Tag Archives: life

We should think before “returning to normal”

While I understand some people’s lives have not changed as the government has imposed lockdown, quarantine or social distancing measures because you continue to work on the frontline, many people have been afforded time and space to reflect on a pre and post covid-19 life and I have to say, I’ll be making some careful choices before rushing back to “life as usual” once the lockdown rules art lifted.

Some people’s lives changed over night while others have seen more gradual changes as employers have had to make difficult decisions each week as their income decreased over time; to be furloughed has become common parlance. Some are glad of the rest and try to see the silver lining while others struggle to makes ends meet and don’t know when, how or if things will ever get better. We’ve discovered children don’t need to be examined for them to continue into the next school year and actually, when it comes to it, being happy and healthy is more important than up-to-date book learning.

I’ve needed my GP more in the last month than I have done in the last year. Appointments have been available because, here in the UK, people who don’t need to see a doctor, are heeding the advice to protect the NHS. Surely, when this crisis is over, we should continue protecting the NHS? Why, pre-covid-19 were there people in A&E who didn’t need to be there? Don’t get me wrong, people who are having symptoms of life threatening emergencies, really should call for an ambulance.

I’m more connected to the people who matter in my life than I have been before. I’m not seeing them face-to-face and I want that to change but I’m connecting with some people on a daily (or near daily) basis and I like that.

People’s shopping habits give us food for thought… the initial panic caused by the unknown, when will the next trip be? And will the shelves be stocked next time? Were these actions selfish, greedy or anxiety driven?

Most people are now sharing positive changes in their shopping habits. A reduction in multi-trip shopping because people are reducing waste by using up left overs and making do with what’s in the house. People are finding locally sourced produce such as eggs and meat and having online groceries such as fruit, veg and store cupboard essentials delivered directly to their doors reducing travel. Shopping trips that are happening are less fraught because fewer people are permitted inside the shop at any one time, we’re standing back and giving each other space – surely this should have always been the case?

As soon as people realised they had more time they looked for ways they could help one another. Being community spirited should continue. Why did is take a global pandemic for me to get my neighbour’s as phone number? How come my neighbours didn’t know I played the saxophone until I played in the street as part of the Clap for the NHS on Thursdays? Why did it take such drastic measures for us to start to get to know one another?

I’ve discovered daily yoga, fresh air and being assertiveness are actually good for me. Previously I just thought they might be, since being given time and head space to actually try them, I’ve discovered it’s true! We’re all different, what’s now in your new daily routine that wasn’t before – why would you let that slip just because you wanted to “get back to normal”?

How many of us blindly accepted our daily commute but have miraculously found that it’s not actually necessary? Perhaps remote working has its draw backs but many people have found ways to make it work. A reduction in travel has reduced pollution to levels no one could have imagined. Our planet is breathing a sigh of relief.

Has there been another point in history when we’ve had daily press briefings and held the UK government to account every single day? They’re making the science accessible, answering our questions and they’re being clear about the guidance and why it’s in place.

It’s gutting that it’s taken a deadly virus to do it but mental-wellbeing is being spoken about everyday. It’s not ok that the suicide rate is increasing and no amount of money is going to resource the mental health services sufficiently but let’s keep raising the profile of mental well-being and keep checking on each other. Let’s make it a normal conversation. When you train in CPR, make mental health first aid a priority as well – it always should have been.

Are you longing for your “old life” through rose tinted spectacles? Perhaps you’re miss seeing people face to face, at the moment you’re being told “no” and that naturally makes you want to rebel but don’t make the mistake of thinking everything about “the good old days” was better…

On the 23rd March in the UK and on other dates across the world, we were forced to adopt a new normal by governments announcing lockdown measures to keep us safe. As the measures are gradually lifted, we can choose to adopt a newer, brighter normal as we bring together the best of both the old and the new.

We can choose to hug people when we see them but also stay connected in between. We can choose to shop efficiently, not give into greed, continue to source local produce and ask our neighbours if we can shop for them when we’re going. Where we need to go back to previous ways of living, can we find compromise?

Who would have thought about broadcasting weekly church services on YouTube? Faith communities are reaching beyond their building walls like never before and although returning to gathered fellowship will be cause for massive celebration let’s not lose what we’ve gained from being forced to church technologically. How can we have the best from both worlds?!

For many, there’ll be financial consequences for years to come. There are many who have no choice, they can’t go back to life pre-Covid-19 due to bereavement, redundancy or other life event. Are there choices we can make as we find our new normal that will benefit anyone less fortunate than ourselves?

If everything about your old life suits you better and that’s what you want to return to and you can, that’s your call but I just ask that you make an active decision and don’t just go back to it mindlessly without thinking carefully about the true implications.

The power of silence – part 2 – when silence is not ok!

In my last blog I explained that silence can be pleasant, relaxing and even therapeutic. There does not have to be anything awkward about silence between 2 people who are comfortable with each other, it can deepen their relationship.

However…

I’m sure there are many people (men in particular) who have sensed there’s something wrong with someone (perhaps a girlfriend or wife) so they’ve asked “what’s wrong?” and this person has barked “nothing!” with such venom you’re glad you were out of spitting distance! What they actually mean is “there is something wrong but…” either, “I’m not sure what it is” or “I don’t want to talk about it” or “I’m not ready to talk about it” or “I don’t know how to put it into words” or “I wish you could mind-read, then you’d know what was wrong”. There are numerous reasons why they choose to say “nothing” at this point but it’s certainly not because nothing’s wrong!

