And 3 Things to Avoid
Social distancing? Welcome to my world
I live in the countryside, in a country where I’ve never really felt at home. Since I had a breakdown (followed by a ‘spiritual enlightenment’, you understand 😏), I’ve never been back to work in the city I used to commute to.
I’m used to being on my own but I now know that although it’s important to be able to spend time by yourself, it’s just as crucial to interact with other human beings. And with my illness, which came first, depression and anxiety or social distancing (clue: it’s a chicken and egg kind of question.) That’s why I’m working hard on making big life changes which include moving house, moving country.
My daily life hasn’t changed that much since the coronavirus outbreak has birthed the new term, ‘social distancing’.
So far at least.
No bones about it, social distancing is hard. I’m right in the middle of redirecting my life so I’m no longer socially distanced (in other words, lonely).
On my journey to recovery I tried a variety of things and behaviours. Some of them were downright destructive. Others worked to varying degrees and are difficult to measure. Still others, I have no doubt, were life-changing.
Here are a few tips I’ve used to help deal with depression, anxiety, excessive worrying… and social distancing.
I hope you find one or two of these solutions useful.
3 Ways to Deal With Anxiety and Depression
1. Accept what you can’t change, and trust
My 10-year-old daughter is home due to the coronavirus quarantine.
I said to her, ‘This is a funny time.’
She replied, ‘Why? What time is it?’
I love her genuinely baffled response for many reasons. Mostly as it shows she’s little worried about the coronavirus outbreak, measures the authorities are taking (or not taking), and the repercussions to follow.
She trusts that all is as it should be. What will be will be. We have shielded her from the media hype – which, I admit, has begun to sometimes keep me awake at night.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into her reaction – or non-reaction. But hey, it’s an opportunity for me to use for my first example of acceptance.
Change what you can change. Accept what you can’t… and chill with it.
…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,Serenity Prayer
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
Current times – with so much uncertainty – are hard. How do you deal with change? Are you managing to let go of the reigns a little?
Do you accept that if you’re doing your best, that’s good enough?
Life, at the very best of times, is uncertain. Our instinct is to survive. It’s normal to panic when the spotlight is shining on this essence of life’s uncertainty. It’s a sharp and constant reminder of our own mortality.
Nobody knows what’s going to happen – now, more than ever.
But let’s be honest, we never know really, where life is going to take us. And although we want to have some kind of control over it, we don’t ever have that much.
So with this knowledge, just letting go, accepting, having faith… will ease the pressure, lower anxiety.
If you can let go, trust that you are in the right place, be grateful for what you do have, then you are taking powerful steps towards connecting to yourself.
Feel the feelings. Let yourself feel them. Name them. Let them pass through you.
Then release them.
There is nothing more liberating.
I hope this makes sense to you. If not, I’m just saying, don’t worry. Be happy. And if you’re not happy, that’s okay too.
It’s okay to not be okay. These feelings will pass…
No 2. Turmeric and other daily doses
Past suffering from depression – Why I said ‘no’ to chemical anti-depressants
When I was suffering from depression, I avoided taking chemical anti-depressants.
There was enormous pressure for me to take them: the psychiatrist strongly insisted on prescribing them, and the work doctor fully expected me to gobble them down dutifully, but I somehow knew they weren’t right for me.
Please note that I’m not a medical doctor. I’m not saying that anti-depressants are wrong for you. It’s a personal choice. Which really is my whole point.
Although I didn’t know what to do to feel better, I can look back now, and be proud that at least I knew how to listen to myself at the time on that point, and not take those chemicals.
I’m not so proud that I numbed myself with alcohol many evenings, to avoid facing up to the pain, and to the hard and long work of dealing with solutions. Although I do now forgive myself.
Perhaps the diagnosis of ‘serious reactional depression’ in itself is a good indicator of why a pill wouldn’t have worked for me. I had to work on my reaction to circumstances, to major life events, that I was ill-equipped to handle in a way that protected my mental health.
I needed to process difficult emotions and feelings, understand them, name them, really know them, before I could let them go and move forwards (there I go again, but it’s true!).
Chemicals (and alcohol) could only make my unhealthy reactions endure, keep those damaging feelings stuck inside, rather than help me to change my behaviour.
What did help – Turmeric supplements
What I did use, in a healthy way, was turmeric supplements. My psychiatrist – who would have preferred me on those more hard-core medicine – prescribed them, and gave me my first packet.
I took turmeric supplements for about two years. And I return to taking them sometimes, when I feel my body and mental state could do with a helping hand.
They’re beneficial in so many ways – not only, but including, aiding mood and depression.
Although not a miracle cure in itself, there’s so much research to support turmeric having multiple health benefits.
As an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, turmeric has been used, throughout medical history for a wide range of conditions. Health benefits range from easing joint and back pain, to possibly helping migraines and even slowing down Alzheimer’s.
Whether those supplements actually physically helped me, I’ll probably never know for sure. A couple of times I stopped taking them, but I felt my mood swing lower and so began to take them again and felt better. It’s possible that it was the placebo effect. But it’s also quite probable that it actually ‘did the work’.
I believe in its benefits.
If you’re experiencing low moods, anxiety, or basically any other ailment this article explains the range of turmeric’s health benefits. Turmeric, or curcumin, is a wonderful supplement to use.
And what have you go to lose?
3. Engaging on social media
Being socially distanced, bizarrely and thankfully, doesn’t mean you can’t also be socially connected.
This is a time where social media is really coming into its own.
My partner, who owns a recording studio, has just started a daily Facebook Live hour where he plays his vinyl collection, connects with friends, and talks about his passion. If you’d like to tune in to Quarantuned, just ‘Like’ the page and tune in at four o’clock CET.
