SURVIVING ISOLATION DURING & AFTER COVID 19

We often crave for ‘alone’ time on occasion and some of us use it as a mechanism for self-protection where our  mind plays tricks on us that we are protecting ourselves. But, when it is forced upon us and our personal freedom is restricted it has an very different dynamic.

Some of us have lost our jobs and others have been furloughed but those fortunate enough to be able to still work are mostly working from home. What impact has this had on our relationships, relationships with our wife, partner, children or those with whom we share our living space?

In a conversation I had recently with a divorce lawyer he informed me that he and many colleagues in different law firms have seen a sharp rise in divorce proceedings.

How do we protect ourselves and our relationships during this time and also with the dramatic changes we will see when this has passed.

This is a challenging and unprecedented time for all of us and one important thing we should check ourselves from doing is making assumptions on how others are feeling. This will feed resentment and establish false expectations. There are never two absolutely identical emotional reactions between two people. For example, I have had experience of twin boys growing up in a healthy family environment with identical experiences within the home, one became a doctor and the other a drop-out with various destructive  addictions.

We will all be experiencing forms of anxiety which, if not observed, will cause negative emotional reactions, stress and frustrations which can easily lead to anger. The key is to communicate with those with whom we are living and express our feelings. This will also encourage those around us to do the same. In these instances, we must not try to find ‘solutions’ but simply listen and let others know they are being heard. It is also important to avoid the words ‘You are making me feel …. etc’ and talk from our own feelings using the pronoun ‘I’. For example, ‘I am feeling … etc’. Stay aware that it is a human reaction to try to blame another for how we feel but, no matter what is occurring, we are responsible for our own feelings.

Many of us will be struggling to differentiate our ‘work life’ from our ‘home life’ and it is essential to establish a routine and a structure around this. This will be hard for those not fortunate enough to live in a large house with a garden. In a healthy relationship two people can be in the same room but not feel they need to communicate with the other and be able to have the sense or feeling of ‘space’. This is the difference between physical space and mental space.

In establishing the difference between our work life and home life it is essential to maintain good hygiene such as showering each morning and dressing in a way which prepares you for work and afterwards change into something more relaxing, even pyjamas are fine. Our brain will always easily try to give us habits and we need to ensure these are healthy ones. During ‘home life’ find activities which you both have in common, watch movies or a TV series which you both enjoy and eat the same food together at the same time.

It is important we accept our situation and we sit down with those with whom we are living, especially families and establish a routine and a mutual acceptance of the situation. Improvise, adapt and overcome. We need routine in our lives, especially children who thrive on it. In simple terms there need to be rules which will be different to the rules we observe in our regular day to day lives.

Ideally we can use this time to do all the things we would previously tell ourselves that we do not have time to achieve. Read those books we want to read, start learning a new language, there will be countless things for which we could make a list but the truth is that most of us will not do these things and allow each day to simply drift by.

We should try not to avoid answering questions and also be sure to always be kind to those around us. This may sound strange but, if we are not being kind to ourselves, we could find that, without thinking, we are not being kind to others.

Remember, these are unprecedented times and we are not designed to be shut away from contact with other human beings.

I am aware of a number of people desperately wishing they could reach out to a professional psychotherapist or counsellor but feel they are too trapped in the cage they have currently built around themselves to do this. The situation in which we are presently living feeds a fear of being isolated and, more importantly, a fear of having no control. We may have these feelings but they are illusions and not real. The mind, or rather, the ego, loves playing with us when we feel vulnerable or disorientated. But know and remember that these thoughts are lies yet, if we believe them, we can make them a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Do not forget that this curtailing of our personal freedom will not last forever and we will have to re-establish our previous routine. It may be at this time you will feel the need to reach out for professional support.

Richard Gosling

www.sustainable-empowerment.co.uk