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Are you OK?

I realised this weekend that I was not ok.

Perhaps I am "supposed" to be. As the Founder of this Midlife Movement I do my best every day to be measured in my responses and careful what I post. And I am, as a rule, ok most of the time.

But I am only human and the current situation, I think you will agree, is testing for us all, to say the least!

As I always do in a crisis, I "look for the helpers" as Mr Rogers would have said. And I am finding them, and posting about them and aim to do my best to help calm the anxiety and fear that is surrounding us as much as I am able.

So how do I know that I am NOT OK?

It started with feelings of irritation at small, silly things. Not being able to get the lid off a jar, losing work because I forgot to press save - that sort of thing. Then yesterday I lost my temper - very rare as I have a very slow burn - at some misinformation doing the rounds on social media. (Not at the well meaning people sharing it, but at the irresponsibility of the source).

Anger surged again when reading posts from "thought leaders" where they were asking people to post how they felt and, to a person, the responses were variously: grateful, blessed, energised... you get the idea. I get it. Fear, worry, anger, stress are "low energy" words that don't serve us well. But those emotions are human and understandable. To use a trite phrase: it's ok NOT to be ok!

Would YOU post "I'm scared" or "I feel lonely" on a thread where everyone is competing to be the most zen? Of course not! Relentless positivity like this is, in my view, toxic.

What an opportunity wasted -  to comfort, to help, to empathise for goodness sake! We don't need to add feelings of inadequacy and guilt to our very real feelings of confusion and uncertainty.

So there you are. That's how I know I'm not ok - I'm angry. A little frightened. Frustrated that the photography business I've worked so hard to build has had to be put on hold. Worried about my family, money, the economy, humanity at large. Sad that this has happened.

It's ok to NOT be ok, so long as you don't stay there for too long.

Once I realised I was not ok, I was able to take back control. I put down my phone, put on my shoes and went for a (socially distanced) walk in the sunshine. I allowed myself to have a day time nap that turned into a 2 hour crash. I meditated a little and let go - accepting that I have no control over what is happening right now, only over my reactions to it. 

I will keep an eye on myself to make sure that not being ok doesn't slide into being depressed. Here are a few things I plan to do now that we are all working from home in my household - I hope they might help you if you feel are not feeling ok today.

  1. SLEEP - I'm setting myself regular sleep and wake times. Discipline around getting enough rest is crucial to my mental health. When you're tired, everything seems worse than it is.
  2. DIET - Eating well - it's too easy to self soothe with cake and chocolate when what we really need are vegetables and freshly cooked meals with good fats
  3. FRESH AIR - Getting outside every day and being in the moment as I walk
  4. EXERCISE - rolling out my yoga mat, for some reason, feels like such a monumental effort at the moment, but I know I will be so glad I did. And dusting off the hand weights under the bed!
  5. LIMITING SOCIAL MEDIA - I can't avoid it since that's where I connect with my groups and my friends and family, but I will curb my tendency to scroll without purpose.
  6. KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY - using face to face apps like Face time and Skype to ameliorate missing them. 
  7. WATCHING MY THOUGHTS - self policing my thoughts so that I don't fall into a spiral of negativity or start catastrophising. Our subconscious doesn't know the difference between "what if...?" thinking and what's really happening and sends our bodies into an unhelpful state of stress.
  8. STAYING CONNECTED - I've joined my community "can I help?" group so that I can be of use where needed, keeping me connected with the world outside my door.
  9. SETTING BOUNDARIES - I need time alone to stay sane
  10. BEING GRATEFUL - for my health, the roof over my head, the food in the cupboard - whilst allowing less positive emotions to pass through me, having acknowledged and dealt with them!

Stay safe and sane, my friends. Reach out to others when you need help and remember - it's ok not to be ok all the time!
I will be supporting the members of the Midlife Movement Community to the best of my ability, and will also be in the free Facebook group daily. Come and join us - you will be made very welcome.

Jo

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