Now is the Time…
We are in unprecedented times. Who would have predicted that we would end up in a pandemic situation. A truly global threat that is derailing everybody’s way of life. We have been in lock down for just 2 weeks and yet it seems to have become the norm. The threat of complete lockdown, meaning that we cannot exercise outdoors. seems like another level of loss looming over the horizon if the public fail to heed the warnings. Stay home and limit the spread of this deadly virus. Simple advice really.
Initially, I was in denial. Hoping that it was just like a dose of cold or flu. Then the death toll mounted. Italy went into lockdown, then France and Spain. We, the UK were more circumspect in our response. The schools and other educational establishments only shutting down 2 weeks ago. History will only really tell us if this decision was correct or ill-advised. Gathering herd immunity made sense but will it still make sense as this drama unfolds?
As humans, we adapt. We can adapt to altitude, waters depth, extreme temperatures and to war. We acclimatise constantly. But this adaptation is more easy for some than for others. For many, they live life seeking complete control over their life, future, family, jobs. Anxiety is also a pandemic and usually if you look beneath the surface there is a need to feel in control of something in life, as so much seems to be beyond their reach.
Recent events have stripped away all illusion of having any control. The virus is threatening us all, physically, psychologically and financially. It is imposing enforced isolation on a species that is driven by the primal need to connect and belong. In history, the outliers were vulnerable to being picked off, killed. safety was in society. We have not evolved that far from this primitive programming.
This current threat is making us go against the herd instinct. Isolation is safety. Community is high risk. We have to avoid others, including our families in order that they and we can survive. Human nature is that we look after our elderly and vulnerable by keeping them close. But now it means the polar opposite, it means that that we have to turn our backs on them. Caring is to isolate them at this deeply terrifying time.
The virus is virulent and death tolls are high. This means that are primitive brain is in survival mode. The amygdala is on hyper alert and not just scanning for a threat but actually finding it. Trauma is a very real outcome for so many, once this pandemic subsides because the conditions are optimum for it to take root.
Trauma loves the fertile ground of the siege that Covid is creating. It flourishes when we are threatened on all fronts. Humans need predictability, mobility, connection and a sense of agency, that we can act and take control of our destinies. Trauma creates a loss of having any sense of time passing and inflicts an acute lack of safety and ultimately a loss of identity due to feeling stuck and powerless.
The Primitive Brain
The Fight/Flight button is constantly depressed, flooding cortisol and adrenaline into our bodies. This soup of chemicals, if not discharged, are toxic to our minds and bodies.
How do we cope? That is individual to each of us. Some will numb themselves by drinking, taking drugs and running from the feelings. They may go into a fugue type state and hibernate until the threat passes. Others adapt more quickly and decide to control what they are able to control. This group is less likely to be traumatised by these events because to adapt is to survive. Some will thrive.
For most people the isolation is the hardest thing to cope with. For others, being cooped up with partners and children for 12 weeks is just too much. For some, they will be isolated with their abusers and persecutors. The toll for them will be massive and perhaps too much damage wreaked for them to recover.
Many vulnerable people will have been left without any support as COVID is the perfect excuse, for some, to fail to act and keep them safe. Parents left with volatile teens who refuse to comply , who are violent and flout all the rules, meeting and transferring germs to all individuals they mix with. They are living with teenage abusers without any support to keep them safe.
Enforced Slower Pace…
Some individuals will enjoy the enforced slower pace, working from home or not working at all! Some will listen to the birds singing more loudly or perhaps the fact that the outside noise is silenced, allows us to hear them sing once again and like a more simple time in life. Enjoying the pause. They will live the way they perhaps always wanted to, alone but not lonely. No longer having to live their life in the way that others consider they should. They can relish the change of pace and dread the day the world starts turning once again. Some people will surprise themselves by how they adapt and thrive.
Businesses can sit and wait, emerging the other side fatter and less lean than they went into it. Those that adapt will become more efficient. Using this fallow time to review practices, what is needed what is not? What systems exist just because they exist and which serve a purpose? Which staff have evolved and which have shirked? What can they offer society now and in the future? Home working a realistic option? Travel actually necessary? Technology fully utilised?
But what about you ? What are you going to do ? This is a one time opportunity to press the pause button, take stock and reassess that balance between living and working. Because creativity only really happens when you give it the time and space to emerge and be seen. Have a good look at the various aspects of your life through this new lens and honestly assess what you have learned about yourself, your family, friends and work. When the pause button is released, and we get back to our new version of reality, which version of you do you want to be ?
The key to dealing with this pandemic, like all traumatic events, is to act and choose how you want to emerge from it. Fatter? Fitter? Dejected? Bitter ? Changed ? Emboldened? Remember, much of this is in your control. So control what you can and make the change for yourself.
Act for the Now:
WE need predictability in our lives, even or especially now.:
Get up at a regular time of day
Create a Schedule. This creates a flow to the days and weeks.
Negotiate work/children schedules with partners.
Set boundaries to time at work
Mobilise the Body to avoid numbing yourself:
Soothe your own body…hugs to self!
Connection: Be seen, heard:
Play games over the internet
Talk, share, laugh, sing….
Create your own space at home
If working from home, have your own work station