I consider myself as a fairly positive person but I must admit that during these difficult times, there are moments that I struggle to keep my spirits high. While I definitely enjoyed the incredibly warm Easter Bank Holiday weekend, I can’t help thinking how much much more I’ve could have gotten out of it without the pandemic. We tried to be as creative as we could to make the holiday feel special while honouring to the lockdown restrictions of not going out besides essential grocery shopping or one daily exercise. Therefore, on Good Friday we walked all the way to Putney Heath on something we called ‘rosé walk’ – which was basically just a long walk with a couple of bottles of French rosé while keeping the distance to fellow pedestrians and enjoying the glorious weather. It might be a Finnish thing but there’s just something very soothing about the nature (and wine) and I’m very happy that you can find places within walking distance in London where you can just get lost in the forest where the only noise is the sound of leaves swirling in the wind.
We also had a virtual brunch with our friends in Finland in our building’s courtyard and on Easter Sunday I cycled all the way to Canary Wharf and back while enjoying the car-free roads and the +25°C scorching sunshine. Admittedly, summer, sports and wine (usually separately, though) do bring me happiness but there’s no point in pretending that I wouldn’t have enjoyed my Easter more with a bottomless brunch with my friends in an actual restaurant or even with a picnic in park where you are allowed to sit down for a while. Also, as much as I try to stay positive I can’t deny that it has been a bit depressing to see all the summer events you’ve been looking forward to for months being cancelled. Monaco F1 GP, The Killers concert, Polo in the Park, Royal Ascot, Henley Regatta – now all either postponed or cancelled.
However, the real problem seems to be that with these thoughts, comes also the guilt. Am I even allowed to feel sad about the crumbling of my summer plans? In the bigger picture, they all seem so trivial as we are definitely one of the lucky ones. Me and my loved ones have stayed healthy and neither me or Mimosa have to worry about our work or employment. We get to continue more or less business as usual from the safety of our own living room with steady incomes. Just last month, I even got paid not only my quarterly but also my annual bonus, and with all the plans and travels cancelled and nothing to spend money on besides food, my bank balance has never looked healthier. And at the same time, I see people risking their lives in the frontline and read about people losing their jobs and incomes so yes, I do feel guilty about complaining about my “problems”. However, pretending that I feel #blessed or #grateful 24/7 would be a plain lie.
However, during these 4 weeks of lockdown I have figured out some ways of minimizing the amount of negative thoughts and I think the most significant one is controlling the exposure to social media. Some people say that avoiding reading the news helps them to reduce anxiety regarding the pandemic but I’m definitely not one of those people – I read the news as much as I can because the more knowledge and facts I have about the current situation, somehow the more in control I feel. But what I can’t seem to control, is my blood pressure when reading people’s ignorant (or just plain stupid) comments on social media.
It’s not only the “it’s just like any seasonal flu” comments or the ridiculous conspiracy theories that get my blood boiling but it’s also the endless negativity. The last time I checked, I don’t know any virologists or pandemic experts but suddenly they now seem to fill my social media news feeds. I’m just so sick of reading people bashing the governments and how they are getting everything wrong. Newsflash – they are acting on the advice of actual virologists or pandemic experts and no matter how many articles you read or Youtube videos you watch, you’ll never match their knowledge on this topic.
Admittedly, the response to the virus was irrecoverably slow but you can’t really blame it on one single government as it is what happened all over the world. What I also often see is that people seem to only follow the media of their own countries and therefore, have no understanding about the measures taken elsewhere in the world. In addition, can you even expect the governments to get everything right as this situation is something that has never happened in our lifetime, there are no clear guidelines and people running the countries don’t have any crystal balls to look into and therefore, are only trying to make the best possible decisions for their own countries based on the most recent research. Only time will tell which countries did the best job but meanwhile, sharing your “knowledge” and criticism online isn’t making you look smart – trust me, it’s quite the opposite.
I’m not saying that you should loose all criticism and just blindly believe everything without questioning but there seem to be people that are against every action taken just on principle. I too find some of the approaches taken by leaders like Bolsanaro, Lukashenko and Trump a bit questionable at the moment but you don’t see me bombarding the social media with posts about how terrible job they are doing. And the reason for that is because my MBA didn’t include any courses on virology or controlling a pandemic and therefore, would I really be in the position to declare that I know better?
Yesterday, I took part in a wellbeing talk organised by my employer about managing anxiety. I learned that in order to fee less anxious, you should only concentrate on things you can control like your reaction, behaviour, level of interaction with others and what you choose to focus on. Out or your control is others and how they behave, and that is exactly why I have decided to hide all the people who are constantly sharing only criticism and negative posts. However, I must say that this crisis has really gotten people to show their true colours which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are people that I’ve considered fairly intelligent and sensible but are now showing astonishing amount of selfishness by proudly ignoring the social distancing guidelines and restrictions. What part of ‘stay home – save lives’ is too difficult to understand?
Finally, I’d like to share this one last piece of advise I learned from the anxiety management lesson – and this might be the most important one of all: channel your feelings of uncertainty and anxiety into kindness, love and compassion.