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Quarantine Musings: Overwhelm

At the moment we are still living in unsettling times. The coronavirus pandemic has seen a huge amount of changes happening in our lives in a very short space of time. People don’t always cope well with change, especially close to home, so we have seen a lot of behaviour exhibiting panic and fear. We are also seeing anxiety, stress and confusion. The information, as it evolves, is often confrontational and concerning and the directives often contradictory. In my last blog post I talked about tackling anxiety as the pandemic unfolded. Now we find many of us in self-isolation or some form of quarantine. We have globally been encouraged to fight the spread of the virus by staying home, but whilst this evolution of circumstance has found the panic subsiding somewhat, it has come with (for many people) a side-order of overwhelm.

Where I live in rural Western Australia, restrictions have been relatively minimal compared to many other parts of the world. Our travel is restricted within regional boundaries, gathering of people have been limited, many shops and businesses are closed or operating in very different ways. School have been semi-closed, although we are at the moment in the midst of school holidays. On the whole, our days are looking very different. We are not visiting family or friends, we are not leaving the home recreationally and even my weekly grocery shop is altered by social distancing, travel restrictions and still many empty shelves. Many people are working from home that didn’t before, and with many children not at school or daycare, we are finding ourselves sharing our spaces quite intensively in ways we are not used to. There are people whose jobs have vanished overnight, there are those whose businesses no longer have business, and the financial fear is real.

We have to triage our work and home lives, manage and troubleshoot, and when we are weighing up the possibility of our choices potentially affecting our physical health as well as the health of those we love, the decision fatigue is high. And at the end of the day, it’s not just the actual virus we are making decisions about - our personal security (in relation to our finances) and our mental health is also at stake.

For many, it’s constantly overwhelming, for others, just periodically overwhelming. But I would suggest that even the most robust of personalities have found some challenges amongst the rapidly changing world. So I’m just putting it out there… a little reminder to practice self-care and make sure that like with an emergency on a plane, you put on your metaphorical oxygen mask first so you can not only help yourself, but others as well.

As many of my own tips and life observations come from my position of minimalism and simple living, I can only speak from what I have found to benefit me and I hope that in writing them here I will largely serve to remind myself…

Keep things clean and clutter free.

With a full house, you are unlikely to achieve a pristine dream, but keeping chaos controlled physically (at least to a certain extent) can really help mentally. Everyone who is not a tiny baby can be encouraged to clean up after themselves or help those who can’t (my dog is always leaving toys out) and at least keep things to a dull roar. I try an do a regular “whip-around” clean up to keep the clear spaces in my vision I need to keep me from feeling overwhelmed by piling up tasks.

Try not to be plagued by your productivity goals.

Things are a bit crazy at the moment. Whilst Gwenyth Paltrow may be telling people they should use this down time to learn a language or a dozen social media posts seems to be showing people baking up a storm or doing fancy craft projects with their toddlers, don’t worry about comparing. In fact, if this sort of thing overwhelms you, get off social media or TV. Do something else. Really. Anything else.

If you have time to enjoy a hobby or pastime you value, do it. If all you can manage is keeping your household functioning, do that.

Try not to disappear into electronics - gaming, TV or the inter webs for too long. Pastimes grounded in reality are just that, more grounded. This can act more effectively as exercises in mindfullness, which reduces stress.

Set firm boundaries and expectations if working from home.

If you are finding your work from home (paid work or otherwise) very demanding, make sure you have firm boundaries and expectations set with both your employer, clients and those who share your home. Take some time to strategise and organise your way to the most effective workspace you can under these trying circumstances. There's a link to some great tips from Forbes here.

Prepare to be adaptable.

Things are changing fast. Just like a virus, the whole response to the health crisis is evolving, as are people’s jobs, kids schooling, our personal restrictions and limitations, even the shopping situation. You simply aren’t going to be able to foresee everything that will happen next. Don’t try to fight it and you will probably be more relaxed. It may not be the way you prefer to do things, but you will have to be prepared to go with the flow at least to a certain extent.

Be gentle with others.

In the current climate, particularly if you are sharing your spaces in close proximity with others in ways you aren’t entirely used to, emotions are probably going to be running a little high. All of us can be quick to react, and likely to me more emotive. Children in particular can often act more impulsively and emotionally under stress - and even if they aren’t picking up on extra household tension, change itself can be stressful. Bear this in mind when judging your own behaviour and that of others. Maybe “what get said in quarantine should stay in quarantine” to a certain extent. Although this obviously doesn’t apply to genuinely abusive behaviour which is NEVER acceptable. For info regarding family and domestic violence in WA, click here.

Most of all, remember to give yourself some breathing space if you are feeling overwhelmed.

You do not have to have massive demands on your time to be feeling overwhelmed. Situations like this can take up a huge amount of mental bandwidth.

Keep your body moving.

Get some fresh air and sunshine.

Literally stop and smell the roses (or any other mindfulness exercises).

Drink water.

Dress warm or cold as needed.

Eat healthy food to fuel your body properly.

Take slow, deep breaths.

And remember, that as with everything else:

This too, shall pass.

Here are a few resources that may assist:

Ten Percent Happier is a site that promotes meditation and it’s benefits with a special focus on “fidgety skeptics” has produced a free Coronavirus Sanity guide including meditations, podcasts, blog posts, and talks:

Some thoughts on effectively working from home:

Some nature-based ideas for occupying younger kids at home:

Some ways for young people/teens to manage better:

I listen to the honest, lighthearted, but very useful chit chat regarding the decluttering of your home from Kirsty and Amy at "The Art of Decluttering" all the time, but have enjoyed the mini, daily "Iso" podcasts they have been doing recently. Check them out here:


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