After claiming 100 days free of community transmission here in New Zealand we find ourselves once again restricted and in Lockdown. My friends and family across the ditch are equally restricted while Victoria grapples to get their second wave under control.
I think by now we’ve all come to the realisation that this is not going to pass over quickly. The hope of a few months of disruption that we may have entertained earlier this year has been slowly replaced with the reality of a situation that looks to be far more enduring.
As a highly sensitive person (HSP) I am super aware of how easily I am impacted in negative and positive ways and I thought I would share with you the five things I am doing to stay sane through this time.
Time limits on Media (social and mainstream)
I cannot emphasise this enough. Our anxiety levels increase with the amount of time we spend staring at our devices, scrolling through articles of doom and gloom and feeding off all the fear based rubbish on social platforms. It takes dedication to break the habit of mindless scrolling but it is possible and so beneficial to replace this with uplifting activities instead.
One of the books I read this year was Cal Newport’s ‘Digital Minimalism’. It’s a great reality check for the way we’ve filled the empty spaces of our life with automated checking, liking and scrolling. In doing so we are increasingly numbed into addictive behaviour but also lose those important pauses we once had to reflect and just Be in the moment, connected to our surroundings. As an HSP being online all the time is detrimental to my ability to stay calm, focused on my life and those in front of me. It feels like being swept away in a rip tide. One minute I could touch the sand, the next I’m way out to sea without recollection of the exact moment it all went pear shaped.
Shop online where possible
One of the most upsetting parts of lockdown for me as an HSP has been having to go shopping for food and seeing people with terror in their eyes, masked up, gloves, awkward distancing, long queues and no one smiling. I find it triggering seeing big gaps on shelves from people hoarding resources, knowing this leads to feelings of fear and scarcity.
Online shopping and delivery solves this and I am using it as much as possible. I am lucky enough to be able to receive deliveries from the supermarket, a local sourdough baker and food delivery service. Most of the other things I’ve bought this year have all arrived via the post too and for those that can’t I’m happy to wait or replace with something else. I know this is not available to everyone but if you are sensitive to those aspects I’ve mentioned and can get things delivered I highly recommend it.
Reduce alcohol and stimulants
Those who have been following my weekly newsletter know I drank my way through the first lockdown (not heavily, but daily) and recently used ‘Dry July’ to kick the habit. I’ve also cut my caffeine intake in half. I feel more in control, more energised, less reactive and emotionally wobbly.
Alcohol and caffeine fuel anxiety. I knew this intellectually but now I’ve felt the before and after experientially. We tell ourselves it’s helping our mood but it’s simply not true. What we are really doing is topping our systems up to avoid the downward spiral of withdrawl.
As HSP’s we can be prone to numbing our heightened sensitivity in order to deal with it. What we should be doing instead is learning our body’s queues and trusting that our sensitivity is a GIFT. It’s not here to harm us or make us more vulnerable to pain. In fact 2020 has helped me wake up to the fact that HSP’s have a vital role to play in the evolutionary transition that must take place if we are to survive as a species. That might be another article but for now, cleaning up our bodies and minds by addressing our daily choices is highly beneficial.
Avoid fearful people or gently confront them
This one may be difficult if the person in fear is someone you live with but fear is highly contagious. We’re protecting ourselves from the Coronavirus so why not treat fear the same way. It’s just as damaging after all. Where possible, use distancing techniques and masks (unfollows, mute, avoid, step back from, give space to) anyone heavily caught up in fear and spreading mis-information. This includes conspiracy theorists as well as mainstream thinkers by the way.
If someone close to you is in fear see if you can have an honest conversation about how it’s affecting you and offer a safe, supportive space for them to increase their awareness and change. Let them know gently that if they continue in that way you may need to step back in order to look after your health and wellbeing. One caveat; If you are a parent and your child is in fear, it’s crucial you look at the way you are talking, what you’re exposing the child to and take responsibility for the state of your own nervous system.
Implement practices of daily joy and daily peace
If nothing else, 2020 has brought us closer to the starkness of our mortality. Everyday is precious and each of us is precious. Keep this front and centre by making time for something that brings you joy everyday and something that brings you a sense of peace. Make this non-negotiable. As one of my dear clients once said to me “somedays, the work is self-care“.
It’s time we flip the value we place on work, chores and a lot of our so-called ‘necessary’ tasks and begin to cherish the stuff that really matters and makes a difference to how we feel instead.
In all the qualitative research we have on what’s important to people who are dying they never talk about how tidy their house was, how many hours of overtime they did at work or how they drove to four different shops to find the cheapest avocados. We are yet to have the first generation who heavily use social media to ask this question of but I imagine (as I would be among them) they won’t be talking about their time spent on Facebook.
Joy and Peace are found in relationships and in solitude; in laughter and community as well as connection with nature and our inner selves. Whether it’s watching your dog play, painting a sunrise or laughing with your best friend, these are the moments to cherish and do everyday from now, forever.