PART III: THE GENERAL PUBLIC
Although I have largely focused on the economically active individual for the past two editions (whether you’re self-employed, a business owner, employed or on the market looking for work), I’d like to dedicate this edition to ALL of us.
Even as a Health Professional, I am not immune to the same angst gripping us from a worldwide perspective. I too, am seated on my own emotional rollercoaster – just like you.
I spent the better part of last week crying. Crying out of sheer frustration, crying as I tried to support my son in his online schooling journey, and crying as I execute a hand-over of some of my work due to being given notice from an anchor client. I’ve cried at trying to figure out how I’m going to give our domestic worker notice, and I’ve cried imagining my boy celebrating his birthday isolated for the first time in seven years.
The golden thread that stitches us all beautifully together is that we are all fundamentally human. The differences we see between one person from another, however, comes down to the choices we make, the paradigms we encompass and the behaviours we demonstrate.
We cannot control what’s happening in our world, but we CAN control what happens in our personal environment, and our response to this pandemic.
I’ve chosen to create meaning from my journey, share my learnings and tips with you, and perhaps inspire you to create some meaning of your own.
Tip #1: We are NOT all in the same boat
This experience of being under lockdown has been received differently by different people, with comfort that we are all experiencing the collateral stress of this pandemic, in some shape or form.
I found the most beautiful post on Facebook, and unfortunately cannot credit the author as I don’t know who originally wrote it. But it is so powerful in realising that we may be experiencing the same storm, but we are certainly not in the same boat:
I keep hearing that everyone is in the same boat. But it's really not like that. We are in the same storm yes, but we are not in the same boat.
Your ship can be shipwrecked and mine cannot. Or vice versa.
For some, quarantine is optimal and full of moments of reflection, of reconnection and peace. Life is easy in flip flops, with a glass of Coke or a cup of tea in hand.
For others, this is a desperate crisis. For others it is facing real loneliness. For some it means peace, rest time and a bit of a holiday.
For others, this is torture as they wonder how they are going to pay their bills.
Others were concerned about the bread for the weekend and if the pasta will last for a few more days.
Some were in their "home office" doing all they can, to protect the company they work for and still do an honest days’ work from home.
Others are looking through rubbish bins to survive.
Some want to go back to work because they are running out of money but in the same breathe they are worried about a virus and they have questions about it.
Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.
Some need to break the quarantine to stand in a queue at the supermarket. Others just really want to escape.
Others criticize the government for the queue at the shop and for all the uncertainty.
Some have faith in God and are patiently praying and waiting for miracles in 2020.
Others say the worse is yet to come and that's probably our reality. Truth is life as we knew it before is gone.
So, friends, we are not in the same boat.
We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.
And each one will emerge, in his/her own way, from that storm.
Some with a tan from their pool. Others with scars on the soul.
It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, more than looking, actually seeing.
See beyond the political party, beyond religion, beyond the nose on your face.
Do not underestimate the pain of others if you do not feel it.
Do not judge the good life of others, do not condemn the bad life of others. Just don't be a judge. Let us not judge the one who lacks, as well as the one who exceeds him.
We are on different ships and all looking to survive. Let everyone navigate their route with respect, empathy and responsibility. Stop the judgment and please just be kind.
Tip #2 Realise you are grieving
Our current situation, which is a mixture of fear, anxiety, frustration, stress and depression, is also a grieving process. We may be grieving the loss of our work, our freedom, or a loved one due to C-19. Perhaps, more insidiously, we may be living in fearing the POTENTIAL loss of the above, without having really lost anything (yet?).
This anticipatory grief of “what’s to come” can be even more harmful than actual grief or loss. In a study done at University College London, researchers found that people who were told they had a 50% chance of being shocked suffered far more stress and agitation than those who were told to expect a shock. Thus, we truly are living in complete unfamiliar and ambiguous times, which is actually more stressful than knowing when C-19 will hit a climax, exactly how we will be affected economically and health-wise, and when it would end. However these variables are all up in the air, causing even further stress.
I found a beautiful article written by a fellow colleague, all about Grief and Covid-19, which you can read here.
Tip #3: C-19 has some collateral benefits
As a Registered Psychometrist, the buzz word ‘strategic capability’ is often a highly esteemed competency to possess in middle to senior roles. As is one’s problem solving ability. I’m sure you’ll also agree that we are who we are due to delicate balance of our environments and genetics (we’ll get into the Nature vs. Nurture debate, but not today). The vast majority of us are more inclined toward linear thinking processors, working with a short to medium term approach, and focusing on tangible facts or certainties. Fewer people are comfortable working within an ambiguous environment, where we don’t have facts to rely upon, but rather hypotheses of the future.
We are now, collectively, all being thrust into a macro-ambiguous, chaotic environment. We are forced to learn to plan in the medium to long term (like how to make our money stretch a bit further without hurting our pensions). Maybe for some of us, we are forced to consider things truly from a global perspective, as we pay attention to how the Covid-19 virus is spreading, and we are learning to recognise emerging trends, and making predictions based on credible but also incomplete data. For the very first time, we are being forced to adopt a systemic approach to work, life and everything in general.
Employees are looking at ways to prove themselves as valuable resources, applying some out of the box thinking. Entrepreneurs are looking at gaps to create business opportunities from the mayhem. Stay at home mums are becoming pretty ingenious at adopting tactics in entertaining children, supporting their schooling, and ensuring dinner doesn’t get burnt. We have the opportunity to polish our problem solving skills and grow our innovative tendencies, which we don’t even have to consciously try to do. We’re just doing it.
