Anxiety is fueled by uncertainty and we are currently living in a situation where uncertainty is everywhere. We all cope differently in difficult circumstances – some panic, some go into helping mode, some get angry and act aggressively with those around them, some withdraw, some use humour, others use denial, and some cope by watching the news all day - in which case we need to make sure we get information and guidelines from reputable services.
It’s the first stage in responding to a pandemic – we find ways to survive until we gradually move to accepting the situation by learning new ways to cope, savouring little things and being more mindful in what we do. Staying at home surely does not mean you can just stay in your pyjamas all day and binge Netflix.
Many of us are required to work from home, which obviously brings about changes in the way we work, including learning new skills and getting used to meeting colleagues online. It can be very difficult to maintain productivity while coping with the situation and all the sudden changes it brought with it. However, it is very important to maintain productivity by getting up at a regular time, eating healthy and taking regular breaks while keeping boundaries between work and personal life. Being productive is what gives us a sense of wellness and makes us feel resilient and confident. Having said that, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you have been scrolling through the news about the pandemic, you may have seen the posts about how famous artists came up with grand things during quarantines, such as when Shakespeare wrote King Lear while theatres were closed due to plague, or when Isaac Newton created calculus while social distancing. These facts are surely intended to motivate people. However, they can potentially inflict on us a sense of judgment as we feel we should be making the most of this time, and perhaps not rising to the challenge.
Perhaps you have experienced some of this judgment from friends who seem to be using their time indoors to exercise more, expand their cooking skills or come out of this situation with a new skill like a language. It’s called “Hustle Culture” - which means constantly working – devoting most of your time during the day to working.
You may feel pressured to keep hustling. You may realize that while you are doing your work diligently on your laptop, you are suddenly overtaken by worry and feelings of guilt for falling behind on deadlines and pressures to make the most of your day.
Let’s keep in mind that whilst some people thrive under this stress, others don’t.
Doing our best during this time is different from doing our best during regular non-pandemic times. If you are producing what you need to produce to get through the day, that’s fine.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by these times, meditation is highly recommended. A common grounding exercise can help; you ground yourself by acknowledging five things you see around you, four things you can touch, three things you hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. Being in the here and now – in the present moment – while being mindful of breathing - slow, deep, long breaths can help you return to a calmer state.
Hang in there - we will get through this together. After all this, you will look ahead to how you want to live, you will have confidence in your resilience and strength, you will learn how to focus on what is in your control, and you will realize that you’ve grown.
Ian Azzopardi Meli
Mentor for Well-Being