It’s a complicated, scary and anxious time right now. There are so many concerns and questions surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, and as someone who lives with anxiety and depression, it is really taking its toll on me.
I work from home and spend the majority of my time in the comfort of my bungalow with my boyfriend and our dogs. Not going out is not that much of an issue for me as I live with multiple chronic conditions, so I’m used to experiencing flare-ups that often mean I’m unable to leave the house for weeks (if not months) at a time.
I’ve been living with chronic pain for over twenty years so I’m used to it, but until now it has never meant I couldn’t have visitors. My friends would come over and we’d watch movies in my bedroom, or my family would visit and we’d have a meal together.
This virus has now taken away that option.
As much as I am used to being alone, I’m not used to being completely isolated. In fact, I’m really not okay with being this isolated. Flaring might have forced me to stay in, but it didn’t cut me off from the outside world, from seeing the people I love or from being able to cuddle my nephew!
The anxiety makes it difficult to switch off
I’m struggling to sleep because when the lights go out and I feel like I want to enter the land of nod, my mind goes into overdrive and I can’t switch it off. I’m worried for me, I’m worried for my boyfriend, my family, my friends… everyone.
I’m immunocompromised so when I catch any kind of virus, I can’t fight it and it can turn into an infection that can make me really poorly. I’m currently battling a chest infection that I have had for two months from contracting a virus. I’m anxious that if I catch coronavirus, it’ll win.
That’s the reality for a lot of vulnerable elderly and disabled people. We’re at risk and it all just feels too close to home.
When I do manage to fall asleep, I end up dreaming about coronavirus. Every night this week it has haunted my nightmares and I’ve woken up sweating, scared and feeling broken. These days I’m exhausted because my dreams have consumed me, and my mind hasn’t had the chance to shut off.
Finding new ways to distract myself
With COVID-19 content everywhere right now, I can’t bring myself to log in to any of my social media accounts for fear of being bombarded with bad news, scaremongering and panic. So, I’ve had to find some alternative ways to distract myself and allow my mind to focus on things that are far less worrisome.
Some saviours during this time have been:
Facetime and video chat
I use Facetime a lot anyway, but during isolation it has been a lifesaver. My family all live three hours away and I use it to speak to my mum and brother on a daily basis, but since self-isolating, I’ve spoken to them a lot more. I can also chat to my nephew as he is off school, and earlier in the week we played Monopoly over video chat (although, I’m not sure I trusted him with my money!). I also help him with his schoolwork and we play online games together.
As a lot of my friends are off work or working from home, and this gives me a great opportunity to catch up with them too. It’s nice being able to talk and see their faces and it really boosts my mood. It breaks up the day and is always fun.
What a shocker – a writer who likes writing! Writing has always saved me. It transports me to a different place and helps me focus on something else. Maybe by the time this whole thing is over I’ll have written a book?
Colouring and crafting
Due to my arthritic hands I can’t do much of this, but I find colouring with felt-tip pens really relaxing and much easier than using pencils as they don’t require a lot of pressure. Crafting, and are also a great way to entertain kids.
Whenever I’m schooling my nephew over video and he’s getting bored, I shout, “Dance break!” and we both have a little wiggle, which always makes me laugh. So I have been doing that during the day on my own. It sounds silly but it refocuses my mind and I’m able to laugh at myself, even if for a few short moments.
Exercising and stretching
Due to my conditions I can’t do any strenuous exercise, but I find that stretching and changing my posture is a really great way to ease tension. It also means I have some control over my body, which in turn gives me some control over my mind.
There are so many things you can do to occupy yourself, even if it is just staying in bed and listening to podcasts (like I have done for the last few days). You don’t have to be productive. You don’t have to feel like you need to be doing something every day if you’re not capable or don’t feel like it.
However, if you are struggling with your mental health, I highly recommend finding a few ways to distract yourself. Distraction is key right now.
Stay home, stay safe.
UK/MED/20/0109 April 2020