Keeping well

Many years ago, when big daughter was not much more than a toddler and small daughter hadn’t even been thought of, we were in Canada on holiday with my brother.  We were staying with relatives at either end of a three week holiday and travelling around in between – or at least, that was the plan until the Twin Towers in New York crashed to the ground.

Planes were grounded, people were frightened, nobody knew what was going on.  The whole world ground to a halt.  We headed straight back to my aunt and uncle’s house – we couldn’t have got home to England even if we had wanted to – and stayed there for the next week.  During that time, we read all the newspapers and watched TV reports on endless loops.  We cried as we read about families torn apart, or still searching for loved ones, never knowing what had happened to them.  We hoped desperately for an answer to it all and for life to go back to normal, but in that week there was no answer, just speculation.

It wasn’t until we spotted big daughter, who really was very small back then, using sponges and shampoo bottles in her evening bath to re-enact aeroplanes flying into skyscrapers that we realised that it had to stop.  No child needs to be playing those games.  And co-incidentally, there was an article in that day’s paper from a psychologist imploring people to stop reading all the papers and watching all the TV reports.  They were just emotion, and not facts – because nobody had any – and very addictive because people felt they should be keeping up with what was going on.  Real stories, indeed, but not ones that were helping anybody to understand what was happening – and actually making things worse in some cases as people thought of and read nothing else.  There was, the psychologist claimed, a real risk of PTSD being caused by absorbing too much traumatic information.

I’ve been thinking about that experience a lot over the last few weeks as the Coronavirus pandemic has unfolded across the world.  Not for one minute am I suggesting that it’s not real, not scary or that it doesn’t have the potential to involve far more people than those poor souls caught up in the terrorist attack, but I am worried about how it is affecting us.  It’s the not knowing, the waiting, the worrying about what might happen.  As much as we need to look after our physical health, we need to look after our mental health.

There is so much more information available than there was back in 2001.  There’s the internet, for a start, which means that at any second of any day, we can get information at the touch of our fingers.  That in turn means that news channels are no longer reporting the news because the internet has transmitted it before the scheduled news programme, so the news channels focus on “the human side” of it all – Q&A slots, latest figures on the number of cases (but what about those who are getting better, are those people being removed from the total?), outside broadcasts from hospital car parks, Skype calls with overseas doctors … all of it valid and useful, but it never stops.

This isn’t my usual kind of blog post, I realise, but it’s something that I feel passionately about.  Don’t stop washing your hands, coughing into your elbow or avoiding touching your face (ha!  I don’t think I’ve ever touched my face as much as now when I’ve been told not to do it! 😀), but along with contingency plans for food or for work in the case of having to self-isolate, think about what you can do to keep your mental health well.  In fact, why wait until self-isolation is imposed – it’s OK to start doing these things now!

💡  Think about whether you need to be checking the news channels or social media every few minutes for the latest update.  The latest UK Government guidance is here, the NHS guidance is here and the World Health Organisation guidance is here.  FutureLearn, the online learning organisation run by The Open University and The SEEK Group, is offering a course on Coronavirus by The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team which you can find here if that kind of thing would help you.  There’s legitimate information around without resorting to consultations with Dr Google who is not always to be trusted!

💡  Is there anything you can do to help someone else?  Too much time worrying about ourselves can make us lose perspective but thinking about what someone else might need is very good for reminding us that we’re not alone and at the mercy of our thoughts.

💡  There’s nothing like enforced isolation to rob you of the ability to find something positive to do, so think about it now.  Make a list if you want to – and try to find things that are positive.  If nothing else, doing something like this can help to focus an anxious mind and make us feel that we have some control.

💡  If box sets are your thing, try to avoid the ones with apocalyptic storylines (my husband’s favourite but even he is avoiding them at the moment).  Read books that will make you feel good.  Sit outside in the sunshine (being outside even in self-isolation is fine as long as you avoid other people).  Work on a project or craft that you love.  Learn a new one (I know someone who can help you to knit socks 😉 ).  Sow seeds for the summer.  At the moment, in the UK, we are not restricted unless we have had medical advice to stay away from others, so stock up on wellbeing essentials instead of worrying about toilet roll.

