We have now completed three weeks of lockdown in the UK. As a family, we are four weeks in; I started showing symptoms on Monday 16th March, a week before Boris our Prime Minister announced the enforced lockdown measures.
Here are my reflections about what I’ve learned so far:
It will bring any buried traumas to the surface
The first two weeks were really tough. As I felt really ill, I was convinced I’d contracted Coronavirus. I still don’t know if it was COVID-19 or not; many of the symptoms fit but then those symptoms cross over with common colds and flu.
I felt like I had a severe chest infection and a terrible cough. I felt very lethargic like I had little energy and a very sore throat with swollen glands. Ava, who had literally just turned 2, also showed symptoms, she had a raging temperature for a couple of days and woke up being sick one night, other than that her symptoms were mainly that of a cough/ cold too.
My Husband, Steven, developed some symptoms around a week after me and our little boy, Thomas, fared the best, he seemed mostly fine throughout it all.
I was pretty terrified in all honesty, although I tried my absolute hardest to listen to my logical voice. It brought up past traumatic events I experienced during childbirth and my anxiety was through the roof. I wasn’t sleeping well through the nights and went on to wake in the night with panic attacks.
I did reach out and had a telephone consultation with a Clinical Psychologist from a local social enterprise and that really helped. She pointed out that the pandemic had triggered many people with trauma in their past and it validated how I was feeling.
I did begin to feel better emotionally once I started to feel healthy
Limiting social media and news exposure is crucial to protecting yourself
I massively over-consumed news and social media at the start; and it really affected my mental health. I had decided not to follow the news two years earlier for similar reasons, I’m a highly sensitive empathic person and am deeply affected by others pain. It was just too much to hear so much suffering in the world. Here I was consuming all the death, pain and fear reported by the media many times throughout the day. Many of the horror stories I read terrified me. Even if I stayed away from the news, I found articles shared on social media.
Once I put boundaries into place it made a huge difference. I now limit social media usage and only check reliable sources of news once a day for an update.
It is tricky as I manage social media as part of my job, but I try my best compartmentalise the two and focus on the good we are doing through my work (I manage Marketing & Comms for a local family support charity).
In the face of adversity; strength, love and kindness shines through
I have been blown away by community spirit during this pandemic. Through the collective coming together of nations. Through the outpour of love and support for our key workers; especially for our frontline NHS workers who are true heroes.
I’m amazed how these staff get up every day and endure long shifts caring for the sick and saving lives, aware of the dangers to their own health. They are truly selfless and so many of us are humbled at their grit and resilience. The clap for carers moves me every week; the nation collectively are in awe of these incredible people, sacrificing so much for others.
You can’t do it all, and that’s ok
At the beginning, fired up by all the resources available and other’s parents posts, I set us a rather ambitious home-schooling schedule. Hour by hour of each day was mapped out for my five year old son; we’d cover phonics and literacy in the morning, maths and science in the afternoon. We’d make sure we got writing practice, science and P.E in their daily too.
This is alongside caring for our (just) two year old daughter, my part-time job as a Charity Marketing & Comms Manager and my Husbands’ full time job as Head of Solutions for a healthcare IT company.
Oh how naive I was! Home schooling is a full time job. Caring for a toddler is a full time job. How did I expect to fit all that in alongside juggling our jobs whilst keeping my sanity?
As the weeks have gone on I’ve lowered the bar dramatically. We probably manage 30 minutes a day of home-schooling at best. We do read bedtime stories, promote arts and craft and learning through play; both indoors and out.
It worries me a little that my little boy will fall behind but he’s smart and all the other children will be in the same boat and teachers will allow for this. Looking at the bigger picture, they are safe at home and are loved and healthy; they are also developing life skills and emotional skills which I think are massively important.
Self compassion is super important right now
We need to be kind to ourselves, more than ever. Never have we had to juggle so much, whilst dealing with the anxiety and uncertainly that the current situation evokes on a daily basis. We are in a situation we’ve never been in before, we are scared; for our health, for the health of our loved ones. We are worried about finances, whether we’ll have a job by the end of it all, what all this will do to our economy. It is a lot to content with.
I have battled some quite physical symptoms on anxiety throughout this new normal. I know it’s a mixture of worry and fear and absolute exhaustion as we don’t stop from 6.30am through to 8.30pm. It’s intense. We are not robots and our minds and bodies can only take so much. We need to make room to stop, to breathe, to relax, to pause.
Otherwise our bodies will find a way to do this for us.
Life is precious and shouldn’t be taken for granted
We were never in control