Doing things differently now
It’s an unfamiliar place and time we live in now. Probably very few of us have a plan or script for how we cope with this situation and the potential future. I’m sure most of us have found it unsettling to stop doing the things we take for granted in our lives. These may be the chores that we’re not so keen on – grocery shopping, paying bills or the activities we enjoy – films, live entertainment, eating out, exercising, socialising. For the former, we still have to do them but find different ways of doing them and the same is true of the latter. Online platforms are available but acoustics and connectivity may be a challenge.
There is lots and lots of advice whirling around on how to manage, how to look after ourselves and keep healthy – physically and psychologically. Some of it is more helpful than others and some is misguided or wrong. The information overload can be rather overwhelming.
For us as psychological professionals, there may be other influences too. For some of us, there may be pressure to support other services in a non-psychological professional role which is likely to be a challenge. This is despite national guidance emphasising the importance of our services (https://www.ppn.nhs.uk/resources/ppn-publications/31-guidance-for-psychological-professionals-during-covid-19/file). For others, there is the challenge of supporting our service users/patients/carers in the current environment and this may limit how much active therapeutic work we can undertake. Online therapy does not work for all either practically or emotionally – taking the work into someone’s home does not always work for them. Some of us may be supporting our fellow colleagues with their challenges and anxieties. Our role is often as a container for the distress of others as well as supporting them to work towards positive change. This can take its toll on us but the importance of support and supervision is recognised and valued by us.
In this context though, it may be more challenging as the uncertainty is likely to continue over months and there will be ongoing changes in our lives – both personally and professionally. Some of us may experience loss over this time too. Uncertainty makes it harder to make plans, continue our daily routines, or come to terms with what has changed in our lives. This is alongside continuing with the requirements of our emotionally demanding roles. Some of us may be ill during this time and need to recover. Some of us may need to look after others.
So how do we get the head space to do this? Just looking at my last paragraph, I feel a bit overwhelmed just thinking about it. That’s without thinking about responsibilities to and for others – whether personally or professionally. And the emails, WhatsApp chats, Twitter etc that keep rolling in and piling up… There’s more people around at home for some of us so it’s less easy to get quiet space.
Having that moment of quietness and space seems more important than ever to help us pause and make time to reconnect with ourselves. It’s a balancing act – too much can lead us into unhelpful thinking (unless you’re practiced at mindfulness) but too little is not enough to create that stillness. I think it’s important that we can find this space as current circumstances are unlikely to change rapidly. There will be continued and increased demand for what we can offer as psychological professionals but it’s important to recognise that this has an impact on all of us too. I hope you can all find your own spaces to help yourselves.