Media Blackout.

During the COVID lockdown, I naturally found myself looking less and less at social and mainstream media.  This was in the 4th week of lockdown, in Mid April 2020 when the weather was good and the sun was out.

  • I was juggling parenting at home with no access to my normal places to escape to with friends or my parent tribe 2.5 days a week.
  • Working at home with my tiny human 1.5 days a week and going into work as normal 1 day a week.

I felt filled up with ‘stuff’ and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.  I knew there were key changes to my life, some good and some bad.  Having no childcare meant working from home was incredibly challenging, however when I was going into work, reduced travel stress and less people being around meant that things could be worse.  I knew that I was not being as active as normal because I was inside much more and my normal walk to see patients at work was zero.  My gym routine had significantly changed, my daily amble around on a non working day stopped.

I had become aware and annoyed by the constant stream of politicians arguing and the same questions being asked repeatedly.  My social media feeds became somewhat a vision of people competing to achieve  goals that they wouldn’t normally.  I was seeing lots of positive, helping and voluntary good doings and also the contrary ‘reality’ of working frontline COVID with patients in a hospital.  I felt overwhelmed by the constant media shouting.

So what did I do?

I didn’t have a melt down about it, ‘I CANT DO THIS ANYMORE’ type situation.  So, I stopped looking at instagram, Facebook, the news and tried to find the right balance that informed me of what I needed to know.

As I am a ‘give it a go’ person and if I decide I’m going to do something, most often, I do it at some point.  If you are not this type of person, it may be completely bizarre for you to change a habit or think differently.  What I would say about this approach is that you do have to have an open mind and be relatively experimental and be able to tolerate that.  Sadly for me, just ‘being positive’ doesn’t work.  I have to understand what I’m feeling and work out how to change it.

What did no media mean to me?

No media meant that I started to have feelings that maybe I was pushing away before?  I think social media and the news was a good way of me distracting my uncomfortable thoughts and feelings?

  • Feeling on my own was more intensely at times.  I actually enjoy my own company and just ‘being’ with myself, so this was unusual.
  • Time actually went as quickly as with no media
  • I felt that I was almost on holiday mode? Cut off from media/newspapers etc?
  • I didn’t miss scrolling.
  • I didn’t feel ‘on the pulse’ of what goes on in the circles I follow/engage in.
  • It wasn’t ground breakingly life changing.
  • Life felt less hectic/chaotic/dramatic.

COVID emotions.

Why is my experience relevant to anyone else?

  • Taking a break from your normal habits will allow space for different thoughts and feelings.
  • If we persistently stay in routine to avoid certain feelings and emotional states, we will never feel different states (which may be desirable to some).
  • We will never change patterns that are maybe not so functional.
  • Noticing what you don’t know can’t happen unless you change something.
  • Just because in one moment (or period of days) you feel one way, does not mean you will stay feeling that way forever.

Your emotions shift and change through the course of  day, but with something like this, a worldwide change, it is an opportunity to identify, acknowledge and accept what you are feeling.  Your emotional state may feel quite raw at the moment, mine does, with less distractions and more focus on how difficult things might feel.

My take away from this, if you can not label and move away from the emotion is that ‘This too shall pass’.  Every emotional state passes, even if it feels horrible, like there is no way out or that it is too much to bare.

Managing the difficult bits.

What helps manage these difficult emotions and intense thoughts can be wellbeing tools:

The NHS Every Mind Matters App gives you a very basic idea of what areas you may need to focus on.  Basics are important to keep your mind occupied and healthy.

The routines that I have made for myself that help me get through even the shitty days have not changed during the pandemic and I feel mostly ‘better’ for them.  They are:

  • Wake up, brush teeth, splash cold water on my face.
  • Exercise (home workout mainly during covid, but a run if I have help at home, or a walk to get essentials first thing).
  • Breakfast.
  • Get out for a walk/to the shops for essentials if I haven’t done so first thing.
  • Keep meal time routine for my 1 year old.
  • Cook healthy food – not eat take aways.  This is an ongoing battle.

The habits that are more challenging to stick to during lock down have been:

  • Finding the motivation to create activities for my 1 year old.
  • Getting nap time in some kind of structure around working from home.
  • Eating lunch at the same time.
  • Wanting to get outside when it is raining/grey.
  • Reduce media scrolling.

What you can learn through lockdown –

The first thing to do is notice the habits that you are in.  Write them down, create a timetable/diary for yourself and fill it in with your mood written on each page.  Maybe write down your mood in the morning and at night?  Maybe notice that you don’t have a routine/habit at all.

Once you have an idea of your habits, even if it is scrolling?  Watching too much news?  Try changing one habit and see what feelings come up or what you maybe have been trying to avoid?

Happy, sad, angry, shame, anxiety, hate, lonely?  Which word works for you?