I’ll be honest, I haven’t really felt like myself over the past few weeks. Sort of like the more vibrant parts of my personality have taken a back seat, and a general numbness has settled in. It’s not that I feel depressed or hopeless in any way – I think it’s just to do with the wall of bad news that seems to have greeted the world since the arrival of 2020….
The latest crisis being Coronavirus which has really seems to be putting life on hold for people all over the world. Trips/plans are being cancelled as I type this, people are panic buying, and the media don’t really seem to offering a voice of reason amongst all the ongoing chaos.
I definitely don’t want this to be a blog post in which I moan about the current state of the world or make anyone feel worse – I just wanted to explore why I’ve been feeling so flat lately in hope that I can connect with anyone who might be feeling the same. As someone who is extremely empathetic and also a huge over thinker/worrier, I find the the news hard to digest at the best of times – there’s always bad news to worry about, and I find it hard not to carry it around with me. I actually read recently that a therapist in America coined the term “headline stress disorder” in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. This really isn’t something that surprises me, and it’s really where the psychology behind ‘clickbait content’ starts to feel very dark and redundant.
The past few weeks have felt particularly difficult and I think it’s because everything feels so uncertain. Like most people at the start of the year, I really wanted to throw myself into new projects, experiences, and hopefully new adventures too. Instead, 2020 has felt disappointing, frustrating, and most recently – extremely unclear. As someone who suffers with anxiety/low moods, one of the things I rely on is routine or at least having things in my diary that keep me busy and distracted when I really need it most. I like to have little things to look forward to that act as mental markers to get me through the week when things might feel a bit harder than usual. However, the current situation seems to be escalating pretty quickly at the moment, meaning that a lot of plans have obviously been fully cancelled, postponed, or are just firmly up in the air until further notice.
The general consensus amongst people I’ve been chatting to recently has been one of anxiety and uncertainty. Do I go on that work trip? Should I cancel that holiday? Will my small business be affected by this? Will my city be put on lockdown? The list goes on, and and it’s really no surprise that anxiety levels are sky rocketing when there is such a genuine cause for concern. I was also reading recently that the brain finds it hard to separate risk to a population from personal risks. After all, it really catches your attention when a whole country goes into lockdown. Of course we worry and of course our thoughts start to spin out of control. It’s the old ‘fight or flight’ responses that are kicking in and it’s totally normal for us all to be reacting and dealing with the news in different ways. Ultimately, worrying is often a useful response to extreme situations as it causes us to be responsible and take the steps required to keep ourselves safe. When I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, I try to remind myself that I need to be ‘practical not panicked’. We really aren’t good to ourselves or anyone around us when we get ourselves into a state of panic.
Whenever something bad happens, social media is always able to highlight the negative sides of humanity as well as the positives. I think that’s what disheartens me the most when things challenge the world – people’s true colours come out, and often animalistic tendencies come to the surface. I’ve found myself torn between wanted to check social media for updates/news so that I can keep myself informed as things unfold, but also wanting to just throw my phone into a body of water whilst simultaneously disconnecting the wifi from my flat. Sometimes it feels like an impossible situation, especially when I work in the online sphere and truly enjoy so much of what it has to offer.
I haven’t felt like writing about fashion or beauty products when my mind is firmly on worrying about the people around me and trying not to let the anxious thoughts override the fact that everything eventually passes. I just wanted to leave this blog post as a reminder to those that feel stupid for ‘worrying too much’ when the person next to you might seemed level headed and rational. We all deal with bad news in different ways, and that’s what makes us human. We also all have the opportunity to be kinder and more gentle in times of global distress and panic. It’s a time that should unite people (kind of ironic considering the divisions being put into place), but it’s also a time to remember what’s important.
If you’re finding the news too much at the moment then please take a breather and do something that grounds you. Read a book or take a walk somewhere peaceful. Unclench your jaw and chat to a friend. Watch something that makes you laugh – laughter is always good for the immune system. Keep making plans regardless of whether you set them in stone – the rest of the year might feel uncertain right now, but it’s healthy to plan new adventures and keep working towards your goals as best as you can (even if it’s just on the paper in front of you for now). Oh, and turn off those bloody news app notifications! Nobody needs constant pop up reminders of all the bad things happening around the world. My phone lit up this week to inform me that Tom Hanks and his wife had Coronavirus and I found myself daydreaming about packing my bags and leaving for the nearest isolated cabin (he must be protected at all costs). Seriously though, notifications are a millennial nightmare and speed up time in a way that none of us need.
Only consume what you can, when you can. You only need to check the news once a day – so don’t go searching for article after article if you’re already feeling under stress. Take practical steps if you’re feeling helpless, it’s as better time as any to focus on health and wellbeing, and focusing on simple tasks can really help elevate anxiety and fear. Get enough sleep, eat healthy, drink plenty of water, stay connected, and avoid speculation where possible. Oh, and wash your hands but treat yourself to a nice hand cream afterwards (don’t let the constant washing leave you with irritated hands).
Remember that there’s always good news to look for even in the bleakest of times – just like diet, we need to make sure we are consuming a well balanced helping of news articles. It’s also important to keep perspective during times of high anxiety – often we are quick to catastrophize and label what’s going on as the ‘worst’, failing to remember other (much worse) times in history. We are also quick to read global news and feel helpless, forgetting that there are always people in our immediate communities that need help too. We don’t have to single handedly try and prevent a nuclear war or put an end to the refugee crisis, but we can check in on that vulnerable neighbour or help with a charity project that’s on our doorstep. We are not powerless when we are united, and there are always things you can do to make a difference.
The world definitely feels like it’s being tested at the moment, and I’m hopeful that this is because there are huge issues that need to be uprooted in order for us to replant and create change. The way we hear about things, the way we respond to them, and the way we discuss them online. I’m hopeful for a kinder future and I’m starting by being kinder to myself (and those around me) because we all seem to need it the most right now.
Photographs taken on film by Catherine Booty
Trench c/o – Sandro
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