Is shielding making you sick?

It has been 4 months since lockdown, although there are changes being made to the guidelines all the time we are still being urged to keep away from others. It doesn’t feel natural to keep apart from the ones we love for as long as we have been doing but if you are shielding or are living with someone who is, you may choose to continue no matter how hard it is becoming. This may feel even more difficult now that you can see others out and about, socialising more and shopping. The government guidelines which are due to change from the 1st August will now advise that you do not need to shield at home. 

You know what you feel about this idea and if you are ready to make a change to your daily living arrangements. If you have a serious health condition you may decide to continue to shield for as long as you decide it’s right to do so. This is a totally individual choice but you may have external pressures on you to stop shielding when you don’t feel comfortable just yet to make the change. This in itself will lead to uncertainty and indecision which is bound to cause some degree of anxiety. You are not alone with your concerns, even people who haven’t been shielding are worried, it is a natural and understandable reaction but it is a feeling that you can overcome if you allow yourself some time to start making changes slowly. It’s really important to make small changes which when they come together give you confidence to move forward. 

You may have pressure from your employer to return to work and have the worry that your workplace isn’t covid secure. This is a very real concern for anyone who has a severe or underlying health conditions. You will have to consider your level of risk and how you can protect yourself in this situation. Talk to your boss about what safety measures they will have in place and if you can continue to work from home you should still do this if you are vulnerable or high risk. You can find more information from the HSE website here 

https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/working-safely/index.htm.

Perhaps you have grandchildren who you haven’t been able to hug or have round to visit since lockdown began? And now it is up to you and family what you do. For example, you can enjoy having your family around you again providing you social distance. There are measures you can put in place to keep things as safe as possible. 

Also, you may not want to upset your loved ones by continuing to shield now that the rules are due to alter. Although your family will completely understand the need for you to carry on shielding, younger grandchildren will not comprehend the meaning behind why you are staying away and you may end up feeling torn. 

Given the virus is completely invisible, children will only understand why they have to do what they are being told, if they have developed the cognitive processes that enable them to think abstractly. Young children (up to 10 years) will not understand the full implications, so are more likely to forget what you tell them and become upset if they haven’t seen you for a long time. That’s normal.  The way in which children develop is visible in the government’s decision that children under the age of 11 are exempt from wearing masks.  

Do you feel trapped, like a prisoner in your own home? You may be yearning to go somewhere different, go back to work and have built up a resentment of those who can go about their daily business seemingly without worrying. Alternatively, after all this time shielding, the thought of stepping outside your own four walls may cause you to recoil in horror.  

If you are a vulnerable adult, after shielding is paused you can still receive support with collecting shopping, medications etc from the NHS Volunteer Responder Scheme website

Stress relievers to try 

We all think we know how to breathe, many of us don’t. When we’re stressed our breathing becomes shallower and that sends the wrong message to a particular part of our brain which puts that part of the brain on alert and so our stressed cycle continues. You can search our Facebook page for more information and techniques. 

If you are able to, get outside. Make a conscious effort to get into the fresh air, just into your own garden if you feel more comfortable. Try out some mindfulness – be still for 5 minutes – listen to the trees or the birds. Going barefoot is another stress relieving technique, just wander round your garden barefoot for a change. To feel the grass under your feet makes us feel grounded and if it’s wet? Even better! You will feel invigorated within a few minutes. 

There is the home workout option too, you really do feel the benefit of it afterwards and there are hundreds on YouTube to suit every person’s situation, need and age. To change your mood, change your body. Get up, change the position of yourself, get moving, put on some uplifting music to listen or dance to. You will almost instantly feel different. Listen to this one and you’ll see you just can’t help feeling happier! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtM 

This won’t last forever. 

If you are feeling stressed out or anxious this is a natural response to these abnormal times, however it’s important that you get help to deal with your anxiety because in some cases untreated anxiety can lead to clinical depression. If you would like some independent help to reduce your anxiety contact us to book an online session with Adriana, our experienced psychologist. 

