Since social distancing measures were implemented a couple of months ago, every single one of us was impacted in our own, unique way. Some of us continued to go into work, some worked from home and others suddenly had no work at all. This resulted in many of us spending extended periods of time at home, some alone, some with family, and others forced to face extended time with a person or people they didn’t feel comfortable or safe with. Needless to say, this hasn’t been an easy time for anyone due to the stress, anxiety and uncertainty which has dominated our lives during this period. This has taken its toll on us both physically and emotionally. Therefore, it’s no surprise that our moods and emotions may not be what they used to be. In fact, you’re likely to be feeling emotions more intensely right now, including being quicker to anger and feeling irritable and impatient. Your moods may be dipping more than usual and any pre-existing mental health conditions may have worsened considerably. Not only is this natural but an inevitable consequence of living with personal and global uncertainty. Let’s go through some of the emotions you may be feeling at present:
Lack of motivation
Although there are some huge benefits to working from home, doing so for extended periods can cause a drop in motivation. One moment you’re surrounded by a team of people who you can turn to for a quick chat or guidance, and suddenly your only contact with them is through online platforms. In order to feel motivated, we need to be focused towards a goal or see purpose in what we do. This is harder to achieve when we’re physically separated from our colleagues and work-place for long periods.
This also extends beyond work. If, for instance, going to the gym 5 times per week to train is essential to achieve your fitness goals, and also something you enjoy, suddenly having this taken away from you can be quite distressing and can lead to feelings of emptiness or an absence of purpose. Remove many of the things you enjoy, such as travelling, socialising, playing sport etc, and your usual zest for life may be temporarily lost.
Have you noticed that those little things that used to irk you before now get your blood boiling? When tensions are already high due to the fear and anxiety related to the virus itself and the impact it’s having on our lives, it’s no wonder our ability to tolerate daily annoyances is currently strained. We also have to remember that our usual coping mechanisms or outlets for stress tolerance may no longer be available to us. Maybe you used to let off steam at the gym, or meet friends for coffee or a meal, allowing you to vent and share your feelings. These small pleasures soften our experiences and give us the encouragement and support needed to keep going. Without these, we need to work harder to keep going at work or at home and, at the same time, manage our relationships.
You may be wondering, how long is this going to go on for? Read the news and you’ll get conflicting accounts. However, with talk of a potential second wave of the virus and long waits before certain measures are lifted, it’s easy to lose hope and become incredibly disheartened.
To add to the global impatience, we’re currently leading lives which, due to many factors, cause additional frustration and strain. Whereas previously going to work would allow us space from family or flatmates, for instance, or we could get up for some tea and a chat with a colleague, these avenues no longer exist. This leads to a build-up of strain and anxiety which push our tolerance levels to the limit.
There’s a lot of anger going around at the moment. We’re living in a period of worldwide trauma and, unlike other situations where you can hold someone accountable, it’s not possible in this case. You’ve been hugely inconvenienced, had many important aspects of your life taken away from you and you have absolutely no control over this. A lack of control over what we can do, where we can go and how we need to behave during this period can feel stifling and unfair. Our freedom to live as we did before no longer exists, at least for now, and this can lead to feelings of anger and deep frustration.
Online platforms have been a godsend in these times of social distancing. We’ve been carrying out meetings online, enjoying movie nights, drinks catch-ups and calls with friends and family who live locally and abroad. Without social media and such online platforms, our lives would have been a lot more challenging. However, we’re social animals. Spending long periods physically apart from colleagues, friends and family can result in people feeling lonely and isolated. Our human need for camaraderie, the sharing of experiences and physical contact is limited right now. This not only impacts our mood but our physical and emotional well-being. Daily interactions such as buying a coffee from the café on the corner or chatting with a colleague in the kitchen whilst making lunch are very short interactions but allow us to feel connected to a wider community. We can, of course, feel connected through online interactions but the quality of the contact is different, and lacking in various elements such as touch and access to additional cues such as body language, and so on.
Even though Malta hasn’t experienced high numbers of deaths like other countries, it doesn’t stop us feeling sad and distressed when confronted with news informing us of the daily death tolls in other countries. To add to this, we’re experiencing loss on many different levels during this period – loss of our freedom, a sense of safety, an inability to engage in the activities we enjoy, and loss of human contact. Put that all together and it’s no wonder you may feel low or sad sometimes. We’re cancelling plans, delaying events such as weddings and holidays, and we’re missing friends and family. This is unprecedented in terms of the impact it’s had on our immediate, day-to-day lives and our future lives and it’s no wonder we’re feeling a sense of grief and loss.
With all said, I’d like to leave you with some hints on how to maintain some equilibrium during this challenging period:
- Although online connections are different to face-to-face ones, it doesn’t mean we can’t feel close and connected to people. Find the time to message loved ones or catch up through video call. If you’re living with people, find creative ways to connect and enjoy your time together. This could involve going for walks, playing board games, watching a film, and so on.
- It’s important that you find an outlet for any feelings of anger and frustration you may be experiencing. This may be through physical exercise, speaking to someone you trust about your feelings or doing something practical which may help you feel you’re doing something to ease your situation. Whatever it is, allow yourself to acknowledge your pain and frustration.
- Be sure to boost self-care during this period – reduce alcohol intake, go for walks in nature, prepare healthy meals, get adequate sleep, engage in meditation, yoga etc.
- Try to keep positive by limiting news intake and avoiding too much contact with people who are negative. Trust, also, that this period will pass.
- Take some time to reflect on your goals and purpose. These can be things you start working towards now or what you’ll do when life returns to normality.
Finally, I’d like to encourage you to pay attention to the signs and, if you’re not coping, reach out and seek the help of a professional – a Therapist, Counsellor or Psychologist. Please remember that we’re stronger when we band together as a community.