soon start again. I thought about this a great deal when the Olympics were postponed, causing great upset and distress amongst prospective athletes, many of whom have been training for years for their moment.
Our goals need to adjust to reflect where we are at this moment. For me my goals are:
keeping myself and my family safe
making that extra effort to connect with my parents to reduce their isolation
make my actions meaningful
have a purpose to my day which is centred and calming
keep my routine and that of my families
play my part in trying to maintain harmony and compassion during times of challenge and stress
be a good citizen and try to adhere to the advice we are being given (I have not been out since all humans were grounded!)
My counselling goals are going to be to get BeeYou Counselling ready to go and be able to diversify when we step back into the office (carrying the two pot plants I took with me on the way out!). To achieve this I have done some zoom training spending a few hours working on line with a trainer in Germany! I have signed up to and am now 1/2 way through a Diversity and Equality training course, started preparing for next steps in counsellor accreditation and finally complete an online CBT problem solving course. All of the above are helping me plan to move forward when I am permitted.
I hope this short blog helps you and your families. Stay safe, stay compassionate and stay positive.
If there is any subject you would like me to think about and blog then please do not hesitate to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org