If you’ve got ideas for keeping mentally well during this period that you’d like to share, do add them to the comments.  This virus will pass.  Even if you do get it, it doesn’t mean that you will be any more poorly than you would have been with a bout of Winter flu, but please make sure that there are no lasting scars left in your head.  We may not have any control over these germs, but we do have some control over how we keep our minds well during it all.

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40 Responses

  1. welly says:

    I couldn't agree more Christine, thank you for your considered and sensible words. While I will be working remotely from next week for the foreseeable future I will not be stock piling food. I figure if its tinned tomatoes and custard for tea then that's what it is.

  2. Heidijo says:

    This was a very interesting read, a voice of reason and common sense, I am not a worrier and definitely not germaphobe but am taking the advice on board about handwashing

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Yes! I needed to see a post like this. My mental health doesn't need to be bombarded with information 24/7. So I'll relax, take my vitamins and be creative. My latest sock is a lace pattern so that helps my concentration!

  4. happy hooker says:

    Sensible words, Christine. Panicking and getting our knickers in a twist isn't going to help anyone. If (and probably when) I get it, I plan to use the enforced isolation to read some of those books I never seem to get round to, garden (if weather and health permits) and of course, knit and crochet. I might even get through some of my yarn stash! xx

  5. Amanda Hamilton says:

    Thank you for these wise words Christine. I am sure we will all carry on with knitting and the positive impact it has on our well being. It's good to relect how our behaviour impacts others and I hope we will all look out for each other.

  6. Em says:

    Well said

  7. Snickers says:

    Christine, thank you for this. Common sense never goes out of style. Love your blog.

  8. WeeRaeHooks says:

    Thank you Christine. You are so right as always.
    A wee plan is my saviour since hard times 40 yrs ago.
    No 1 on my list is to sit outside to drink my afternoon coffee.
    Take care. Cc

  9. WeeRaeHooks says:

    Thank you Christine. Wise words as always.
    I need a wee plan to help me through life.
    My plan no 1 is to have my afternoon coffee out of doors
    Take carex

  10. Sonia Christie says:

    Bloody brilliantly blog. I’m posting it everywhere!

  11. Miriam says:

    Thank you for these wise words, here in the Netherlands it's the same. Take care!

  12. michelle says:

    thanks Christine it is thought provoking

  13. Leigh says:

    Wise words. I’m getting fed up of the speculation and the not knowing what is going to happen next, whether I’ll find any toilet roll when I get to the supermarket.
    I’m kind of not knitting as much at the moment (not because of Covid) but i have been really enjoying colouring. I just sit and add pencil to paper and it’s quite relaxing.

  14. Deno says:

    Absolutely! I've been thinking along the same lines all week. Thank you for this post!
    It's the little things we need to relish and enjoy. Take care everyone and Stay Well! 😊

  15. Cath Evans says:

    What a great post – thank you Christine. I couldn’t agree more – we need to take care of ourselves and others whenever and however we can xx

  16. Avie says:

    Thanks for your common sense approach Christine. Hope you and your precious family stay well. We can’t have our Winwick ‘guiding light’ out of action. Thanks too for the tips and the links to the health sites. xx

  17. Sue Walker says:

    What a breath of fresh air you are, Christine! That was a welcome read in the midst of all this madness – let's take it seriously but not catastrophise about it, thank you for the voice of reason x

  18. kaety says:

    Here here, especially those who may end up caring for others, self care is very important! 🙂

  19. Anonymous says:

    A excellent post and so valid. Count your blessing. Breathe as your previous post recommends, function and remember where the off button is. I f you are well and happy it is infectious and that we do want to spread.

  20. joolz says:

    Thank you, I was beginning to get caught up in the hype and felt slightly unsettled. Reading this has reminded me to keep some perspective.

