Advice on Staying Safe and Sane from our Community Support Officer

Community Support Officer, Debi Gregory, shares her tips on social 
distancing, isolation and adjusting to staying at home.

Many years ago i went from a strong (ish), able (ish) individual who 
could do things for myself, go where i liked when i liked, work and 
basically do all the things to a person who can't work, can't leave the 
house on my own or often even bath myself without supervision (stupid 
seizures!). Adjusting has taken me a really long time and i still get 
frustrated with myself over some things... But i'm trying to acknowledge 
when these are actually social expectations of me rather than real 
considerations. It's a work in progress; i'm a work in progress. As are 
we all, in the end.

So, based on this rather lengthy learning curve of mine, here are my 
genuine tips for getting through social distancing without worsening any 
mental health, based on over a decade of experience.

1- Stop telling yourself that socialising in person and socialising 
online are different. The only difference is the way you see it. Online, 
telephone and email friendships can be just as rewarding as the ones you 
have when you see people face to face every day.

2- Try to find a single thing each day that makes you smile. There'll be 
a lot of things to annoy you, lots of things that make you smile, some 
things that make you feel fed up and more... But try to acknowledge one 
good thing and sit with it for a minute. Don't let it go unacknowledged 
and pass you by. As my last therapist kept trying to drill into me "be a 
Sunflower. Turn your face towards the Sun."

3- Even if you can't get outside, into the garden or to a park, try to 
look out of the window at least once during the day. See if you can see 
a bird, a bee, a flower or a tree. Something that you can watch and 
remind yourself that life goes on.

4- People talk a lot about guilty pleasures and it's about time we put 
that in the past where it belongs. If you have something you enjoy, a 
book, a television series, a game, anything that makes you feel calm and 
happy, then do it and don't feel that you have to apologise for it! If 
you want to sit in a blanket fort and take a colouring book,  do it in 
your favourite PJs, a cocktail and a big "get stuffed" to anyone who 
laughs... And don't let them in to colour with you!

5- If you're feeling down and anxious, tell someone. Don't keep thoughts 
like that to yourself to fester and multiply. We are social animals and 
sharing our feelings, having others reassure that what we're feeling is 
normal or advise us to get help if those thoughts are becoming harmful 
to us, is something we benefit from greatly and forms part of the basis 
for group and social therapies.

6- There's always something to be getting on with. One of the things 
that those of us who've been isolated for a while think about a lot is 
the feeling of not achieving anything but that's because we live in a 
society that teaches us to dismiss many of the things we do on a regular 
basis that are still contributions to daily living. We all have those 
little things we do every day that we can count as wins and if we do so, 
the sense of achievement and lessened anxiety can be substantial for 
many people. Things like washing up, having an extra long bath or shower 
to relax, finishing that book you've been meaning to read for ages or 
sorting through old family photos, which you haven't had the time to do 
while you've been working long hours; these are all things that you can 
feel a sense of satisfaction from achieving. Don't let a society that 
treats us like the only achievements worth celebrating are the ones that 
make money take that away from you.

7- Doing nothing can sometimes be doing something. The Taoists have a 
concept called Wuwei (laid out here ) 
in which we turn to nature for our example that doing nothing is not 
doing nothing at all. Doing nothing is living, it's breathing, it's 
growing, it's being at peace. We are never, as living beings, doing 
nothing. Remind yourself, no matter how unproductive you've felt in a 
day, that you haven't done nothing and that non-doing can sometimes be 
exactly the thing we need to be doing!

8- Don't get lost in other people's views and thoughts. The media, 
random people on social media, the news, whatever... They're not you and 
they don't know you. Articles like "people who stay indoors live shorter 
lives" (can't remember where i saw that one) may be discussing 
scientific studies but they're almost guaranteed to be paraphrasing to 
the point of almost lying completely and it's irrelevant right now 
anyway! Shut out anything source that makes you feel panicked, confused 
or anything that isn't calm and happy. This may seem like i'm asking you 
to shut out anyone disagrees with you or tries to give you possibly 
upsetting but vital information but i'm not. Let's use a bit of common 
sense. These tips are all based on a "within reasons" basis. We all know 
that we listen to unreliable sources, friends of friends and people we 
generally don't agree with more than is good for us. Cut that out. You 
deserve better than that and you get to choose the people you have in 
your life. You're under any obligation to deal with people who are 
crappy to you on a regular basis.

So, these are the tips, off the top of my head. I've been working with 
my very hard working team of community support officers to produce a 
larger quantity of our online resources, which should start going out 
after our Online Equinox Moot this Sunday ( ) and we hope you'll 
feel empowered to join us!

Stay safe out (or in!) there folks.
Remember that we're here for you all and check out our page for updates 
on our online resources!