This post was written during the coronavirus crisis. However, the advice on how to stay sane when it feels like the world is falling apart can be applied to most challenges in life.
It’s ok not to be ok
When we first went on lockdown in the UK, hundreds of posts appeared on social media suggesting we use this new found time on self-development. I saw posts on learning a new language, decluttering your house and finally doing the creative project you’ve been dreaming about for the last two years.
The posts made me feel angry; partly because the nature of my job means I’m really busy so I don’t suddenly have lots of hours free. Mainly though, because my brain felt like it was swimming in treacle. I’ve been utterly exhausted, had brain fog and any motivation went completely out of the window. Getting through the day felt like an achievement in itself.
The simple truth is none of us have ever been in a coronavirus lockdown before. It’s a completely new situation and there isn’t a coronavirus rule book on how to handle this well. Some people will focus on being busy, others will need to rest, and most of us will flip between the two. It’s like being on an emotional rollercoaster. We just need to get through it the best way we can trying to stay sane even though it feels like the world is falling apart.
We need to recognise life is really hard right now
I can spend the day working away in my office and other than the fact that I’m sat at home on conference calls with the sounds of my husband and son in the background, life could almost be normal. But every time I read the news or step outside, I’m starkly reminded that it’s not. Waves of anxiety wash over me and I feel moved to tears really easily.
I don’t think there’s a perfect antidote to this. It’s not ideal to keep yourself so busy that you’re blocking your feelings because all you’re doing is stalling the inevitable. It’s also exhausting to live in a permanent state of fear. We need to recognise life is really hard right now; we’re dealing with the unknown and trying to get through it the best we can. This is new to all of us.
So how do you stay sane when it feels like the world is falling apart?
Control only what you can
It’s really difficult when you’re used to having a good degree of control over your life to suddenly have that relinquished. Try to control what you can (how often you go outdoors, what you eat (unless it involve flour and eggs) etc) and let the rest go (as much as you can).
Structure your day and get into a routine
Getting into a routine is pretty easy when you have a job you can work from home to do and a child that wakes you up in the early hours. However, for some people, lockdown has completely thrown their lives up in the air. Try to get up at a similar time, see some daylight and put some structure into your day even if that just involves maintaining a regular tea break.
Aim to do one thing a day
I really admire people who have the mental focus to start their own podcasts and novels during this period – but they are not my people. I have all sorts of ideas on things I’d like to achieve. However, I can’t say I’m a fountain of productivity right now… In my case, I do have a full time job (I know that makes me extremely fortunate) and a family so I don’t have hundreds of hours spare. I try to do one thing per day outside of my work so I feel a sense of achievement. Lockdown isn’t about getting as much done as you possibly can; it’s about getting by.
Build in time for self-care
Now more than ever is the time to invest in a bit of self-care; by which I mean, look after yourself. Make sure you rest and build in time to give your brain a break.
Be kind to yourself and those around you
We’re all living through an uncertain time. Lower your expectations and give yourself a break. You don’t have to deal with this perfectly. Watching the entire back catalogue of Netflix doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things… You were following government advice by staying indoors and that makes you a legend my honey p.
Do remember though that everyone else is in the same boat so this doesn’t give you the licence to be an arse either. We’re all trying to stay sane even though it feels like the world is falling apart and it’s not fair to add additional stress on to others. Be kind to everyone else too.
One of the best techniques I use when I’m feeling overwhelmed is to focus on my breath. I breathe in for four seconds through my nostrils and exhale for four. It makes a whole heap of difference.
And for anyone suffering with indigestion or acid reflux (which is often stress-related), then breathe in through your nose for two seconds and exhale for four. Repeat until you feel better. You will thank me.