Wellbeing Matters: hitting the brick wall

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In our weekly slot where we chat about mental health and wellbeing, a few words on the ongoing struggles of being in lockdown.

Hello and welcome to Wellbeing Matters, our weekly spot to chat about stuff that is bothering us, and also acknowledge anything that’s making our world a little brighter.

Right now, we’re all aware that very little is normal. Indeed, normal seems to belong to the last decade. The 20s have yet to roar with anything other than pandemic, pestilence and lost voices. And while lockdown is for the collective good, there are signs that it is also fraying our collective mental health.

I’m generally a glass half full person, but this past week has seen me petulant, in a foul temper and pacing the boundaries of my back yard with an ill will. That high brick wall out there represents the limits of my world right now. Beyond it I hear signs of life, of other people moving behind their own boundaries, locked into their own microworlds of frustration and limitation.

I started the year with a cheery outlook, with a call in this column to fill jars of joy as a resource for times of hardship. Passing appraisals, writing a story, getting out for a walk – all positives to pop in the jar.

Right now, I’d happily channel my dyspepsia into taking my pink joy jar and smashing it with a big mallet. I’ve gone beyond jar half empty, to jar cracked and leaking grump. I’m thinking of the scenes in Netflix’ Sex Education where the kids go to the junk yard and let rip with a baseball bat to smash their frustrations out on the local dump.

I’m not advocating that we take a baseball bat to our environment right now. But neither am I going to pretend that everything is rosy in the yard right now. It isn’t. And listening to the flutterings of conversation across the backwalls, we’re all hitting a level of cabin fever.

Instead, I’m trying to work out what I can do to channel this destructive emotion inside to good use, without resorting to means that will make it worse. Alcohol, sugar, excessive online dress buying – yep, they give short term relief, but also a next day hangover which amplifies the negative. And with it, the crawling sense of fear that I’ve had since March.

I’m trying to keep structure to the days, plan time in a constructive manner. A friend sent me a gratitude journal that I’ve not used. I’ve unwrapped it, peeked inside. Wondered where I’d find three positive things a day to add to its pages. Hid it in a drawer.

I’m pulling it out the drawer. Looking around me to find the good stuff. An endless supply of books, streaming services on tap. The biscuit delivery turning up. A bit superficial, perhaps? There are the other positives, the ones I’m frightened to say out loud in case I jinx them. My husband and dog, putting up with my spectacular grumpiness with good humour and tactful withdrawal from the room when necessary. Our relative security and comfort in a very uncertain world.

I guess, this week I’m saying it’s OK to be scared. To be fearful, to acknowledge anger. That life right now can be overwhelming, and finding the positive is hard. We all need to find our own way through it, and what works for me won’t work for everyone.

Let’s cut ourselves a bit of slack. Stop putting pressure on ourselves to live the best lockdown. Smash a few joy jars if we need to. But also, let’s acknowledge the good in our lives, and appreciate it just that little more for the comfort it gives when the future looks fearful.

Thanks, as always, for reading. Stay safe, stay well.

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