No matter your situation, there’s an important conversation that you need to have daily within your home to answer the question, “What does tomorrow look like for us?” Psychologist and mum of three Clea Wallage reminds us how important it is to keep the lines of communication open if we are going to cope in times of heightened uncertainty.
So, what does tomorrow look like for us? Whilst in and of itself this question isn’t too alarming, when we’re used to a fair amount of certainty in our lives, it is quite confronting.
Navigating uncertain times
At the beginning of this year in Australia, we were faced with horrific fires that burned our country and for many of us, even quite some distance away, our daily norm was impacted. Flights were cancelled, ferries stopped, visibility for drivers was very poor, and the air quality was so bad on some days that we were encouraged to stay indoors.
And now, we face a global health pandemic. Nothing quite like anything our generation has seen before. We’ve got no idea how quickly it will spread, how many people will be impacted and how many deaths there will be. Schools are closing, public places are being shut down, people are being encouraged to stay away from one another. We are being told that our parents and grandparents are at high risk, hospitals won’t be able to cope, work will shift location or stop altogether.
This year, more so than many before, we have been made to question what we have once taken for granted: How are we going to get to and from work? How much exposure poses a risk to my family and others? How much food and other essential supplies do we need? Will I still have a job tomorrow? Who is going to look after my children if their school or childcare closes?
People’s financial and physical livelihood is at risk. The level of uncertainty is soaring, which leads to fear, and in turn, stress and anxiety, and in its worst form, hysteria.
Keeping on an even keel
So, what can you do to regain some control and reduce your stress levels?
Whilst there is a lot you can do in terms of personal hygiene and physical distancing to minimise your risk, another highly effective method is…to talk.
Communicating with your partner and your loved ones regularly about your current situation is essential, as the decisions you make on one day may not be the same decisions that you choose to make on another.
The conversation should include:
How are we feeling? Are we fit and able to go to work tomorrow or look after our child(ren)?
Do we have childcare for our child(ren) tomorrow?
If yes, if they get sent home sick what is our action plan?
If no, who is going to look after the kids?
If the identified carer of the child(ren) becomes sick, what is our plan?
Are we currently comfortable for our child(ren) to be in contact with their grandparents and other members of the family who are either aged or have a pre-existing illness?
What events/activities will we attend or need to cancel?
Are there any public places we wish to avoid?
What conversations do I need to be having at work right now? Is there an option for me to work from home? Am I able to work flexible hours to accommodate the needs of my family?
If yes, how do I juggle working from home and childcare?
Is there anyone in our direct community who we think will need additional support at this time? What can we do to help?
Planning for change
Planning for change is critical right now as we navigate this period of heightened uncertainty. While we don’t know what is around the corner, having a plan ensures that there is agreement in the household about the course of action, which allows for some level of control to be regained.
Focus on your health and wellbeing
In addition to this, ensuring that your stress levels are managed as effectively as possible is essential for bolstering your immune system and overall psychological wellbeing. To support your mental health: connect with others even if it is remotely, meditate, take time out for yourself, prioritise sleep and breathe. To support your physical health: make sure you have planned time for exercise even if you are in isolation (a lot can be done from home), reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake and eat well! While many people have focused on stockpiling pantry items, make sure you’re getting enough fresh produce in your diet.
Written by Clea Wallage, Psychologist and mother of three young children. Clea is a self-proclaimed high achiever and perfectionist who pushed herself to the point of burnout whilst working as a Senior Manager in the corporate world and juggling her motherhood responsibilities. She now supports others to change their relationship with stress and avoid burnout. Follow Clea on Instagram.