Dealing with the ups and downs of life

I’ve been speaking to people recently, and the overwhelming feeling I get from many is that the way things are just now, with covid restrictions and worries all over, is that many people are worried, concerned and not feeling great in these times.

‘Covid is sh!t’ has become my new saying… yet, really it hasn’t impacted me all that badly.

Sure I’ve / we’ve been in lockdown down, had our movements restricted, not been able to go abroad for holidays, not been able to see loved ones or go out for our regular meals and coffees.

I usually say it out loud when the thing I want in the shop isn’t in stock… as if to announce to the shop worker that it’s not their fault, but it’s covid’s fault they sold out or stock isn’t available.

Being restricted from not seeing family and friends is probably the hardest part of it all for me, yet when restrictions eased a bit I was able to travel and visit some friends and family. The simple things in life to go see and engage with the ones who know me best and the ones I love.

What I haven’t gratefully had yet is actually covid, or if I did, I don’t know about it. It sounds like the health impacts after having covid can be hellish, and it’s something I really don’t want – and also something I’m consciously grateful to have not experienced.

We all know it affects different people differently, from no symptoms at all…. to shortness of breath, and after effects going on for 6 months, lethargy, viral symptoms which come and go repeatedly, to of course…. death.

In about 6 months there have been about 2,500 deaths in Scotland (about 500 per 1 million population)… and 42k in the UK as a whole (about 700 per 1 million population in England).

Lockdown, and last six months has been pretty sh!t, but then like anything in life, it is what you make it. And this is where I think I’ve come out ok – with my deep down characteristic of always seeing the positive when I can. Rose tinted glasses, they work for me.

I was speaking to someone the other day and she was fed up. Fed up of lockdown, fed up of the restrictions, fed up of stupid people not following the restrictions, not doing what she would do, what we have been asked to do for our safety. She was wound up and talking about it, going around in circles, berating herself and this country and the world for the situation we’ve found ourselves in.

I see it a different way – when I get upset about the restrictions or other people not following it, or sometimes when I even just get upset and I have no idea why. I recognise that we’re in such a strange and unprecedented time. Stress levels will be higher, things that were normal to do before have been taken away.

We can’t just pop out to see out friends and family, and the news seems to always about covid and deaths and more possible restrictions here, there and everywhere.

My view on other people misbehaving or not following the restrictions is as follows – people are people. If they don’t do or say as I do, then that’s up to them. It’s disappointing, particularly when so many others are following the roles.

What I do know is that I have pretty much most of the time I have followed the guidance and restrictions, followed FACTS… worn the mask, kept my distance from people, washed my hands, not travelled when travel restrictions were in place. I can’t help or stop what strangers do and there’s no point in letting it wind me up.

All I can do is set an example, or maybe talk to those I’m close to and explain what I’m doing which is inline with the guidance, if they’re not. Do what’s safe and not out others or myself I at risk.

I have a neighbour who is a retired nurse and she’s great at it all… keeping distance, not going into houses, keeping herself to herself. Whereas I have to admit, sometimes I forget, and fall into an automatic way of being before the restrictions. But mostly I remember.

How here’s how I’ve learned to deal with covid and all the other restrictions and stresses of lockdown – to do the following:

1. Recognise this is an odd time and I might feel upset or worried – accept that and know that it’s perfectly normal to feel unsettled. Recognise that you may be stressed, or upset, accept it and try to recharge.

2. Do things that you enjoy / being you joy – for me it’s – cycling, walking, running, drinking coffee, flying my kite, phoning friends and family. Sit in the garden and watch the birdies. For you it might be other things – go do them, once or twice or three times a day.

3. Stop watching the daily government briefings, but catch up in the News (or online). Prevent doom overload, but still get the key points at a set time / when I want to.

4. Do nice things for others – send a birthday card, send some flowers, help someone in their garden, reach out to others, meet them if you can or phone them up for a chat.

5. Note down what you’re grateful for in life. I bet you that the list is probably very very long.

6. Listen to music or an audiobook / podcast / radio programme to get some storytelling or perspective.

7. Write down all the pros and cons, and remember you still have the most important thing, your health. Concentrate on the positives if you can – find the good in life.

8. Remember perspective – remember there are likely many more people out there worse off than you, with health, financial or other concerns. Life may feel tough, or you might be feeling worried, but hopefully in the grand scheme of things they’re good. And remember it’s ok not to be ok – reach out and talk to someone.

