Social media is evolving.
Posts about self-help, self-care, self-improvement and self-love are inundating our Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn feeds. A day does not pass without me being smacked in the face with articles about how to work productively from home, how to reassure my non-existent children during a dangerous pandemic (the boredom of lock-down dictates that I actually read this) and lists of important habits to help me stay sane during uncertain times. My phones and devices have become my very own home-visit psychologists, strongly recommending that I nurture myself, push myself, enhance myself, in order to effectively handle the coronavirus crisis.
It is not that these tips are unhelpful. Much of this onslaught of mental health-related social media includes sound and intelligent advice. Exercising, staying healthy, staying connected online with those we must be physically distant from, making time for hobbies and personal projects, feeling productive and accomplished…these are all very important. In “normal” times, I would have been thrilled to see so much awareness and compassion around mental health. I would feel my work was done in this newly saturated market of self-help blogging.
However, these are not “normal” times. Coronavirus is not an exam, or a project, or a 90-day challenge. Coronavirus is a highly tragic global health crisis. People are dying, people are losing their jobs, people are starving, people are scared. People will never be the same again.
A crisis is about surviving, not thriving. Pretty much all that we can do is hold on tight until we come out the other side, where we will inevitably be a bit worse for wear. Then we can start putting ourselves and our lives back together.
I have personally battled a lot with this over the last several weeks. I like to be in control, as many of us do, and admitting that there is pretty much nothing that I can fundamentally do except try to get through this clunkily and imperfectly is very hard. Like the media at the moment, I have been polarised between the two extremes of trying to learn languages, get ripped and write a book, and melting into a sofa with biscuits and Netflix.
Eventually, I have had to just learn to sit with it. The racing thoughts and restlessness and urge to improve myself is simply my mind’s way of distracting me from the awfulness of coronavirus and what it is doing to us all. It is the same with all these blogs and videos and posts. They are just noise, trying to drown out a very loud siren.
When you hear a siren day after day, your brain does start to block it out, but this takes a lot of mental energy that you do not even notice is being sapped from you. Extra time does not equal infinite energy, and you are likely be under-stimulated and over-exhausted when you are stuck at home trying to muddle through all this. The fact is that you will not be able to operate at your normal speed.
We must cope, of course: A crisis is about coping. But coping mechanisms can only get you so far when you are surrounded by real traumatic circumstances, and that is ok. You can be distressed, distraught and angry. You can be cold, quiet and lonely. You can be manic and busy with your home workout routine or gardening project. You can be struggling to get up in the morning. You can be snappy and irritable with your relatives. You can be overwhelmed by the extra demands on you at this time.
No-one has ever done this before, so you cannot do it wrong.
This is the first thing I have written, outside of work, for this whole coronavirus period. It is not very long, or sophisticated, or original, or uplifting and I ask you to forgive me for that, as I have had to forgive myself. It is very hard to be inspired when you are constantly in the same space. All I have left to say really is that, however you are getting through this, you are doing alright, and that is all that you can expect of yourself right now.
Stay safe, everyone. I hope to see you on the other side.