LIFE UNDER LOCKDOWN
Coming to terms with the notion that it's not all about you anymore.
If you're anything like me, you're a goal setter. I'm a self-confessed optimist who always tries to see the best in everything. I like organisation and forward planning and I live for the 'next best thing'. But COVID-19 wasn't in my five-year plan.
As I sit in the midst of this global pandemic trying to contemplate this horrific reality that few of us expected, I can't help but think how the coronavirus will affect my future. My postgraduate degree has been suspended for the rest of the academic year. I can't see my sister to celebrate her birthday. The plans I had to film a documentary overseas are off the cards, and my hopes to move back to the city I love and start working in London by the end of the year are looking bleak. I have felt so consumed by the reality that my life has been put on pause that I've barely been able to focus on anything other than fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of the unknown - and I know I'm not the only one feeling like this.
I’m torn about whether my anxious thoughts about my future are either completely selfish or totally valid. We’ve been told that we’re under a “wartime” government, that these are “unprecedented times” and that “many of us will lose loved ones before their time.” I feel an overwhelming pressure to protect the people close to me, but equally, feel pissed off about the thousands of pounds I’ve spent on my master’s degree that have effectively now gone down the toilet.
When you're feeling like this, it can make you feel guilty when your thoughts don't match the positivity of your friends and family trying to uplift you. Yes, I'm aware that this too shall pass. I know that eventually, everything will be okay. I'm sure that in time, everything will go back to normal. However, what I need right now is time to get over the fact that my life has been derailed without my feelings being dismissed by a 'good vibes only' outlet. Toxic positivity is a thing. If you're in this same boat, I feel you.
Recognising that it's not all about you
What I've realised as this situation has been rapidly evolving, is that the health and wellbeing of my friends and loved ones is far more important than the temporary loss of material things. Yes, elements of my personal life have been severely disrupted, but the value these things add to my life is incomparable to the loss that so many people will face during this crisis. Internalising that has really helped me to appreciate the situation of other people. Here's to the NHS workers, the volunteers, the charities helping those who desperately need it, the families that are already coping with illness, the people relying on food banks at a time where everyone is stockpiling, the families without a home, the businesses that will have to close, and all those incredible people saving lives.
Rationalising negative thoughts
I've learnt that my feelings of uncertainty are completely normal. However, I have found that prioritising my thoughts has really helped me to recognise what is trivial, and what is actually important during such a profound time. I now realise that education can be postponed, my relationships have not been cancelled, the job hunting can wait, those flight tickets can be replaced, but the life of someone you love, cannot.
If you're struggling with the realisation that your life was just starting to come together before a global pandemic and worldwide lockdown decided to take over, here are some alternative ways of rationalising your emotions and thoughts that I found helpful.
"My holiday was cancelled" → "I'm grateful that I'm safe, home and where I need to be."
"My university has closed" → "I can use this time to be creative and appreciate a slower pace of life."
"I'm stuck inside" → "I must stay home to help the people on the frontlines of the NHS."
"I can't see my friends or family" → "I need to encourage my loved ones to stay safe and there are so many ways I can connect with them from a distance."
"I might get ill" → "I'm so lucky to have my health and the privilege to work from home to limit my exposure to the virus."
"My life has been put on hold" → "Social distancing is important to save lives and we'll do it for as long as it takes. Focusing on personal growth is not a priority, there will be new opportunities when this passes."
"I'm bored" → "Life is precious - tell someone you love them. Reach out to someone who might be alone. Check-in on your friends to see if they're coping."
In times like these I think it's important to ask ourselves, "but is it really that bad?" The sacrifices we have been asked to make will quite literally, save lives. If all I have been asked to do in order to achieve this is to sit on the sofa and watch Netflix, I think I can just about cope with that. Acknowledge your sadness, wallow in it if you want to. Then try to rationalise the severity of your loss. Stay home, stay safe, and wait it out.
I'd like to dedicate this article to my unbelievably brave and beautiful sister, Nicky. My worries seem incomparable to what you're coping with as you look after your family and save lives for the NHS at possibly the most terrifying time in many of our lives. You're incredible.