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Can’t manage any more than toast and television at the moment? You are not alone.

Can’t manage any more than toast and television at the moment? You are not alone.

We’ve got all this lovely free time now so why don’t we feel like learning a new skill or doing that thing we always thought we wanted to do but didn’t have the time?

Can’t manage any more than toast and television at the moment? You are not alone.

If social media is anything to go by everyone is learning sign language, writing a book, exploring their many hidden talents and cooking up nourishing immune-boosting meals for their family every night. Except me … and maybe you.

Alaa Hijazi, a clinical psychologist specialising in trauma shared her thoughts on the matter in a Facebook post. She wrote the post in response to an Instagram quote by a yoga teacher who said “if you don’t come out of this quarantine with either a new skill, starting what you’ve been putting off – like a new business, or more knowledge – you didn’t ever lack the time, you lacked the discipline”.

Hijazi wrote in her post, which has since gone viral, “We are going through a collective trauma, that is bringing up profound grief, loss, panic over livelihoods, panic over loss of lives of loved ones. People’s nervous systems are barely coping with the sense of threat and vigilance for safety, or alternating with feeling numb and frozen and shutting down in response to it all.

“People are trying to survive poverty, fear, retriggering of trauma, retriggering of other mental health difficulties. Yet, someone has the nerve to accuse someone of lack of discipline for not learning a new skill, and by a yoga teacher!

“This cultural obsession with [capitalistic] ‘productivity’ and always spending time in a ‘productive,’ ‘fruitful’ way is absolutely maddening. What we need is more self-compassion, more gentle acceptance of all the difficult emotions coming up for us now, more focus on gentle ways to soothe ourselves and our pain and the pain of loved ones around us.”

So how can we find those gentle ways to soothe ourselves that may make us feel a little better than we do right now? Some suggestions that may, or may not, help include:

  • Put a limit on news consumption. Constantly keeping up with the Coronavirus news cycle can be anxiety-inducing and demotivating.
  • Set small daily goals. These aren’t normal times, and your productivity is likely not at its peak right now. That’s ok. Commit to doing one thing each day that you know is going to make you feel better, like having a shower, walking around the block, or having an early night.
  • Talk to someone, every day. Whether it’s a friend, family member, neighbour or a counsellor (Lifeline offer free 24-hour phone support).
  • Even it’s the last thing you feel like doing, do some type of exercise even if it’s just for one hour a week. Research from Norway shows that even small amounts of exercise is protective against depression – in fact, data from the Health Study of Nord-Trøndelag County (HUNT study) showed that 12 per cent of cases of depression could have been prevented by regular exercise.
  • Ask for help, as difficult as it may be. Lifeline writes on their website, “Getting the support you need during tough times can help you get through the situation, give you strategies to deal with the situation and give you some perspective”. And for many people that’s what it is about right now, surviving rather than “thriving”. And that’s ok.
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