Just when it seems life is almost back to normal, wham, another Covid variant strikes; more fear, more restrictions. The ongoing uncertainty takes its toll.
So how can you stay mentally well in this continuing crisis and help older relatives do the same?
Right now, we are living through cycles of order and chaos.
Jordan Peterson in his book 12 Rules for Life says, “Our brains respond instantly when chaos appears, with simple hyper-fast circuits maintained from the ancient days, when our ancestors dwelled in trees and snakes struck in a flash.”
Living in a cycle where the threat of chaos lies waiting in every news report is not healthy. It affects your immune system and anxiety levels for starters.
Here are some pointers to help step out of the chaos.
Find some control and autonomy. This could be by learning a new hobby or revisiting an old one. Brainstorm some options. Buy in the equipment you need. A solo activity may be a better choice for now as group activities may be cancelled. That undermines one’s autonomy, again.
Meet the neighbours. Arrange to have morning tea in a local park. We are deeply social beings. Knowing neighbours can give a sense of security. If the morning goes well, repeat it.
Listen with an open mind and an open heart. When you listen without an agenda, older friends and relatives are more likely to speak freely. They may raise personal concerns. You don’t have offer solutions.
Take a tip from Jordan Peterson. He does not steal his clients problems from them. He doesn’t want to be the hero in their story. (12 Rules for Life, 2018).
Listen more. When someone talks, they are thinking aloud. Do not hold them to everything they say. Talk is a way of figuring things out. Ask short questions to prompt the conversation along. Listening does not mean waiting until you can counter what someone is saying.
This too will pass. January is typically a time when people see family from interstate. Summer pilgrimages are part of Australian life. But with the unpredictable border restrictions it’s hard to make plans. Stay connected in any way you can. Remind yourself and your family that this too will pass.
Recognise there is a lot of grief around. The stages of grief include shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Since Covid struck and our typical pattern of life went missing, we have been moving through these stages in our own ways. Recognise where you are on any day and be patient.
Be generous with hugs and smiles. We are all missing touch. Hugs release oxytocin which calms the mind and body. If you can’t visit older friends and relatives to hug them, ask them to do it for you. Hugs can slow down one’s breathing and reduce anxious thoughts.
Smile. With 20 months of masking and not masking, the social habit of smiling has been damaged. Smiling releases endorphins and serotonin. These chemicals lift your mood and aid relaxation (Very Well Mind, 2021).
When you smile and someone smiles back, you both benefit.
Kendall Morton is Director of Home Care Assistance Sunshine Coast to Wide Bay. Call 5491 6888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org