How to cope when everything has turned to shit
My inbox is a trashcan of hot garbage. My social media feeds are rivers of napalm. No doubt your inbox too is fit to bursting with “helpful” emails telling you how to work from home more efficiently, how to maximise the opportunities before you and how to not just survive lockdown, but thrive.
Delete them. They’re all bollocks.
As a comms person and occasional copywriter, I shouldn’t really trash talk my entire industry, but by god, sometimes they spaff off some absolute bullshit.
"If I listened to all the noise telling me how to survive lockdown, I’d be a puddle on the floor by now. There is so much pressure."
We’re expected to work from home, take up new hobbies, homeschool the kids, build a gym in the garage, shop for our neighbours, single-handedly keep the local economy afloat, start baking sourdough, exercise every single day, provide career guidance to the furloughed, and emotional support to the hospitalised, all whilst converting the porch into a decontamination zone and doing everything we can to prevent the spread of a virus which is taking lives at an incomprehensibly heartbreaking pace.
Amongst all this garbage, all this self-serving, virtue-signaling, thoughtless, mindless, heartless nonsense, I found a couple of pieces which have, actually, helped me (including one from a very surprising source). I wanted to share them with you, in case they’re helpful for you too.
Grieve. Get sad. Get angry. Get hopeful again.
Scott Berinato, writing for Harvard Business Review, helps by giving us a name for this weird feeling we’re all experiencing at the moment. After all, “if we can name it, perhaps we can manage it.”
The language that we’ve been using about this situation has been incredibly interesting. We talk about “testing times”, “unusual circumstances”, or “unprecedented situation”. Let’s call it what it is, a massive, devastating, global crisis.
The rug of normality has been torn from underneath us. Our social connections have been taken away from us, for many of us our jobs, our identity has gone out of the window. National economies have destabilised. Even the regularity of our bodily functions has been disrupted with toilet paper shortages. The result – grief.
Breathe. This is a marathon not a sprint.
For some people, grief doesn’t come naturally. We all know friends, family, colleagues who’s tactic for coping with this weird emotion is to buckle-up, double-down, immerse themselves in work.
Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto, Aisha Ahmad helps us by giving us permission to ignore the pressure to be productive in an article in the The Chronicle of Higher Education. She reminds us that “business as usual” is denial, delusion even.
"It is OK that you keep waking up at 3 a.m,” she writes, “It is OK that you forgot to eat lunch and cannot do a Zoom yoga class."
She talks of a journey of acceptance and resilience, both of which take time to develop, as well as a degree of selfishness.
Believe. This too will pass.
My last piece of help comes from the most unexpected of places. A mens’ lifestyle magazine. I don’t think most of what Esquire’s editor-in-chief Alex Bilmes writes is really meant for me, but his piece on how to get through coronavirus without losing your shit is funny and honest, and I at least found it helpful;
"I am going to fail at all this, clearly. I’m going to fail at it clearly, and miserably. But I’m going to take a page from Beckett: try again, fail again, fail better."
As with the other pieces, the theme here is really about expectations (though being sick in bins also seems to recur). It’s also about ignoring the pressures to overachieve. Find your ways of coping. Be kind to yourself.
I hope there’s something helpful here. To borrow again from Dr Ahmad; “Take what you need, and leave the rest”. When you’re feeling strong, stockpile kindness, and when you’re feeling weak, share that kindness with yourself. Hopefully, between us all, we will have enough spare to share with those who don’t ever feel strong.
This is a shit situation. You’re doing great.