In the saga that is Covid 19, we would appear to be at a crunch time once more. We’ve had about eight weeks or so of time out for good behaviour, but the virus didn’t get the message that we’d all really like to move on with our lives, so house arrest looms once more.
Back in March, the official lockdown came as something of a relief to me. Spooked by those awful images of older people in Italy who had succumbed to the virus, I decided that I’d do all in my power to avoid the disease. If that meant avoiding contact with others, including my family, then so be it. I would readily, if not happily, comply. This time around feels different for many reasons, but the overwhelming sense of taking personal responsibility for my fate remains the same.
I do not want to get Covid 19. Period. A mask may offer some protection and I’ll keep washing my hands like some latter-day Lady Macbeth, but I know in my heart of hearts that the best way to avoid infection is to avoid contact with other people.
I wonder how you are all feeling right now? Worried, anxious, vulnerable, unhappy, angry, resigned, philosophical, sanguine or maybe just fed up? My mood passes through all of those states most days! As I write this, I’m waiting for the results of a Covid 19 test that my daughter has paid to have done (none available otherwise for at least a week). She and her family have all developed sore throats and slight coughs. I spent Sunday afternoon at their house to celebrate my grandsons’ birthdays (they were born two years and one day apart) and if they do all have Covid 19 then I may well have been infected. So at the moment I am anxious and will be mightily relieved if it turns out that it’s nothing more sinister than the common cold. However, this episode has underlined that however delicious the company and the chocolate birthday cake was, it wasn’t worth the risk to my health and possibly my life.
Last time v. This Time: Reasons to be Cheerful.
1. We know a lot more than we did in March
On every level there is more knowledge and knowledge is always power. Scientifically, medically, epidemiologically this virus is no longer such a mystery. Some medicines are known to be effective under certain circumstances. Vaccines are being developed apace and nine are currently undergoing very extensive clinical trials. As soon as a viable vaccine becomes available, possibly by the end of this year, our vulnerability to widespread infection will end.
2. We know that the NHS can cope.
In March ‘Save the NHS’ was one of the most powerful motivators for us all to stay at home. We love our NHS and there is almost universal admiration for the medical staff who work within it. The NHS showed itself to be resilient and able to flex. This time there is much less fear that our healthcare system will be overwhelmed and that people will therefore be left without the appropriate treatment.
3. We have become accustomed to the weirdness
First time around we needed to make huge mental adjustments to cope with the uncertainty, fear and sudden feelings of vulnerability that were engendered by lockdown - especially for all of us who are over 70. To a large extent we have accommodated those changes now, so the restrictions, whilst very unwelcome, are no longer unusual.
4. This Too Shall Pass
At the beginning of the pandemic, the Chief Medical Officer was reluctant to spell out that we were in this for the long haul. They were worried that if people knew it would be months not weeks then compliance would be low - so they gave us short term goals which inevitably needed to be extended. This time we know that our lives will be impacted for another few months but the end is much more in sight than it was back in March, so, as with everything in life, ‘this too shall pass.’
Learning the Lessons From Last Time
I am wondering if approaching winter will make social isolation harder than in March when the days were lengthening and we then experienced several weeks of truly glorious weather. There is something about bright light and warm sunshine which powerfully enhances mood. Does that inevitably mean that shorter days and colder weather will lead to depression and despair? I’m not sure that it does. If it’s cold and dark, then hunkering down at home with a good book or box set becomes much more attractive. The Scandinavians, who know a thing or two about long periods of cold and dark, have a word for what we all need to do. They call it ‘Hygge’ and it is defined thus: This is a Danish and Norwegisn word (and I quote) ‘for a mood of cosiness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment.’ It involves warm clothes (shawls, bed socks, swaddling) and lots of candles to create an ambience of shelter from the hostile environment beyond your door. So a state of ‘Hygge’ is going to be my new normal for the coming months.
My Survival Strategies
1. Stop watching the news
It just doesn’t help my blood pressure to watch all the latest prognostications. I prefer to listen to programmes like ‘More or Less’ on BBC Radio 4 which gives factual data and information, and I also like to listen to a number of podcasts which offer various interesting perspectives.
2. Plan and structure my time.
Get up at the same time, shower, dress in something nice and apply my makeup and then plan my day to give me a sense of purpose and satisfaction. My mood starts to plummet if I am still in my PJs at lunchtime!
3. Feed my curiosity
My best solution last time was to be transported to other places and cultures via film. I went to Iceland twice, Saudi Arabia, Columbia, South Korea and also watched about five French films. There were some good British films too - the latest being ‘The Hope Gap’ with Bill Nighy and Annette Benning. I am also currently in the middle of series one of ‘Le Bureau’ (Amazon Prime) - four more series to go of this enthralling French secret service yarn. And then there’s the Booker shortlist to tackle.
4. Mens Sana in Corpore Sano
My weekly exercise target is five sessions of thirty minutes each on my beautiful little pink exercise bike. I really push myself so that it feels challenging and I feel brilliant afterwards. My bike is the pink Opti and it cost about £80. Worth its weight in gold, especially when you can’t get out.
5. Social contact
If two households are stopped from meeting it will be back to Zoom, emails and telephone calls. But we know that is just about ok whilst being a poor substitute for the real thing (a big hug from a grandchild). I’m going to keep telling myself that it’s not forever, grit my teeth and get on with it. Any contact, however virtual, is better than nothing.
6. Positive thinking and optimism
Daily gratitude lists, the odd treat from a special box of pamper products, being kinder to myself. Living alone I have to become my own best friend at times like these. So no ruminating on the past, no beating myself up and no sentences starting with ‘I wish’ or ‘If only’.
7. Go out for a daily walk
A walk in the wind and rain is a different kettle of fish to a stroll in balmy sunshine but it’s still vital for health and well being (and Vitamin D). So I am promising myself now that I won’t hole up indoors for days at a time if the weather turns foul. Note to self: buy a warm hat!
8. Super Troopers for fun and support
Tricia’s Super Troopers has developed into such an amazingly kind and supportive group. I feel as though it’s now peopled by old friends who are there for me whenever I need them. Thank goodness that throughout the coming months I can hop onto FB and find love, laughter and inspiration to lift my morale and keep me going.
I end with the good news that Anna’s Covid test was negative, so no need for me to be concerned with her health, nor to be scared every time I cough. The bad news is that the government has confirmed some new restrictions and these may be tightened further if we don’t behave ourselves. So, here we go again. Back to semi-lockdown but with a greater understanding both of the virus and the strategies needed to endure its impact on our lives, and also with the added bonus of weeks of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ to keep our peckers well and truly up!
*I am delighted to tell you that Janet Ellis will be my guest on Tuesday afternoon, 29th September at 4pm in a live Zoom call. Do join us for what I hope will be a lively and enjoyable discussion. Sign up here: https://bit.ly/3mGRsxy to register free for the session. Tricia x
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