Live Life Not Strife 
We’re available for remote consultations, for a confidential chat on how we can help 
you contact us on 01625 786026 / 07980 667103 or email [email protected]. Please visit our Facebook Page: 
https://www.facebook.com/livelifenotstrife 

Tiny tips towards living a fuller happier life! 

Uncertainties about keeping safe

Now that lockdown restrictions are being lifted, we find ourselves with a brand-new set of questions and worries about social distancing. Of course, we have the government guidelines set out for us to work to but it almost seems that the onus is on the individual now to decide how they conduct themselves; whether you wear a mask when you’re out and about, visit your relatives in their homes, standing 2 metres apart from your friend in the park? It is almost bringing a whole new etiquette into our daily lives which in itself can be stressful. 

Wearing masks 

The governments’ announcement yesterday evening that it will be compulsory to wear a mask in shops in England from next Friday may come as a relief, as the uncertainty recently has led to confusion and anxiety for some. Wearing masks can be a very individual decision, you may wear a mask yourself every time you go out because you believe it will limit the spread of the virus, plus you may feel more protected in wearing one. 

You may have asthma in which case the Asthma UK website states: 

“If you’ve got asthma, you may or may not be able to wear a face mask or covering. It’s a good idea to try one out at home, or on a short walk around the block first. If it feels fine, then you can wear it, and it won’t harm you. 

But if it makes it feel harder to breathe, the UK Government has advised that you don’t have to wear one. You could try a few different types to see if there is one that suits you, but if you feel breathless or suffocated while wearing a face covering, then don’t wear one.” 

NB Always remember to take your inhalers with you. 

Others might have different personal issues with wearing masks. It takes a bit of getting used to and if you harbour some level of claustrophobia perhaps or have a child with autism it may well be completely impossible for you or your child to put a mask on. You might have autism yourself, in which case the same issues apply, Autism Hampshire.org says: 

These new guidelines raise new challenges for some autistic people. Autistic people sometimes have difficulty in understanding facial expressions in ‘normal’ (pre-Covid-19) times. The new guidelines for people to wear masks will make it even more difficult for some autistic people to understand facial expressions as body language in communication will be restricted to what the eyes can tell us.”  

Practically speaking 

You might find it helpful to try a few different types before you find one that is comfortable or easy for you to breathe in. You may feel self-conscious or vulnerable which puts you off wearing a mask, if this is case just give it a go! In time we may see pictures similar to those in China where wearing masks is part of our daily routines.  

Why is it hard to wear a mask? 

You might not understand your hesitation about wearing a mask outside of your home. As humans we are deeply programmed to assess risk by watching what’s happening around us. So, before we pass somebody, we will automatically have looked at their face and unconsciously made an assessment as to whether we feel safe. If not, we tend to put greater distance between us and them in an everyday setting, it could be crossing the road.  

Wearing masks stops us from gaining the information we need to feel safe. It also stops us from giving feedback to other people approaching us. Maybe we have to consider new ways of giving this information, such as a nod of our head as we approach somebody rather than smiling. This deep unconscious recognition of another person, is what helps to ease the anxiety of passing someone we don’t know. Alternative ways of acknowledging someone e.g. by a nod in passing or saying hello can reassure that we and/or they, do not present a threat. 

Visiting friends and family 

Then there is the question of visiting friends and families’ homes. The guidelines now state we can go into another household and have another household visit us, while maintaining social distancing, but again it all comes down to personal choice. It may feel totally strange to go into your friend’s house for a coffee and chat after all this time we have been staying away. We know that the risk at the moment is lower than it was, but it is still there. You may feel too worried to take this step right now, there’s always that ‘What if?’ in the back of your mind, so just do what you feel comfortable with. 