Now can you imagine our children? They are growing up in truly uncertain times. They are being primed to learn how to navigate through murky waters in Industry 4.0. Yes – they are being robbed of social interaction, the warmth of a smiling teacher and the carefree Sunday afternoon visiting Granny and Grandpa. BUT, they too are being rewarded with one of history’s greatest opportunities to breed a whole new variety of Edison, Bell, Tesla and Franklin’s.
Tip #4 Create a time-capsule
Just like when your child was born and you bought the newspaper of the day, captured their first lock of hair and packed away their first tooth, you’re going to want to remember this time. Yes – it doesn’t feel like you’ll be looking back at this situation with fondness, but you WILL want to REMEMBER. You’ll want to tell your story to your grandchildren.
Do yourself a favour, and create a time capsule. A simple shoebox will do. Fill it with a newspaper, a copy of the YOU magazine, drawings your little one created in lockdown, photographs (if you can print any with your home printer) and a letter you’d like to write to capture your thoughts, feelings and fears.
Your future self will kick you if you don’t do this.
Tip #5: Parents: B-R-E-A-T-H-E
I don’t know about you, but my schedule is now twice as busy as before. Sure enough, I don’t have to make school lunches, I don’t have to do the school run, and I don’t have to drive my child from kids’ party to kids’ party. BUT I have now become my teacher’s assistant (as has my husband) and let me tell you this… I may have thought I respected teachers before, but now, I am convinced they are nothing but saints!
Your sanity is going to be stretched as you try to act patiently with miniature versions of an impatient you. Moms, Dads: You’re doing the best you can. If your children are still little, do not under-estimate the power for free play. Parents of school going children, RELAX! You’re probably trying tirelessly to keep up with the volumes of work being funnelled through your smart device. Remember that learning can be fun, so try to employ some ‘fun’ tactics when learning – like throwing ball when doing math. Turn spelling ‘homework’ into memory games. Remember to appeal to learning through movement, story-telling, visuals, and colour.
Finally, also remember this is not all on you. Our kids are going to have to learn how to learn independently too. Create those boundaries by letting little one know you are there, but they can’t lean on you for every niggle they have (you wearing earphones helps with this). Share the duty of teacher’s assistant with your partner. And remember, little ones’ have a far lower attention span than you do. Make sure meaningful learning happens in small chunks with plenty of play time. For the love of all things good, please don’t create a hostile learning environment where your child grows to despise ‘class-time’. And don’t forget to breathe.
Tip #6: Make some proactive, difficult choices
It’s time to re-look at things in your life. Even if your income hasn’t been affected, you WILL feel the ripple effect of this pandemic in a few months’ time. Consider if you truly need DSTV, Netflix AND ShowMax. Look at the subscriptions you may have running on your bank account. Consider shopping around for competitive insurance solutions. You get my drift?
If you have lost work (or fear you are at risk), be ruthless with your budget. Freeze your repayments on your policies, debts and other commitments if need be. Ditch the salon and do your beauty treatments at home. Make sure you are marketable because the job market is going to be more competitive than ever.
For more on this, read last edition’s post here.
Tip#7: Routine is everything
The days all seem to spill into each other, with the temptation of remaining in your pyjamas far too great. We are creatures of habit and we generally do well with routine. Although you’re allowed some room for flexibility, try to wake up at the same time each day. Shower or bath. Get dressed! Ladies, wear perfume. Put on a light slick of make-up. Eat breakfast. Take short breaks to walk around your garden (if you have one) to stretch your legs. Do some exercises by following the plethora of free fitness classes being offered all over the net. My personal favourite are the free classes offered by Body Divine, which you can find here.
Whatever you do, do it consistently.
Tip#8: Use your time wisely
Now don’t get me wrong… I for one realise that life is busy now. For some of us, however, we may have a bit more time on our hands. Use it wisely. There are so many resources available to upskill and learn. Harvard is offering a bunch of courses FOR FREE, which you can check out here.
Read or listen to audio-books (my favourite platform is Audible).
Commit to doing things you simply “never have time for”, like sorting out your clothing cupboard, your pantry or creating a backup of your computer. Sort through your photographs. Paint or garden or journal or do whatever it is which nurtures your soul.
Tip#9 Have a party!
I’m serious. Human beings are social creatures, and even the most excessive hermits need some contact. Schedule a Zoom party or Facetime with your family and friends. For actual tactile stimulation (which is important for Serotonin and Dopamine – our ‘happy’ chemicals in our brain), give your child and / or partner extra-long squeezes (as long as you all live together). Stroke and cuddle your pets.
Touch is so, so important. Don’t under-estimate it.
Thanks for hanging out with me for this three part series. The feedback has touched my heart and personally motivates me to wake up and get going every day.
Find that something that motivates you. Whether it’s exercise, reading, watching your favourite Netflix series, gardening or cooking.
Be kind to yourself.
If you’re reading this, then like me, we are part of the blessed minority. Let’s name one thing we are grateful for each day, and in the spirit of mindfulness, focus on the here and now.
You are healthy.
You have food.
You have a roof.
You have family.
You have friends.
If this is so, you are richer than you could ever imagine.
God Bless South Africa
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