Creative Counselling: Lock-Down Low-Down
by Marie Bruce
As I sit down to write my column this month the whole of the UK is in lock-down due to the global coronavirus pandemic. It is a very uncertain time and one that can be quite frightening for some. Our whole lives have changed overnight and no-one knows quite when we will get back to normal, or even what the new normal, post Covid-19, will be.
The restrictions placed upon us are for our own safety and the safety of others, but they are still restrictions to our freedom nonetheless. So how do you navigate your way through such an unprecedented situation and come out of it with your mental health, and that of your family, intact?
Well, it isn’t easy, although some people will cope better than others. Those with a garden will fare better than those without. Those with a job to return to, are likely to be less stressed than those who have become unemployed and can’t even begin a job search until lock-down is lifted, and who knows when that will be? Those people who have enough space for their family in their home will find the restrictions easier than those families who are already living in cramped or overcrowded conditions. And of course, introverts content in their own company, will cope much better than extroverts, who need external stimulation and validation to thrive.
The world is a strange place right now. We are fed a daily diet of chaos and catastrophe on the news, told of rising death rates and warned that we are ‘at war’ with a virus no-one can see – the invisible enemy. While this rhetoric is useful to present the seriousness of the situation, it isn’t good for your mind it you absorb too much of it, so try to ration your daily intake of news, be that from the TV or, worse, social media, where it might be inaccurate. At the same time, your neighbourhood is probably the quietest it has ever been, as people take the advice and stay at home. No children play in the streets. Fewer people going to and from work. Less traffic on the roads. It’s all so quiet and peaceful and we should try to enjoy this time of tranquillity. So here are a few ways for you to navigate the lock-down and make it as pleasurable as possible for you and your family.
Everyone needs alone time, so try to ensure that people have a space where they can retreat, without being disturbed. Little kids are great at carving out a space for themselves when they need it, hiding under the table or behind the sofa. Let them. Older kids could use their rooms, or the garden. Just make sure people can find solitude when they need it. And that includes you.
Have quiet time
Make an agreement that at a certain time for an hour or so each day, the house will be quiet. No TV, no music, no social media, no power tools. Just quiet, peaceful activities like art or reading or talking. You could begin a family book club or play a board game. But keep the house quiet for a period each day. If someone wants to opt out, that’s fine, but they must respect the quiet time by using headphones to listen to music or watch programs on their devices.
When anxiety creeps in, you can’t beat a bit of childhood nostalgia to calm the spirits. I recommend this trick to my anxious clients all the time and it works a treat. Re-discovering favourite books and films that you enjoyed as a kid takes your mind back to that safe place. Whether it be Malory Towers or Narnia, allow yourself to time travel by reliving those childhood adventures, and introduce your own children to the world before Harry Potter!
Speaking of Harry Potter…
Use Hogwarts as inspiration for home-schooling sessions. Light candles for study time, play some of the Hogwarts ambience videos on YouTube in the back ground, put your kids into Houses and let them experience the magic of the wizarding world, while getting on with their school work.
A tidy house is a tidy mind, so start to declutter, clean and organise your home, from top to bottom. Turn out all the cupboards and drawers, sift, sort and sanctify your environment. It’s time to spring clean anyway, so you might as well create the cosiest, comfiest nest you can while you are staying at home for so long.
Fresh air and sunshine
Just because your normal routine has been disrupted doesn’t mean that you should sit in a dark, stale room all day long. Open up the curtains, blinds and windows. Sit in the garden to read or take your exercise equipment out there to use. Make sure you get some sunshine each day to boost your vitamin D levels and keep up your immunity.
Pamper and relax
How often do you get a month or so off work?! If you have been furloughed, you are basically now being paid to stay at home, so make the most of it. Make at-home spa days a regular thing. Meditate. Do yoga or ballet. Rest, relax and pamper yourself, so that when you are called back into work, you feel refreshed and well-rested, ready to go.
Don’t worry over things you can’t change
We all feel pretty powerless right now, but there is no point in worrying about something we have no control over. We cannot stop the virus, but we can do our bit to slow the spread of it, and that is how wars are won – by each of us doing our bit, for the collective whole. If all you can do is leave bread and milk on the doorstep of your neighbour before going home, then that is enough. Don’t worry about the bigger picture, because it’s not in your power to control it.
Know that things will get better and that nothing can last forever. Everything is with us for either a reason, or a season. Perhaps the reason for this coronavirus season is to make us reconnect with our families, give the environment a rest, consume less and generally think about our impact on the planet, the world and each other.
I hope that you have found these tips helpful at this difficult time. Stay strong, stay well, stay grateful. This is how it feels to live through a historical time and years from now, you will be telling your grandchildren or great-grandchildren about the time when the whole world just stopped. Until next month,
Marie Bruce x
About the author:
Marie Bruce Dip. T.C. MBACP is a qualified psychotherapist, Cruse Bereavement Counsellor and best-selling self-help author. She specialises in grief and loss counselling, PTSD and military counselling, and life coaching.
In this monthly column, Marie offers simple tools used by therapists to help clients and readers improve their mental well-being.
Marie’s books are available on Amazon UK.