“Terribly, I go into panic mode.”

This week I have been talking with people about how they deal with stress.  I have heard some remarkable stories and had extensive discussions about how people are caring for themselves to get through self-isolation.

“People are more fragile than they think.”

Self-care is an important skill at any time but has taken on greater importance in recent times. The wrong combination of factors at exactly the wrong time leads to a change in mood and then boom!

“I just asked them to keep their dog under control and the told me to **** ***!”

So how do we change this? Do we care for ourselves well? What does this look like? What do you do?

“A really nice cuppa, properly brewed and drunk just at the right temperature. Lovely!”

But oftentimes its more complicated than this. Sometimes it isn’t other people causing the stress it is our own thoughts and feelings that are at the centre. How are we coping with this social solitude, not being included in things, not being able to do things or get involved in things?

“I went for a walk until I calmed down.”

“Really struggling without the gym.”

Lots of conversations this week have been based around exercise, getting outside and communicating with friends and family.  The use of exercise is well known to boost our mental health, getting outside (for your permitted exercise) changes our scenery and this can help us. Hearing bird song and the sound of the breeze in trees has a profound effect on us. Breathing fresh air and feeling the sun on your skin does something calming to us.

“Having to deal with friends and family can be stressful.”

Also regulating contact with people is key to maintaining our mental health. Obligation as a starting point to any interaction changes the communication even before it starts. ‘I am glad you reached out’, is a great thing to hear or read in a text rather than a stilted conversation about how little things have changed. Finding common points of interest that can be discussed and enjoying a discussion whilst holding an opposing point of view is something lots of people have started to be able to do now with more confidence.

“Whilst I didn’t vote for him, I wish him no ill and a speedy recovery!”

Distractions are ever available. TV soaps are being hit by this, but people are watching classic soaps instead. Films and TV box sets are being binged. Computer games played. I think these distractions help people in small doses. Watching the news has a profound effect on us. How much are you watching? What sources are you getting it from? Are you paying any mind to fringe ideas?

“I like having TV on my phone.”

But too much and it can be harder to tell day from night. It is important to have a timetable of sorts to maintain a sense of order. A distraction is good for a short-term fix but in the long term what do we want?

I am finding night times really hard it is important to split the day up with a daytime and a night-time phase.”

“Lying in bed, I have found it really frustrating over the last couple of weeks, some routines have been successful and other things haven’t been. Sometimes left wondering where the day has gone. Days start rolling into one.”

“I am appreciating the good points of my current situation. Some people may look on people self-isolating on their own with pity. I am in control and can be my own person in this situation. I am able to appreciate my situation as being better than it was in the past. Taking my time in getting around to doing stuff like cooking. Not feeling the negative effect of time. I don’t have this idea that I have to do things immediately.”

“To tell you the truth I am pretty used to this, I am just looking forward to things getting back to normal.”

Stress is a normal part of our lives. Too much or too little effects our behaviour in various ways but often it is a precursor to us taking a brave step and asking for help. This is a huge step and never to be underestimated. Trusting one another to listen and receive care and support does not make us weak. In fact, this strange time that we find ourselves living in is demonstrating to us how important these skills are.

“Some days your flame won’t burn very bright and, on those days, look for support from others.”

Ed Roberts