The inevitable happened week before last - I test positive for Coronavirus. My husband had it a week or so before, so I imagine I got it from him. So, something I have been stressing about, for well over a year and a half, finally happened. Thankfully, because of the vaccine, it didn’t hit us too hard - a mild head cold for 5 days or so. But it really got me thinking.
My husband and I both having Covid - whilst my son was at school, then on half term, when we’re both working full time - has been something I’ve been so anxious about since the first lockdown (which was a bloody nightmare, as most working parents will testify). It’s something that has kept me up at night for a long time. Will my 5 year old start weeing on the floor again? Will clients be annoyed that I have to postpone sessions? How will I feel being around my son all the time? How will my husband and I manage without childcare? I don’t think I’m a natural, duck-to-water type parent, nor do I think I handle a restriction on my independence and freedom very well. So, yes, lots of anxiety was arising around something that, ultimately, I had absolutely no control over whatsoever.
Over the course of managing the various periods of isolation, and being ill for a week or so, I learnt quite a few important life lessons, so I thought I’d share these. Of course, I’m well aware that Covid has been hugely destructive and fatal for some, so I do hope this post doesn't come across as flippant or trivialising of the current situation. I just thought it might help others to hear some of these lessons, which relate to life as a whole, and how we handle life's curve balls.
1. People are more understanding than we give them credit for.
I was getting so worried about having to postpone sessions with clients because we had no childcare (due to having to isolate, and it being half term). Of course, every client was incredibly understanding, and it mattered very little in the grand scheme of things. The capacity for empathy in others is often underrated. The more we remember this, the easier life can be when we need to make tough decisions.
2. The only certainty in life is uncertainty.
There is very little in life that we can actually control. I struggle with this concept every day - it’s incredibly uncomfortable for humans to live in such an unpredictable and uncertain environment. It wreaks havoc on our nervous system, increasing the levels of adrenaline and cortisol to unhelpful levels. However, I do think that, if we can learn to accept this concept, and try to let go of our desperate need to control things, we’d experience far less stress and tension in our lives. What will be, will be, I guess. All we can really do is try our best to manage our response to change, and life’s curve balls, focusing on solving one problem at a time. If you've learnt how to master this, do let me know!
3. We are stronger and more resilient than we think.
I kept saying to myself, “I won’t be able to cope if X happens.” Turns out I can, and I did. Yes, it felt incredibly uncomfortable, and there were tears along the way, but, what does coping really look like anyway? To me, 'coping' doesn't mean you have to be all smiles and laughs. Coping just means continuing to get up everyday. Survival mode, if you like. I guess the real lesson was that it’s OK to experience negative emotions and feelings. We can still get up each day, muddle through, and come out the other end…bruised and battered maybe, but out the other end nonetheless. And that’s the other thing to remember - most of these difficult periods are temporary. What we, as humans, can get through is quite something.
4. That thing you fear the most might not be as terrible as you think.
You can spend years trying to avoid a situation or feeling, and then it happens, and you realise that it was no where near as bad as you imagined. For me, this includes my experience of having Covid, which I put down to my general good health and the vaccine. I appreciate, for some, this will be and has most definitely not been the case, so I do not wish to diminish the threat to some that Covid poses. However, the whole experience - having it, having to isolate, feel the need to still work but with no childcare - was something I’d been dreading for a long long time. In the end, we managed. And, then, of course, I kick myself for wasting so much energy and time worrying about it happening, because, yet again, the thing I’ve been most anxious about did eventually happen, and it wasn’t anywhere near as terrible as I thought it would be. You’d think we’d learn over time that worrying is futile, but it’s a hard task, mainly because it’s a default mechanism designed to protect us from harm.
5. Nothing is as 'black and white' as we’d like.
Throughout this pandemic, one thing I’ve seen us all struggle with is the complete lack of black and white, clear-cut, logical thinking that applies to everything we’ve experienced, and continue to experience, in relation to Covid.
For example, I had Covid, but my son didn’t, so he could still go to school. My husband had Covid, I didn’t, so I didn’t need to self-isolate. We can travel to some countries, but not others. You’re asked to wear a mask in one shop, but not the other. We’ve been encouraged to avoid Covid for over a 1.5 years, but now we’re expected to sort of begin to live with it.
Our brains like labels, they like black and white, they like rules that make sense in all scenarios. Our brains want to put things in boxes. It helps create shortcuts in the brain so we use less energy (hence why we tend to stereotype and hold biases, etc). It’s been quite amusing observing my brain trying to make sense of all the seemingly contradictory rules and guidelines we come across at the moment. No wonder we’re all so exhausted - our brains are utterly confused, desperately trying to make some logical sense out of what’s going on, and there just isn't any.
But, I think that’s the learning here - that absolutely nothing in life makes complete, 100% sense. Perhaps this links back to point 2 above - that nothing in life is predictable or certain. Nothing is straightforward or simple; nothing is black and white. The sooner we can accept this notion - the ‘grey’ in life, the nuances of everything - the less stressful life would probably be.
Perhaps, in time, our brains will evolve to accommodate all of the above factors, but, for now, we can only try to remind ourselves of these valid points, as we continue to navigate the world as it stands today.
Editorial Assistant (previously an EA)
I first contacted Alice at a time when I was feeling very low about my work and desperate to make a change. Alice listened closely to my needs and tailored our sessions to the specific challenges I was facing. She was quick to follow up after our sessions, to reflect on what I’d said, and to give me further exercises which would help with my development. Alice really helped me to build my confidence to think logically through potential risks of leaving a job and of moving into a new sector, which I did and where I have just started my first job. I have recommended Alice to many friends and friends of friends who I hope will benefit from her coaching as much as I have.