Living through challenging times
We are all now living in situations we would not have thought possible just a few short weeks ago. Life maybe seemed normal then, and now our movements are restricted and we are having to get used to a different type of normal. Spending all day every day within our homes either with our loved ones or separated from them can put relationships under stress. The first thing we need to recognise is that we are in a process of loss and change, loss of what was and adapting to a new way of living and being. When we are in that process of change, we go through an emotional shift that can be unsettling.

At the start we may feel that whilst this is a shock, something different, it’s something we will get through. What can often happen then is that we try to carry on as if nothing has happened. We try to keep things as normal as possible, hold on to the picture of how our lives are, whilst we try to integrate the new situation. Our brains need time to sort out this new picture of our lives. We need time to process it all so, whilst we are processing, we pretend things are the same. We try to adapt and fit round the new way of being. Feeling maybe it’s all a bit of a novelty, something new and different.

Then after a while it starts to hit that this is a big change. We might start to feel angry, annoyed, wondering why this is happening, wanting to blame someone. We feel out of sorts, churned up, tearful, worried, how will this end? Feeling like you cannot take a moment longer and wanting things to return to how they were. You can go for hours thinking things are OK and then a wave of anxiety hits as it all comes back that it’s not as it was. This is normal and is your brain making sense of what’s happening.

Then you start to feel low or fed up, no energy, and then gradually it starts to change and you start to put things in place that will build a new way of being for you. So, feeling upset and low are usual when we are dealing with changing situations.
· Allow yourself time and space to feel sad about what’s happening
· Allow yourself to acknowledge how scary life feels at the moment
· Hold onto the thought that it will pass
· Breathe
· Remember that there are still good things in the world and in your life

We are all managing this in different ways, some people need to do things to feel they have some degree of control over what is happening, they organise, they set up rotas they manage through being active. Others though take a bit longer to sort out in their heads what’s going on and need to feel sad or upset. There is no right way of dealing with this, however we need to note what is going on for us and then think about what we might need to deal with those thoughts and feelings more effectively.

Dealing with the day to day
For some people the day to day has remained similar to what it was; those going to work will be faced with both similar and different scenarios. The work might be the same but colleagues might be working from home. The commute will be along familiar roads but the lack of people and traffic might be odd. Working from home might seem great or odd to begin with, no commute, no interruptions, breaks when you like, no one breathing down your neck telling you what to do.

Then you start to miss the chat, the banter, the routine. It might be difficult to arrange your working space at home. The main change though will be that time and space are being used differently. For some people their weekly commitments, whether work or other activities, will have changed dramatically. They may have stopped work, been furloughed, no longer be able to look after grandchildren or even taken on extra work, volunteering or helping others out.

Before Covid 19 you are likely to have had a routine or plan in your head of how each day would pan out. The tasks that would happen, how you would do the shopping, go to work, pick up the kids, go the gym and all the little and big things that filled your life. This no longer applies in the way it did, however some of those tasks will still need to be accomplished!

The most important thing now is to talk to those around you. You will all have different needs and ideas about how time and space should be divided up. You need to:
· Be clear about what the essentials are
· Work out what is achievable
· Think about the things you can compromise on – not give in, but compromise. Compromise means each of you getting some of what you want.

The essentials are not what you would like, they are what you need. If you are working from home then a flat work space and access to a phone or computer and quiet time might be essential, however if you also have children at home then that might not be achievable for the whole day. Talk through what is achievable. It might be that work has to be done at different times if that’s possible. An hour before the kids get up, a couple of hours when they are doing schooling at home, an hour whist they exercise outside. It’s all a matter of deciding what’s essential and how that is going to be achieved and not necessarily in the way it was done before. Be flexible, and be creative with time and space.

You will not be able to just continue in the way things were before, there has to be change and compromise. The changes have happened for all of us so we all need to look at how we do things differently. Change does not have to mean something bad or difficult, it can also mean that we have the opportunity to bring things into our lives that we have wanted, like spending more time with the children, doing more in the garden, taking up new interests. The internet offers opportunities to explore and expand ourselves whilst still being at home. Being restricted to our homes does not mean we cannot travel and develop new friends or new interests. We just have to think about how we do that differently.

The current situation will change and the most important thing to hold on to whilst we go through these stressful and strange times is that we need to breathe, smile and laugh. Laughter can relieve tension and helps us to feel good about ourselves.

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