Feelings of fear and isolation in isolating times. How do we cope with the fear?

It’s unprecedented times across the world at the moment, with many people facing the reality of needing to isolate away from other people. Here in the UK, there’s been a raft of measures put in place, including our oldest, and most vulnerable citizens needing to isolate for four months. It looks as though the reality of this virus is going to hit very soon and be around for quite some time.

The message coming down from our Government has been stark – local communities will have to take up the slack and ensure that everyone is being looked after. But, even putting that to one side, the presumption that people will have family or a community to step up at this time to sort out those isolating is deeply concerning. As Ageing Well Without Children has pointed out – what about those without children?*

I have to admit that one of my biggest fears as I get older, and with not having family, is of needing to be self-reliant and independent for as long as possible. And I think that is clearly something that concerns us all at some stage, because let’s face it, the underlying assumption is that we’ll all have a family and they will look out for us in our dotage. It’s a harsh reality that we have to consider every day, but what about when something outside our control hits?

While I’m no expert on the virus, it’s been hard not to get sucked in to the scariness of it all and I’m not alone. All of my clients, without exception have expressed anxiety and fear around how things are going to pan out. But, for the sake of my own mental health, I’ve used my own methods for staying calm and focusing on what I need to do, to make sure I don’t get swept away in a sea of anxiety and misinformation.

First of all, it can be hard not to get swept up in the fear and the anxiety that is being caused by this virus outbreak, when media outlets have amped up the messaging about how scary this all is. But let’s face it, bad news sells. As worrying as it is, the current gov.uk stats say that as of 9am on 15 March 2020, 40,279 people have been tested and 38,907 were confirmed as negative. A small proportion were confirmed as positive 1,372 and of those 35 have unfortunately passed away (*source https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public). And so for me, I’m switching out of the media for the time being and looking for the real source of the information to assess what I think the risks are for me, my friends and my family, rather than relying on the media to tell me.

And then we have social media, which is also proving to be something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand it connects us all, helping us realise that we’re all one big community and never truly alone. But, then it also feeds into the collective anxiety about what is happening. In my Twitter feed alone this morning, I’ve had information being spread without sources, I’ve had stories of selfishness when it comes to people buying up masses of supplies and leaving nothing for the more vulnerable and people berating other people’s reactions to the virus. All of which just ups the levels of anxiety and fear for us all. And for that reason I’ve decided to take a step back from social media.

However, that’s not to say I’m cutting myself off entirely – because it’s important for me to stay connected with friends and family. I’ll be keeping ATS going through all of this, I’ll be meeting with friends (if they are comfortable to) or chatting on Whatsapp and I’ll be helping people in my local community. Not just because I feel I have to, but because people need some support, especially if they have to self-isolate.

Finding calm has been a real turning point for me this year and yoga has really come into its own. As much as I love running, my body has decided that it doesn’t for the time being, possibly forever. And so I’ve switched to yoga. For me the slowing down, the focus on breathing and seeing small improvements (very small!) in my flexibility means I have something to focus on and take me away from what’s going on across society at the moment. So is there something you can do to help you slow down and focus on your body?  

The WHO has also said that we should focus on supporting our bodies (and immune systems). This sounds like a plan to me, (I say this knowing that I drink too much beer and eat too much crap…), but for me when something like this virus pops up, it focuses the mind on supporting our health and bodies. Setting yourself a goal to be healthier by say, cutting back on booze (note to self), is a start and might help you stay focused on what’s important, rather than the fear.

Not to minimalise things, because these are worrying and unprecedented times, but we can and will get through this, if we are able to help ourselves and stay connected with others in real, meaningful ways.  

For those of you that are over 70, please look after yourselves and try to stay as safe as you can. The World Health Organisation has lots of information here if you need it.

Source: https://www.awwoc.org/

These things listed here might not help you, so it's about finding the things that do and using whatever coping strategies you have available to you.

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