9. Focus on positive action and something you haven’t been able to do out of lockdown – like a new fitness routine, or diet or way to get fitter or lose any weight you feel you need to. – or try and practice something new – like coffee art, or colouring in, painting or something you’ve always wanted to try but life got in the way. Practice practice practice and it could come good … or not, like my coffee art. 😂

10. Don’t let worry consume you – recognise it’s happening and stop and reset. Don’t over talk or over dramatise the challenges in life – instead, get a plan on how you’ll either accept them or get over them. Or try instead to think of the positive and nice things you’ll do to get some balance.

11. Recharge your batteries – this all ties into the above points. Take time out to let your body and mind recharge. Get plenty sleep and rest, fun and joy if you can.

12. Be kind to others, and treat them the way you would like to be treated. And be kind to yourself too.

Now some other things happened recently where it hit me that it’s not all just covid…

… life as we know it from before still exists. We’re all still impacted in life by things that are so upsetting and seem so unfair – cancer, dementia, other illnesses, pain, injuries.

All of the other bad things still exist, other diseases, inequities, accidents, injuries… but so do all the other good things too. Children playing and growing up, puppies and kittens, birds and bird song, kite flying, the great outdoors, medicine, colouring in, you name it – the things that give us joy.

I don’t know about you, but it seems so much easier to just get upset at the drop of a hat recently. The other day I got in the car for a m short early morning journey… before I went a run … and there was a piece on which really hit my heart strings. I went from feeling fine and ready to run, to crying uncontrollably in the car.

It all felt very odd, but it all actually made totally sense, as to where I was day to day and I opened up and talked it out with a friend and felt better.

There are a few things getting to me in my life just now… some I won’t go into, and all of them will pass.

The main one which I’m dealing with as positively as I can is my injury. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a very small thing – a hip flexor injury which is preventing me from running. It’s impacting me day to day – but it’s how I think about it which is key to how hard or easy it will be for me:

1. I need to focus on other things, more positive things that I can do to help me recover from the injury and know that I’ll be back running one day. So cycling, foam rolling, massages, rest, sleep, walking. I can get aerobic exercise and endorphins through cycling (and swimming when the pools are open). Running doesn’t need to be the be all and end all.

2. Try not to be down about not being able to run – some people aren’t able to run, or choose not to run, and they’re fine. Know that you’ll be back doing it when you’re better. It might take a month, or three or six, but you’ll get there.

3. Focus on recovery, and what you can do to fix it. Don’t be silly, do try to run before you can walk. Take rest and recovery when you need it. Manage any pain, and get medical or professional advice on how to make it better.

4. Know that there are people much worse off than you, and apart from this you’re in good health. Be grateful for your health, and try to remain positive.

5. Recognise if you’re falling into a trap of being sad about it, and talk to people about how you feel.

6. Know that you’ve been through and got through worse before… a broken leg, an injured IT band, personal challenges. This too will pass.

We all go through tough bits in life, and when we get through them, sometimes it’s those challenges and how we deal with them which make us who we are. They build our resilience and strength up so we can deal with anything else life throws at us in the future.

Whatever challenges life throws at us, they can be tough or a shock at the time, but we usually get through the bad times, just as we enjoy the good times. If we can train our brains to be more positive and not worry, and recognise when our brain is working against us with negative or worrying thoughts, then it can lead to being able to deal with the challenges better.

Finally, here’s my tips if you’re feeling a little stressed, unsettled or upset or worried:

– Recognise and accept your stress, upset and battery levels and remember to recharge them.

– Your mind is a special thing too, and how you think can make a real difference to your life and the way you see things – reframe it if you need to, to try to make it better if you can. Less catastrophising, more positive thinking and action. Less of an ordeal, more of an adventure!

– Know that this will pass, and try to think of the positives, instead of going over and over the challenges and worries.

– Go easy on yourself and do things you enjoy, that bring you joy. Fun, smiles, happiness.

– Talk to others, it’s ok not to be ok, and it’s good to get it out and see other perspectives. Be nice to others too – you never know what others are going through.

– Remember how special you and life and being able to connect with other is. Look at your children, or the things that your proud of, and smile.

Take the ups with the downs, and learn and live as you go.

And if you’re struggling and why not speak to someone – do it – why not phone a friend, or call the Samaritans on 116 123, or the charity MIND 24 HIIT helpline on 0300 123 3393.

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