Very few people have ever experienced anything like the enforced COVID-19 lockdown which not only isolates us from the world and, in many cases, loved ones, it also impacts the livelihoods of many with the two-week extension engendering even deeper frustration, stress, and fear.
“Life was stressful enough for most of us juggling parenthood and work, never mind a semblance of social life,” says Yael Geffen, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty.
“But the reality of having to adjust to working remotely whilst catering to the family’s needs and trying to fit in home-schooling whilst confined together day after day can begin to take its toll.
“Isolation in itself can seriously impact our sense of well-being but when you add the stress of a threat like a rampant virus and all the accompanying negative aspects, we have to take extra care to maintain not only our physical health but also our mental and emotional well-being.
“I think the first step is realising that the pain is shared and that everyone is in the same boat. And although people will respond differently, we all have to be able to make sense of the situation as it pertains to our lives in order to cope the best we can and emerge with our sanity intact.”
Geffen says that its also helpful to be aware that there are distinct emotional stages that everyone will experience, although not necessarily in the same order, and to recognise them for what they are:
Optimism – An early stage when most people are looking forward to time off and getting stuck into the projects, DIY or new hobby they have been putting off due to lack of time;
Determination – Reality and tedium have begun to set in and you are feeling less positive about self-isolation, but you’re determined to keep going and stick to your routines to help you manage the situation;
Satisfaction and frustration – When we vacillate between productivity and lethargy and therefore alternate between moments of satisfaction and periods of frustration;
Depression - It begins to feel like really hard-going and boredom and demotivation can begin to settle in. Routines aren’t working anymore and restlessness and cabin fever can make it difficult to concentrate;
Anger – A common emotion once frustration starts to build, often accompanied by a feeling of helplessness and being easily irritated by others in your household;
Acceptance - When you accept the situation for what it is, remember why we are doing this in the first place, get on with what you can do for the time being and stop stressing about what is beyond your immediate control;
At a time when so many aspects of our lives are beyond our control, it’s important to take control of those still within our ambit in order to maintain a modicum of normalcy and, thereby, emotional well-being.
After almost three weeks of getting to grips with self-isolation, Geffen has found the following most important and helpful:
Staying in touch - Maintain regular contact with others by every means possible and try to remain upbeat and also talk about topics other than the pandemic. We are already used to communicating via Facetime and WhatsApp video chats, so now we will just be doing so a little more often.
It’s equally important for children to stay connected to their friends and there are kid-friendly video chats like House Party and virtual extra murals on Zoom.
Keep busy – Not everyone is able to work remotely and many others may be worrying about whether or not they will have an income at all at the end of the day, so it’s vital to take your mind off your worries at least some of the time. To-do-lists are very useful and the kids can also get involved.
Try to remain productive; we are so lucky to have the technology we do which makes it much easier than during the great depression in 1920 when they didn’t but life and work didn’t come to a stand-still.
Work structure - Try and carve out a designated work area that is your space and that everyone in the house respects as such. Try to start work at the same time every day and adhere to a routine, but know that some days all rules and structures will fly out the window.
Some parents are having their kids dress in school uniform whilst doing school work so that the children can internalize that it’s not school holidays anymore.
We were never prepped to home school and run businesses remote during a global pandemic! So, if there are days where the children are watching too much TV and you are working in your pyjamas the whole day then so be it.
Adhere to a routine – And try to maintain some semblance of structure from pre-quarantine days. This is especially important for those who are new to working from home and if there are children in the house. Get up at the same time every day and establish regular meal, play and exercise times. Not only will this help you get through a difficult period, but it will also help you to readjust to the outside world when it’s time to get back to work and school.
Avoid obsessing over endless media coverage – Yes, it’s important to stay up-to-date but trawling the internet and news channels all day will not help you cope any better. In fact, it will make you feel far worse. Select two or three credible websites or news channels and limit your time spent on them each day.
Orderly home, orderly mind – With all the chaotic uncertainty happening outside your home right now, it’s important to keep the inside orderly and organised. Enlist the help of family members and delegate chores. You will all feel much better if your home isn’t cluttered, there are clean clothes to wear and you don’t have to spend an hour searching for your book.
Bonding time – We are all usually so busy that we seldom have time to share meals with our nearest and dearest, let alone spend real quality time. So, take the opportunity to really connect with the people you are living with and to improve your existing relationships.
The basics – It may be stating the obvious, but it’s vitally important that you get enough sleep and try to eat a nutritious, balanced diet. When we are tired, our coping mechanisms tank and living on junk food only makes one feel sluggish and more tired. Take some time to pamper yourself with a long bath or facial and firmly lock the door whilst doing so.
Try to get some fresh air, whether it’s on your balcony or in your garden or even sticking your head outside the window. The kids will love exercise that can involve the dogs, and even playing catch with a ball running up and down the stairs can be fun.
Get to know your limits – If you start to you pay attention to your stress management, you will begin to notice a pattern that will signal your triggers and threshold of tolerance and you will be able to manage them better, which bodes well for the happiness of everyone in the household.
Help the kids find positive ways to express their feelings - Every child has his or her own way of expressing emotions like sadness and fear but during these extraordinary times their anxiety levels are likely to be much higher – and as a result, yours will be too. Encourage them to engage in creative activities like drawing or to let off steam through physical activities like setting up an obstacle course or even skipping if space is limited.
The uncertainty of not knowing what lies ahead in times of adversity can easily lead to feelings of anxiety and fear, and the sheer scale of the pandemic might seem overwhelming.
But remember that this too shall pass, and how well we are able to restructure our lives and bounce back once it is over is very much dependent on how well we cope during the crisis.