  21. loraine everard says:

    Thank you, Christine. Wise words of reason in among all the speculation. I so enjoy all your posts, witty and informed!

  22. Susan Rayner says:

    Well said and brilliantly put! Thank you Christine! Keep well and continue to inspire us!

  23. Unknown says:

    You should be in government Christine, you speak more sense than any person of officialdom 😘

    • Denise F says:

      I'd be happy to have Christine in government here in Australia, too…maybe we need to share her?

  24. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Christine. A very useful post
    Greetings from France

  25. beatrice says:

    Thank you for your wise words. This is as well written as your sock patterns.

  26. Julie D. says:

    Well done! I’m taking your wise words to heart.
    Self-Quarantined in Seattle (ha! At least I’m not Sleepless!)

  27. rusty says:

    Totally agree, I am planning on learning sign language as am deaf in one ear, along with continuing to sew, but my priority is TO LEARN TO KNIT SOCKS grr I have tried and still cannot achieve this yet. Hope you can help.

  28. Unknown says:

    Hear, hear! I think I need your Winter Haven re-introducing in my life. Can someone come up with a catchy name as it's now Spring?

  29. _bloominglovely_ says:

    Thanks. It's difficult to see the bright side when I've been teaching remotely for 6 weeks ( only 3 more to go) and have now had to cancel my Easter holiday. However I will be spending time focusing on the good things in life. Sharing a meal with my husband, trying to develop some embroidery skills and of course knitting socks. Thank you for your common sense and balance. It was very welcome today.

  30. Beverly says:

    Lovely post. I am here in the US and people are going crazy in the stores stockpiling things they may never need. Hubby and I have always been careful to have extra just in case but never like folks are doing now. You chose your words wisely and I appreciate it.

  31. Roz says:

    Well put Christine.

  32. Corinne says:

    Thank you Christine for a voice of reason amongst all the madness!
    I already wash my hands a lot, because I'm the main carer for my Dad, who has long term serious health problems, but I'll take extra care, just in case…..
    I refuse to empty the shelves in the supermarket, but I already have enough food in if either my husband or I were to need to self isolate. All in all, just as my word for this year is 'calm', this is all we can do, and as you say, take care of our mental health too. Keep well everyone!

  33. Carol Fieldhouse says:

    Christine- thank you and thank you too for the sensible and encouraging responses from you readers- well done everyone!!!!

  34. Rambler says:

    Thanks for this post. My contribution is something I read a while ago and has been a real help. "You spend a lot of time inside your head, make sure it's a nice place to be." Since reading that I've been spending time spring cleaning my head, sweeping out all the nasty thoughts that lurk in corners and putting fresh flowers there instead. Music, walking and knitting are my cleaning tools. ��

  35. Carrie says:

    Well said, Christine. A very useful reminder to look after our mental health. I work in a community hospital, and the anxiety levels are so huge, it's dou g so far more harm than the virus itself. And as we all know that's not going to do anyone any good. Bless you for your wise words x

  36. Alison Hillman says:

    Wise words Christine, thank you

  37. Josephine says:

    Beautifully said, Christine. My husband and I are self-quarantined, but I have books to read, and bins of yarn (including 2 pair of socks' worth of yummy Winwick Mum WYS yarn that’s been patiently waiting for me), 484 granny squares to join into a blanket and do a border for, and, if I’m totally at a loss for something to do, a basement to clean. Our state's Governor pointed out the obvious: this is not forever. But it is necessary for now. So I’m grateful that we buy toilet paper by the case (no shortages!), and I’m moving along, day by day.

  38. Elliementalist says:

    Such an excellent post! I really really needed to hear this.

  39. Unknown says:

    Great post, Christine. I didn't experience Lockerbie directly but I remember my parents noticing my games with my toys and saying something very similar.

    Luckily, as soon as I take up the in my haknitting needlesnds, the outside world slips away. I'm trying to support wool sellers and others for as long as they can sell me stuff. We need to keep people going in other ways.

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