Alternatively, you might be keen to invite your friend in for that long-awaited cuppa, but don’t be surprised if they don’t take you up on it just yet. It might take them a little longer to get used to the idea. Another friend might just bite your hand off! Maybe you have actually “got out of the habit” of visiting friends and are finding it difficult to get back to doing it – (not just because of the social distancing or fear). 

People who are natural introverts may have even found lockdown an enjoyable experience, to have the social pressures of meeting friends removed may have been almost a relief and now the thought of getting back to normal could be anxiety inducing! Sometimes it’s hard to make the first move, especially if you have let contact lapse over the last 2 -3 months and haven’t been mixing with people much?  

Take it slowly, as a first step, send a text and ask how your friend is, do they fancy a chat at some point? Don’t worry if they don’t get back to you straight away, they themselves might be in a similar situation. Once you’re feeling a little more confident, think of someone who makes you smile. Make an arrangement to meet them, for example, out of doors for a quick catch up, you will be glad you made the effort as chatting to a friend can be beneficial.  

Finally, it’s natural for people to react by having an opinion about others who aren’t wearing a mask or keeping their distance, but we have to keep an open mind. We should perhaps concentrate on what responsibilities we are taking ourselves rather than scrutinize other people’s behaviour. You may feel less stressed out once you take on this mind set!  

If you are unsure about what is the right thing to do regarding social distancing, click the link here for the government guidelines https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Have a look at some of the information we have on our Facebook page about anxiety but if you need more individual help please contact us to book an online session with our experienced psychologist. 

Live Life Not Strife 
We’re available for remote consultations, for a confidential chat on how we can help 
you contact us on 01625 786026 / 07980 667103 or email [email protected] Please visit our Facebook Page: 
https://www.facebook.com/livelifenotstrife 

Tiny tips towards living a fuller, happier life! 

Home Schooling Stresses – Older Children

We have already written about the pressures of home schooling with younger children but recognise that home schooling for older children also brings pressures – albeit different ones. 

The stresses will of course be different from family to family. It may be that you have a really driven older child who is happy to log-on to school work and simply get on with it. Great you think…but this is not always as plain sailing as it may seem. Without the distractions of a normal school day, such as break times, an aside with chums in class, a humorous comment from the teacher, the time spent working alone can become intense. I believe schools have not generally grasped this and appear focussed on piling on the work, not appreciating how undiluted it can be for some pupils. It is important to try and encourage these students to break up their day and ensure there is a defined time to stop work. It might be beneficial if they can have a short walk at lunch time, or if possible, time in the garden – but certainly away from the work space. Some students might want to set up a video link with their friends, so they can at least meet virtually at lunch or after school. 

And then of course, there are the students who simply see this time as an extended holiday! Getting them off their X boxes or whatever can be a nightmare – especially as older children develop more inventive strategies for hiding this fact! There is no easy answer to this one, except perhaps to dangle a carrot here and there, whether it be time on the X box later on when school work is finished, or the promise of some other longed-for item or activity, even if it means waiting until the COVID crisis is over. 

There is also the willing pupil who perhaps needs extra help to understand some of the lessons being set. As most of the remote learning systems do not lend themselves to instant access to teachers or with rapid answers to queries, this can be hard on the parent who suddenly finds themselves needing a teaching qualification! It is important if this happens to remind yourself that you aren’t super mum or dad and that you can only do your best in the circumstances. If your child is struggling, message the teacher through the usual channels but move to a different topic until you get a response to your query – it is better to do that than to spend hours struggling to find answers when you don’t really know. 

The same applies too if the teacher sets tasks with unclear instructions as to what they want. They might know what they mean, but your child certainly might not! Again, most online learning models have a forum, so see if anyone else has been puzzled by the work, or contact friends to see if they have also been confused by the instructions. However, if in doubt, contact the teacher – no-one is going to be cross or think it is a silly question – it is the teacher’s job to make things clear and they need to understand if they have been too general with what they are asking. Remember it is a learning curve for everyone, teachers included! 

