I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front lately, partly because I've spent recent weeks, like everyone else, struggling to get my head around the extraordinary events unfolding across the globe and the impact they're having on my own life and the lives of my loved ones. I also have to admit that I've been somewhat lost for words by the sheer magnitude of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on all our lives and the pace with which the drama has developed. It seems like only yesterday that Covid-19 was deemed a distant threat in a far-off land which couldn't possibly have any significant impact on our everyday lives here in the UK. How wrong could we be? Today we are a country on lockdown. Businesses are closed with no imminent prospect of reopening, streets are deserted and supermarket shelves bare, while people have been ordered to work from home and maintain social distancing as the government and healthcare authorities grapple to get to grips with a burgeoning crisis and to prevent further spread of the virus. I have to confess I've really struggled with this. As a life coach and therapist, my job is to offer people hope, help and encouragement. But what could I possibly say at this time to inspire and motivate people without the risk of coming across as trite and condescending? I could hardly tell them that everything was going to be alright. The simple fact is that people's lives are being severely affected and none of us can say with any certainty how this is going to end or when. For the first time in a long time, I didn't have the answers people were looking for, and with that came a sense of powerlessness.
I've always been a great believer in the power of hope but there have been points over the past few weeks when hope has seemed to be in short supply. People's livelihoods are under threat and many don't know when they'll work again. We've witnessed the hysteria of panic-buying, the unedifying spectacle of shoppers fighting over packets of toilet roll, and the selfish ignorance of those who've chosen to flagrantly ignore warnings not to go out. Social distancing is necessary to contain the virus and yet for the elderly, vulnerable and those with mental health conditions, social isolation brings a whole additional set of challenges which cannot be overcome with mere inspirational quotes and platitudes.
And yet in the midst of all this chaos and distress, we have seen hope. We've seen it in the heroic efforts of our healthcare professionals battling on the frontline to keep our NHS afloat at a time of unprecedented pressure on the system - the doctors, nurses and paramedics risking their own lives on a daily basis to provide care to those in need. We've seen it in the selfless actions of volunteers helping to support their communities by making food deliveries and checking on the vulnerable. We see it in the parents who've risen to the challenge of home-schooling their kids and in the teaching staff working tirelessly to continue supporting their pupils even after schools have shutdown. And let's not forget the retailers battling to keep supermarket shelves stocked during a rising tide of panic-buying. Social media has, for once, been used as a tremendous force for good with the creation of Facebook groups and pages designed to bring people together and provide mutual support - a lifeline for many while physical contact remains an impossibility. In my home town of Dunfermline we've benefited from some fantastic examples of this, such as the Fife Coronavirus Community Support Group on Facebook which enables local people to share useful information and ask questions. Another is the We're All In This Together: Covid-19 Mental Health Support Group.
Initiatives such as these serve as powerful reminders of the need for us all to come together and look after one another during a crisis. At times like these it's easy to become selfish and absorbed in protecting one's own narrow interests at the expense of others. But those who adopt such a mindset now will ultimately lose out. Just as our grandparents and great-grandparents pulled together to steer us through the horrors of two world wars, so too must we now step up to the challenge facing us all today. We can only do this by fostering a greater sense of community and by rendering mutual assistance and support, both practical and emotional. The sheer scale of this crisis - the staggering number of people whose lives will be affected, not just in terms of bereavement, but also as a result of the economic impact - is so gargantuan that we simply have no choice but to help each other through this in any way we can. True, we are currently limited by the restrictions of social distancing but it's still possible to stay connected through online platforms such as Skype, Facetime and Zoom, and never has it been more important that we do so. The bonds we forge with each other now in adversity have the potential to build the foundations of a better, more caring society going forward. Maybe then some lasting good can come from a crisis which until now has, for many, seemed almost apocalyptic.
It's particularly vital that already vulnerable people don't become further isolated during this lockdown. The uncertainty and relentless bad news has already been taking its toll on people's mental health, particularly for those with conditions such as anxiety, depression and OCD. Anxiety UK's Nicky Lidbetter says the fear of being out of control and unable to tolerate uncertainty are common characteristics of many anxiety disorders, so it's understandable that many individuals with pre-existing anxiety are facing additional challenges at the moment. Rosie Weatherley, spokesperson for mental health charity Mind, agrees. She said, "A lot of anxiety is rooted in worrying about the unknown and waiting for something to happen - coronavirus is that on a macro scale."
Fortunately some light relief from all the misery is at hand. Tonight (Tuesday) at 9pm comedian Joel Dommett will host the second special of Dave's Comedy Against Living Miserably, a stand-up showcase which is being held in partnership with mental health charity CALM and providing an opportunity for the comedy community to get behind the mission towards a more positive and open mental health culture. We could all do with a laugh right now and there's a lot of truth in the old saying that laughter is the best medicine. Every time you smile or laugh, you release serotonin and endorphins that make you feel good, boost the immune system and help clear the body of toxins. The happier you are, the less likely it is that you’ll be prone to colds, flu and other bugs because your immune system is functioning at optimum efficiency so your resistance to infection is much higher. Studies have shown that fake laughter is just as effective as the real thing, which means you don’t have to wait for something funny to set you off - just try to act out laughter and see what happens.
The World Health Organisation has released a document on mental health and how to deal with stress during the coronavirus pandemic and here at Phoenix we'll be providing further helpful tips, advice and coping strategies in the days and weeks ahead. In accordance with government advice on social distancing, we're not seeing clients face-to-face at the moment but we are continuing to offer consultations online via Skype and by telephone and can offer discounted rates or free advice to those struggling financially at this time. Please contact us for details on 01383 731894 or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay safe everybody.