Are you OK? I’m not.

Posted in Blog
14/04/2020 Mduduzi Luthuli

Since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, many of us, even those who have not been infected by the virus, have been forced into our homes for the upcoming weeks. The purpose of the lockdown is to help “flatten the curve” thus allowing our gov’t, and more specifically our health system, to prepare accordingly for the health crisis ahead. The worst is yet to come.

We all understand why this needed to happen, and most have accepted that it must happen. This viral outbreak has changed our way of life and brought with it an indefinite isolation. The gov’t is to be commended on their efforts to communicate the health and economic impact of this pandemic and their plans to mitigate against such. Unfortunately, information overload is a potential recipe for anxiety, fear and depression.

I’m no psychologist but I am human. I’m scared and have no shame in saying so. I’m worried about the future and the uncertainty that it may bring but must remain strong and hopeful for my family and clients. This requires looking after my mental health. Here are a few pointers that I’ve found and implemented to help me fight against succumbing to my negative thoughts during this uncertain time.

Reframe “I am stuck inside” to “I can finally focus on my home and myself”

As dismal as the world may feel right now, think of the mandated work-from-home policy as an opportunity to refocus your attention from the external to the internal. Doing one productive thing per day can lead to a more positive attitude. Set your sights on long-avoided tasks, reorganise, or create something you’ve always wanted to. Approaching this time with a mindset of feeling trapped or stuck will only stress you out more. This is your chance to slow down and focus on yourself.

Stay close to your normal routine

Try and maintain some semblance of structure from the pre-quarantine days. For those individuals with children, sticking to a routine might be easier; however as you work from home, it could be tempting to fall into a more lethargic lifestyle, which could lead to negative thinking. Wake up and go to bed around the same time, eat meals, shower, adapt your exercise regimen, and get out of your PJ’s. Not only will sticking to your normal routine keep you active and less likely to spiral, it will be easier to readjust to the outside world when it’s time to get back to work.

Avoid obsessing over endless Coronavirus coverage

Freeing up your day from work or social obligations gives you plenty of time to obsess, and if you tend to consult Google for every itch and sneeze, you may be over-researching the pandemic as well. Choosing only certain credible websites for a limited amount of time each day (perhaps two chunks of 30 minutes each) will be in your best interest during this time.

A chaotic home can lead to a chaotic mind

With all the uncertainly happening outside your home, keep the inside organised, predictable and clean. Setting up mental zones for daily activities can be helpful to organize your day. For example, try not to eat in bed or work on the sofa- just as before, eat at the kitchen table and work at your desk. Loosening these boundaries just muddles your routine and can make the day feel very long. Additionally, a cluttered home can cause you to become uneasy and claustrophobic of your environment- so keep it tidy.

“Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.” ~Max Ehrmann

I hope the above pointers help in bringing some normality to this abnormal reality. Don’t be scared to ask for help. Check on your loved ones and check-in with yourself. This is not the end. I love you fellow human.  

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