COVID-19 has flipped our world upside down. All of us have been affected in some way - even professionals. Counsellor Julie Howard shares her perspective, reminding us that we’re not alone and that we’re all in this together
I was feeling very proud of myself as we moved forward into 2020. I felt inspired that my new business as a self-employed counsellor was growing at a fast pace; I was helping people and it felt good. This year was full of hope.
As I walked the length of our favourite beach in Wales on New Year’s Day, never in my wildest dreams did I think that in just three months, the world as we know it would change so tremendously, and in such a drastic way.
The things I took for granted are now all gone. Yet as I type this, I feel a sense of renewed hope. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and there are signs of new life around me, as buds begin to sprout in my garden.
It’s more important than ever for me to be aware of the little things, and I am really trying to feel appreciative of these. Yes, for now, my business is all but gone. And I am painfully aware that if I don’t work, I don’t earn any money.
For health and safety reasons, face-to face-counselling has had to stop and although I am offering sessions to clients online, I am aware that this is extremely difficult for many people. No longer is counselling absolutely private - there is now the added fear that someone will hear the conversations happening between client and therapist.
I have a heart condition that adds to my own worry and fear of falling ill. Financial worry is all around. I am aware that things could - and do - look very bleak. I’m not sleeping well and I have boundless nervous energy. But I’m guessing I’m far from alone with all these thoughts…
My family of four and our dog are all adjusting to being confined to our home. For now, though, we are well and I feel so grateful for that. FaceTime is a modern blessing to keep us in contact with my parents. Like everyone who has elderly relatives, I’m dropping supplies at the doorstep, waving at the two sad faces looking at me in the window, and driving away, with tears rolling down my cheeks.
For us, it’s vital that we share information. Nothing is swept under the carpet, knowing that fear of the unknown is often worse than knowing. Kids are resilient, and not feeling left out of the conversation is really important for them so that they know their feelings and opinions are valued.
The new restrictions on life are, for many, creating severe anxiety. I am not exempt to the newly added worries this situation is bringing into our lives. I am trying to live by our family mantra that has got us through so many periods of stress, “today is a good day, tomorrow is a new day.” We try not to look back or forward, but to remain focused on the here and now. Nevertheless, this is a stressful time for all of us, and it’s very easy to fall down a rabbit hole of negative thinking.
To counteract some of this negative thinking, try getting out of the house for fresh air and to move your body. Allowing yourself a good walk can be so effective in helping to release feelings of stress and uncertainty. For us, going for a walk is essential and it’s the dog’s wagging tail as he ambles along carelessly that reminds us of the little things.
News on TV is a constant reminder of the uncertainty, pain and heartache that is everywhere, so remember to switch off from time to time. Board games have always been a favourite in our house, after all, there are only so many boxsets one family can watch!
Interaction with family and friends and a support network is vital. Perspective is different for every individual, but one that we can all share is that this will not last forever. Staying in the here and now, today I feel well, my family and friends are well and I feel truly blessed. I have a roof over my head and a furry little pal that puts a smile on all of our faces. And yet, I am reminded in this situation that the dog, too, is deeply dependant on his family. He is picking up on our feelings all of the time, and he hasn’t left our sides since this all happened.
I can’t change the world. However, I can play my small part in this huge picture of life. I can stay at home. I can offer help and support from inside my home, and I can give my love to my family at home and via social media to my wider family and friends. I am so thankful that we can stay connected in this new isolating world. But am also reminding myself that it won’t always be this way. How long it lasts is up to all of us and for the majority, our position is simple. Stay at home.