What then proceeds is a period of silence, some (women) can keep it up for hours… during this period, the power lies with the silent party as the other wonders what they’ve done, maybe trying to “make up” for their unknown misdeed.

I can understand, when emotions are overwhelming it can feel impossible to put anything into words. For years, I didn’t have words to express emotions, I didn’t know what emotions were, I struggled to find words to describe what was going on inside my world. If this happens to you, if you can manage “I don’t know what to say” or “I don’t know what the words are” that’s better than saying “nothing” and pretending you’ve not shrouded everything in a black cloud! I find, if I manage to say something, anything(!) this gets the conversation going and I manage to explain a bit more, even if it’s just a few words, this helps the other person understand and at least I’m trying! If after 20 minutes (how long emotional chemicals last if you don’t perpetuate them with thoughts and behaviours) I felt I could verbalise a bit more, I could start where I’d left off previously.

Something else that helps me is writing things down. If I can’t say the words out loud, often, I am able to find the words to write, maybe it’s to do with slowing down the process or using a different part of my brain or breaking down the process. Whatever it was, even when very distressed (snot, tears, the works…), unable to verbalise anything, put a pen and paper in my hands and I could start writing, explaining all sorts of things that were going on in my head. There were periods of therapy where I would struggle to speak in sessions but could write reams in emails straight after the session! Fortunately, I had a understanding therapist!

At the other end of the spectrum – some people deliberately give someone “the cold shoulder” because they’ve annoyed them or “send them to Coventry” because they’ve wronged them in some way. In this way, they feel powerful for choosing to cut this person out of the loop. Going silent on someone is an unhelpful passive-aggressive trait that some people will be aware they use while others may not. In this instance, a bit of assertiveness never hurt anyone – it’s far more helpful to think through what’s going on, what the different perspectives are, what you want from the situation, how you could get this, how you could compromise and approach the other person with a level head.

If something needs to be said, don’t hope it will go away, say it – what’s the worst that could happen? If the other person gets annoyed or angry, that can be managed but if no-one is talking about anything, nothing will ever change!

The power of silence

Does anyone else find the world too noisy?

I think we’ve forgotten what quiet is like. Some people find silence awkward or uncomfortable, but I think that’s only because people feel a pressure to fill the gap.

Take the pressure away and silence is just that, some quiet time – there’s nothing intimidating or scary about that.

Yes, I know there are times, perhaps when meeting someone at a party, when small talk is polite, social etiquette is fine but that’s not what I’m talking about.

To be able to be silent with someone is a sign that the relationship has reached a deeper level. That you can just be with this person, without the pressure to fill the gaps says you’re totally comfortable with them.

Silence allows us to just be!

There are people who think out loud – I find this baffling but accept that’s what they need to do. It’s important to understand lots of people need time and space to think inside their heads.

I find it very difficult to concentrate when there’s extra noice around. I have make a conscious effort to block it out, it takes a lot of energy and this detracts from the actual thing I’m trying to concentrate on!

It’s amazing what we can discover in the gaps!

In my counselling training we’ve discussed how important it is to leave silence for our clients. It’s important to give them time to think, it’s only by doing this do we get beyond the practical facts of the situation and into the deeper feelings etc.

As a Christian, I pray daily. For me, this is not a formal process, I chat to God in my head. God does not need me to talk using my external voice. There are times I pray with other Christians. Praying out loud is something some people feel a pressure to do and can get quite anxious about saying “the right thing” – as far as I’m concerned there is no “right” way to talk to God, he knows everything that’s on our hearts, he does not need us to utter a word. The only reason to pray out loud is for the benefit of those around you, this is only necessary in specific circumstances. I pray weekly with a group of people where we share some prayers points, then we sit in silence for a few minutes – in this time God hears the prayers of every individual, instead of just the vocal one! Prayer is a 2 way thing – when Mother Teresa was asked what she said to God, she answered, “I listen”, when with excited anticipation she was asked “what do you hear God say?”, she replied “he listens” – I know this will not speak to everyone but for me it’s one of the most enlightening things I’ve ever heard.

Silence can be refreshing!

As a musician, I couldn’t write a blog about silence without mentioning John Cage’s 4’33”. I’ve never experienced it but I’m in no doubt, sitting in a concert hall full of people (adhering to concert hall etiquette), listening to nearly 5 minutes of ambient sound would be pretty powerful! Music is made up of notes of varying tone, pitch and duration with gaps of silence; John Cage challenges his audience to listen but he’s removed 1 aspect of the music. So, the debate continues about whether it’s music but there’s no doubt it’s an experience!

The therapy session that said to me “this therapist is for me” was one where I sat in silence. I thought he’d be angry that I wasn’t using the session productively – I felt pressure to fill the gap (it wasn’t silent, I was sobbing…) but I couldn’t put any of what I was feeling into words. Looking back, I was angry, but I didn’t have the word, I felt overwhelmed but didn’t know what it was. As a side note, my therapist wasn’t angry with me, he gave me what I needed – time and space to just be.

When I find silence, I can actually feel my ears relax! As a highly sensitive person, noise can be anxiety provoking, some sounds drill into my head as a physical sensation. But when I find silence, I feel my ears say “thank you”!

How about you try it? For a lot of people it will be difficult to find some quiet, but try, sit with your thoughts, don’t get caught up in them but mindfully notice them and see where they go! Quiet can nurture creativity, an inner calm or a deeper understanding of ourselves – it’s worth giving it a go!