A friend called a couple of days ago. Until now she’d stayed away from social media. Since having being quarantined (she’d been working in Italy when it struck hard there), she’s joined a couple of forums and enrolled in an online writing group. In her new reality, she’s reeping the benefits.
As in ‘normal’ times, endlessly trawling through social media is going to make you feel as though you’re missing out. Seeing all those happy shiny people liking each other’s amazing posts and commenting on the wonderful lives of multiple friends isn’t going to do anyone’s mental health any good.
However, it isn’t all bad if you make one (rather large) tweak to your social media consumption. If you actively engage, then there are benefits to you.
When I was depressed, I felt ashamed and guilty for being off work. This was compounded by social media. I wanted to interact sometimes, but I thought that colleagues might see and judge me, not realising that even with mental illness, you’re still allowed to have a point of view, to ‘like’ people’s posts, and even… to post yourself.
It was a vicious circle.
An important step in my own recovery was to begin engaging with others online.
There are countless online communities you can be involved with on just about anything. Whatever subject you want to connect around, there’ll be a group in cyberspace for you. The connections I’ve made have been seriously life-changing.
If you’re nervous to start with, as with anything, baby steps. You could ‘like’ a couple of posts. Write a ‘Happy Birthday’ message. Start small but do something.
3 Things to Avoid
1. Trawling through social media
Don’t just look at how great other people’s lives are. (They’re not, by the way!) Whatever you do, don’t believe that if somebody has scores of ‘likes’ it says anything about you. People engage and ‘like’ posts for multiple and complicated reasons.
In short, don’t be the observer, on the outside. It’s damaging to your mental health.
And limit the time you spend checking on the pandemic. It’s easy to get sucked into the world of mass hysteria. You don’t need to.
Don’t believe everything you read.
Switch off from social media regularly.
OK. Although I’ve picked alcohol, this covers anything that’s going to numb you and switch you off from reality. Of course the quick fix will help you for a short while. That first drink will feel great. Your worries will slip away and you’ll remember that it’s wonderful to forget to remember…
But then what?
You’ll be less capable to support your kids (if you’re a parent), less capable of getting down and creative, less capable of, well, just about everything.
Your sleep quality will be worse, with all those knock-on effects.
Your concentration will suffer.
You’ll be less able to engage socially, in a healthy way (even though you might not realise this at the time).
And your anxiety will shoot through the roof. At a time like this, it’s the last things you need.
Yesterday’s shopping experience
Unhealthy coping mechanisms still won’t work
Yesterday, I went to do a big food shop. Hopefully the last for some weeks. It was strange. The atmosphere was tense. It seemed very quiet. Ominous. There was a heaviness in the air and a man standing outside the not-so-super-store. I think he was checking customers went in singley.
For the first time for many months, I hesitated as I walked down the alcohol aisle. I became anxious, mentally weighting up the pros and cons for a much longer time than was healthy. I opted, after much indecision, for one bottle of wine.
I told myself it isn’t a ‘need’.
I told myself I deserve something to help me relax.
I told myself many stories.
And the story I probably believed the most was that, even if I drank too much, well, never mind. It was only one bottle and as I wouldn’t be going back to the shop, the small amount was damage limitation in itself.
I’m not dumb. I know internal narratives like that are a pretty good sign of an unhealthy behaviour. That side of me wanting to practically clear the shelf of red wine was probably (definitely) not a good coping mechanism.
Here I am this morning with a headache. I’m tempted to pour the rest of the bottle down the sink. Not that there’s much left to pour away.
But I guess that last glass has got to get me through the next few weeks. And one glass won’t give me a headache.
See what I’m doing here?
3. Beating yourself up
Please oh please don’t beat yourself up. If you slip up and have a drink, or make a mistake, or doing something that you wish you hadn’t done, it’s not the end of the world.
Be kind to yourself. Don’t aim for perfection. Remember you’re human.
We’re all perfectly imperfect, right?
Let’s support each other by supporting ourselves first. Kindness begins right here.
Final word on social distancing
Yesterday was a difficult day for me. Things are becoming less and less ‘normal’. My reaction was to act in ways that are no longer my ‘normal’, but which used to be my unhealthy ways of (not) coping.
I drank coffee after midday which may not seem like a big deal, but it’s not what I ‘do’ when I’m living my ‘norm’ and showing myself love and self-care.
The bad behaviour – which, let’s be honest, was triggered by fear – spiralled into me waking up this morning with a slight hangover.
I confided in someone close to me who wrote me this:
You’re doing great. Glad you have given yourself a wake up call. It’s ok to be rubbish sometimes, so long as it’s the exception to being your exceptional self!A wise woman and oracle
In these difficult times, for goodness’ sake, look after yourself. Continue to do what you know works for you.
Today is a new day (if you’re reading this in the evening, reread ‘let’s start from here and now’).
Today I’m drinking warm water and lemon when I wake up. I’m taking turmeric supplements and not drinking coffee after midday.
I’m getting my booty (and the dog’s and my girl’s) outdoors into the countryside to marvel at the beauty of nature and celebrate moving our amazing bodies.
I’m crossing a couple of things off my to-do list, to feel like I’m moving forwards with goals and plans.
But I’m also giving myself a break.
I intend to look after myself so that I can help make the world a better and brighter place.
Look after yourself, please, and if we have to social distance for a while, we can still continue to spread some love and care around this incredible world, together.
That starts with looking after your wonderful self.
- Accept that the situation is out of your hands
- Ram up healthy habits you already have
- Engage on social media – but don’t overdo it
How are you coping with the social distancing? What are you doing to boost your mood and ease anxiety?
I’d love you to reach out and let me know how you’re getting along.