I can’t remember a time when daily life seemed quite so uncertain and I’m guessing many of you feel the same?
The sudden spread of coronavirus across the globe seems to be continuing with frightening speed. I’m sure we’ve all heard the horror stories about people from the UK stuck on cruise ships and in holiday hotels around the world. The BBC status update on the number of ill and dying people each day around 2pm has become a sort of ‘don’t want to watch but still have to’ daily experience. If you’re feeling worried or anxious I have a suggestion that may help alleviate your Coronavirus anxiety.
The General Mood Around Coronavirus
My elderly mum and aunty are both frightened, especially as this disease seems to be much worse the older a person is. They have bombarded me with questions about whether they should ‘socially distance’ themselves? Can their carers still come in? Can they go shopping and what happens if they fall ill? I would love to be able to reassure them, but I don’t really have anything concrete to add to the already substantial amount of information already available. The truth is life is uncertain and we often forget this in our busy daily routines. This virus is serving as an unwelcome reminder that some things are out of our control. We can only do our best to live through them rather than have control over them.
I can only remember just a couple of other times in my life when I felt this level of uncertainty – firstly when I divorced and later in life surrounding a health scare. Wondering how things will work out and feeling powerless to affect them is a horrible feeling. I’d like to share with you a way of coping with these obsessive or intrusive thoughts that I discovered years ago and has worked for me ever since. I hope that you’ll find it helpful for the tough times that may be ahead as we face this global pandemic over the next few months. Don’t forget you can also read our previous blog, Crafting Your Way to Mindfulness.
Combating Coronavirus Anxiety
So, at least 20 years ago, I was complaining about how overwhelmed I felt by recent events to a close friend. I was finding it impossible to stop thinking about them, turning them round and round in my mind. My friend was an artist who was used to fully concentrating on his work to the exclusion of all else. I found it puzzling I couldn’t do the same. Whilst others had just let me keep moaning about my obsessive thought patterns, he challenged me to find a way to break the thought cycle. “Just get on and work – throw yourself into something, focus completely on it and you’ll feel better” he said. Idiot, I privately thought! How can I possibly work or concentrate on anything else when this is going on in my life? However, as it turned out a few days later I had a big decision to make regarding a City & Guilds Diploma course I was undertaking at the time. Funding had been withdrawn so none of the students could continue past the end of that year. My stark choice was either buckle down and rush to get it completed or accept that all the work I had done previously was wasted.
What did I do? Buckled down, but very reluctantly. I began by wandering very halfheartedly into my spare bedroom, put on some loud music and stared at a half finished set of samples until I thought of something I could try out and I began to work on them. I have to admit, I also did some very out of tune singing along to the music I had playing! Two hours passed in a bit of a creative daze, concentrating simply on the samples, the stitches and the music. As I gradually drifted back to normality, I realised I hadn’t thought about my own personal issues at all – I had simply been immersed in the creative process. It felt great! I mean really great – so great that I wanted to spend more time doing the exact same thing to escape from the problem that was occupying my every thought. I came to realise that far from being completely at the mercy of my worry and thought patterns, I now had an easy way of escaping them for a few hours. It wasn’t expensive or onerous, but it still worked. Each time I did it, it became easier and hours passed whilst I continued with the remaining elements of my course.
I had honestly thought getting that course finished in the remaining time scale was beyond me. However, I proved myself wrong and gave myself a big confidence boost to boot. It’s a coping mechanism I use all the time now because I know from experience how well it works for me. I also know that immersing myself in an absorbing and/or creative pastime is a great feeling and one I want to keep repeating. What task I undertake or whether it is ‘successful’ or not isn’t important. Sometimes the things I’m doing work really well and I’m delighted to have something great to show at the end. Sometimes they don’t work at all, but I’m still pleased because I’ve still had an enjoyable couple of hours listening to some music and considering what to do next. Either way, the ‘mindless’ relaxation still works. It calms me to the extent that it carries over into whatever my next task is. I like to call this creative flow, but some call it mindfulness, others think it is a type of meditation. Whatever it is called, it certainly works for me and I’m sure it could for you too.
So, alongside the practical measures like eating well, getting plenty of sleep and following the obligatory hand washing to get me through the big coronavirus ‘lockdown’ over the next few weeks/months, I have also compiled a ‘to do’ list for myself. Things I know will interest and absorb me enough to take my attention away from the day to day worry of the situation. Ideally creative things that impart a huge sense of achievement when completed and allow me to immerse myself in them to the exclusion of all else. I really hope that you will give it a go too. If you’re already studying with us, then why not try to immerse yourself in your coursework in order to escape the ubiquitous coronavirus commentary? If you’re not we have a lot of online beginner courses that may work as a nice distraction. If you want a longer-term challenge why take a look at our City and Guilds accredited distance learning courses below.