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PMA during a crisis – how to stay posi & not lose your mind

Trigger Warning: This article mentions grief and loss.

We’re all locked in, we’re all at home. How are you dealing with it? Some of us are becoming incredibly productive, some are discovering skills had long been forgotten and are enjoying being creative, but not all of us. Some have never stopped working and some are working more than ever. But working from home is exhausting mentally, its tiring and draining because generally, your bedroom/kitchen/sitting room isn’t your office. There are distractions and expectations. There can be family members about all day. There are limited ways to deal with stress or anger, without looking too disturbed….so how do we stay positive?

How do we control our built-up anger or frustrations? How do we deal with new emotional states we’ve never had before – death or isolation, loneliness or heartbreak? As a keyworker, I haven’t been able to stay home, but I don’t want to use public transport. My one hour of exercise is now a 4k walk to a central train station to get me to my hospital office base. It takes about 45 mins to an hour, but this is my only time to myself now. 3-4 days a week, I get one hour of total silence, just alone with my music or my thoughts.  For me, this is all I need. I have gone through my entire music collection on my phone and rediscovered bands I haven’t listened to in years, bands from my teenage years mostly, as they remind me of good times! A lot of bands my friends played in now have their discographies online so I have been enjoying some old punk legends from my youth. 

This is one way to keep entertained, and this will only take up a few hours, maybe a day or two. What about the rest of the month? We’re being advised to make time for ourselves, a hot bath, a walk in the park, cooking or baking, zoom chats etc. Not everyone enjoys these things, or can make the time at home for them. I cook out of necessity, and my baking is questionable…my baths are usually interrupted by my kids and I don’t have the kind of friends or family who really want to have lots of zoom parties! I’ve reverted back to doing what I enjoy and for the first time in a long time, I don’t care about what anyone thinks of my new hobbies, they distract me from the depressing reality of the pandemic and make me smile – so I’m playing games on my phone. Pokémon Go, Roblox, Minecraft & Candy Crush. Totally enjoyable, slightly mind numbing, but something that provides me with an aim, and a small sense of achievement when I win or reach the goal.

I’m watching people make scrubs for nurses, cooking food for the homeless, etc., and I’ve finally accepted that these are all lovely things, but they’re not things I can do. So I’m doing what I can, just for me. I’m being totally selfish, for at least one hour a day. This is how I stay sane and whatever works now to get you through, do it. I’m slightly worried about friends who are using this same approach with daily drinking, but I’m not judging anyone right now. Some of my introverted and socially awkward friends are doing the same as me, gaming more. I’m exercising more too, but on my own terms and not based on any of the images that social media (or the patriarchy) is putting forward. I’m taking the ‘in case of emergency’ advice from planes as my motto in life right now – were told in the instructional demonstration to put on our own face mask for oxygen before helping others – well now that we are going through this turbulence, I’m going to carry on putting myself first, otherwise, I won’t be able to help anyone else. We all have dark days, we all have mental health issues, some more than others, and I really hope that everyone is taking the constant bad news with a pinch of salt – this will end, people are recovering, and we will enter a new world with new ways eventually. It may even be that the new ways suit some of us better, let’s face it, social distancing has been wonderful for most of us! 

I have also lost friends & colleagues during this time too, and found myself thinking of them when I can’t sleep at night. Thankfully, I haven’t lost family, but a lot of friends have. British culture isn’t very open when it comes to grieving and discussing death & how to plan for it, and I have found writing things down helps a lot, the site ‘Dying Matters’ is fantastic for advise & guidance from palliative experts. If you have lost someone, I would recommend a visit to their website or Facebook page as you will soon see, you are not alone and your feelings are completely justified and common.

There is no ‘normal’ right now, but there is ‘normal for you’, so I would encourage people to try to talk a deep breath, remember how it feels to live and focus on how important you are. Even if you don’t feel it. You don’t need to leave a legacy, you don’t need to impact the world, just your own world, and you will be doing that without even noticing. Our mental health is so important right now, weak or strong, we need to be attentive and we need to know that not only are others feeling the same in our town or city, but the entire population of the world feels this right now. It is literally impossible to be alone – every woman is with you. And we are always stronger when we remember that. 

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