Remaining resilient during the virus crisis.

9 Apr 2020

We asked Guy Roberston, author of 'The Ten Steps of Positive Ageing' if he had any tips he could share on remaining resilient during the Coronavirus. Please feel free to share this blog with the people you work with, and thanks to Guy for writing it for us.

 

None of us expected 2020 to herald in the crisis we are now all facing.  Some of us are even more at risk than others, with older people and those with ‘underlying health conditions’ being singled out for special mention.  I myself am part of this special group. It is sometimes hard during these times to maintain our nerve and our resilience.  Here are my thoughts on some of the things that you might find helpful.

 

Get the right news (and not too much of it).  The internet gives near total freedom to charlatans, snake oil salesmen, and deeply disturbed people with malicious agendas to pedal all sorts of nonsense and exaggerations. One particularly nonsensical example is the idea that the virus is being created and spread by the new mobile phone networks – despite the fact that most countries with the virus don’t have access to such technologies – nor any explanation how such a biological pathogen could be ‘created’ in this way.  So the most important thing is to make sure that you get your information from the NHS or one of the mainstream broadcast media (the BBC being the obvious front runner).

Even when you are getting the right information it is best to limit how much of it you consume.The information about the pandemic is relentless and over exposure can raise our anxieties (and blood pressure!) unnecessarily.

Strengthen your social contact.  Yes, I know that we all need to be ‘social distancing’ – but that shouldn’t stop us from maintaining, and even increasing our ‘virtual’ contact with friends and family.  And the contact doesn’t need to be through all the new fangled things like ‘Zoom’, “Houseparty’ or ‘Facetime’.  Nearly everyone has a phone and it can be just as good as any of the internet options.  The key point is to make the effort to reach out to others.  Many people are finding it a bit easier in the current situation because in special times people are more in need of, and open to, contact from others.  This is the time to contact a few of those people who have dropped off your Xmas card list recently.

Maintain your balance.  No, I don’t mean that it is important not to fall over (although it is).  I mean it is important to retain your mental balance. Even with the proper information it can be quite difficult sometimes to ‘keep things in perspective’ or to see the bigger picture.  Getting the virus is not inevitable (there are very clear instructions on how to avoid this) and even if we do get it the risk of serious illness or death is still relatively low – even for those in the high risk categories.  The highest figure I have seen (from Imperial College London) is that 13.4% of people over 80 with the virus are likely to die – for those who are 70 it drops to 8.6% and those in their 60’s 4%.  Now this in no way  suggests that this virus is not very dangerous – it is.  But even for those at highest risk over 85% are not at risk of dying.  Looking at things in this way can give us a better perspective on the risk we are facing.  Covid 19 is very dangerous, particularly to older people – but it is not an automatic death sentence.

Live through the lockdown with purpose. Having a reason to get up in the morning during these extraordinary times is vital.  Without developing some sense of direction each day, we run the risk of getting listless, bored, and even depressed and anxious.  Clearly this is not the time to develop grand plans, but it is important to stretch ourselves a little each day.  Besides all the normal chores we have to do for daily living, we can think of some of the things we have always wanted to do but not had the time.  For example, books to read, more exercises to do, knitting or drawing or singing etc.  And this is where the internet has really come into its own.  For those who are comfortable using it there is a video class or instructional programme for every imaginable interest – and so many of them are free.  Think about how you might improve some of your interests during this time.  Set some modest but achievable goals.  Think forward – think what you would like to be able to look back on at the end of this crisis as some of your achievements during it.

Appreciate and savour what you have.  Being grateful for and savouring what we have or experience in life has been proven to be one of the most effective ways of building our wellbeing and resilience. Even at very difficult times there is always something about our situation to appreciate (although we may need to look harder than at other times to find it).  It is worth slowing down during this crisis and noticing things or experiences that we like and then savouring them very consciously.  Some people find that it can be very helpful to write down three things that they feel grateful for each day.

This is all about focusing on the good and positive things in order not to be dragged down unnecessarily by all the doom and gloom.Feeling gloomy doesn’t help us or anyone else.You might want to reflect on the old saying – it’s not what happens to you in life, but how you respond to it, that determines how happy you will be.In most situations we have a choice on how we respond to what is happening to us.It is best to choose the positive responses of appreciating and savouring particular aspects of our lives

Even while we are in ‘lock down’, I hope these few observations can help you see that it is possible to throw off some of the mental shackles that the crisis can produce.  We have some choices.  Most importantly we can decide to change how we think and feel about these difficult times.

 

Guy Robertson

Positive Ageing

www.positiveageing.org.uk


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