Another major stress can be the necessary use of technology for online learning. Some households will have more equipment and know-how than others, so let the school know if you are struggling with any particular aspect of this. They may be able to lend you some equipment or offer different ways of doing things. 

Most of all though, remind yourself that these are strange and difficult times and you can only work with what you have and work to the best of your ability. No-one can be super-human, so don’t be hard on yourself – be there to offer love, support, encouragement and the odd pat on the back for effort, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have all the answers! 

If your child is stressed and needs some independent help to reduce their anxiety, contact us to book an online session with our experienced psychologist. 

Live Life Not Strife 
We’re available for remote consultations, for a confidential chat on how we can help 
you contact us on 01625 786026 / 07980 667103, please visit our Facebook Page: 
https://www.facebook.com/livelifenotstrife 

Tiny tips towards living a fuller happier life! 

Stress and Self-Employment in These Difficult Times

We self employed people are sometimes viewed with envy by those in regular employment – who perhaps imagine that you can knock off when you like, have a day off if the weather is nice or pick and choose which jobs you want to do.  The reality is not like that.  Most self-employed people will tell you, it’s hard graft.  You have to work hard to build your business up – and if you are successful, find you sometimes have to work long hours and weekends to fit in all the jobs. It is easy to lose sight of the direction you want to go in, find there is no time to plan and just lurch from job to job, struggling to complete the paperwork and chase the bills.  It can be lonely too – many are sole traders and have no colleagues to fall back on should a job prove more complex than expected, or no-one to have a bit of banter with if they are having a bad day. 

Those who might be envious, reflect that there is no holiday pay and no sick pay either.  If you don’t work, you don’t get paid.  So, that brings us to the current situation.  What if you are self-employed and not able to work at present?  If your savings are limited, then life it pretty tough and it is your turn to envy your chums in employment who may have been furloughed, yet are still receiving money.  Help is on it’s way if you have been self-employed since before April last year through HMRC’s grant scheme, which is now open for applications  – don’t hang about though, it is only available for a short time – you can access the claim system on GOV‌.UK by searching for ‘Self-Employment Income Support Scheme’ . You may also be able to apply for Universal Credit, especially if you aren’t able to claim money from other means.  However, this blog post is not meant to offer financial advice – there are many other expert sites to help with that.  It is simply a post to suggest other ways to alleviate the stresses of not being able to work at the moment. 

The good thing is that you can now use the time to catch up with paperwork, put the filing in order, chase those debts and – most importantly, plan for the future.  It might be that you have been wanting to set up or update a website, start a Facebook page, get a Twitter account – so now is the time to put yourself out there and let everyone know you exist.  Join local Facebook groups so your name is known to people and it will keep your name current in the community for when your skills are needed again; also, look for advice from others who work in your particular area of expertise to see what tips they may have – it may also stop that sense of isolation as you connect with others in a similar position.  

It’s also a time to plan.  It might be that you have never had chance to re-think the way you work, so now is a good time to give it some thought. We have all had to adjust the way we do things currently, so think ahead to when you are working again and how you may be able to think outside the box to get some fresh ideas.  It may be frustrating at present not being able to apply any of these ideas, but stay focussed as this time will not last forever.   

The important thing is to stay positive and try and have a plan for each day – it is easy to wake up and think there is nothing to get up for. Make the most of this enforced rest – keep yourself busy with the jobs you have meant to do at home but never had chance to get on with, take up that hobby you put to one-side years ago, re-engage with nature, learn a new skill – or, simply learn to relax, whether by meditation, yoga, or just going for a walk.  

Remember too, it’s good to talk. Whilst you may not be able to see your friends and colleagues face to face, there is always the phone or various ways to video call  – don’t be afraid to communicate – whether it is to help yourself, or perhaps to help a friend or relative who you know might be lonely and appreciate a call.   

To find out more contact us on 01625 786026 / 07980 667103, please visit our Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/livelifenotstrife/