Time to Talk Tech and Tenacity

ipad-tech

The amount of changes that people have had to cope with during lockdown would have been unimaginable prior to it happening.  But happen it has, and the world has been forced to adapt.  Those who are neurodiverse have not been immune from this, and indeed the speed at which the alterations have had to take place may have caused additional stress.  The fact that pandemics neither discriminate nor adhere to schedules will have certainly caused problems for some – more on that later – but there is truth in Plato’s saying “necessity is the mother of invention.”  Simply put, in being made to adjust our working and social practices, we may find a better way of undertaking a task. 

People also understand that working from home can be difficult because there is little to separate people’s working and home lives, but are simultaneously aware that a work/life balance needs to exist.  Consequently, because everyone is getting used to a new normal, it might be that the neurodiverse benefit from greater empathy from their colleagues.  Additionally, because those working from home can’t be watched all the time, there is perhaps greater scope for taking things at an individual’s own pace and discovering better ways of working, simply because they are in a comfortable environment. Relatedly, in having to ask what employees need to work most effectively, there are opportunities for employers to educate themselves about neurodiversity. 

Before writing this blog, for instance, I had no idea that you can tint a screen background to make the text easier to read.  Nor did I appreciate that working from home could promote productivity as voice recognition could be used more easily and overlays can be used without fear of having to explain why.  Furthermore, the prevalence of video calls may give people the chance to plan meetings more effectively because they are more likely to be pre-arranged, potentially increasing productivity all round.

All of the above assumes that all employees have adequate space to set up home offices and sympathetic employers.  While some do, this isn’t universally the case, nor can we forget those who have had to adapt in different ways, whether that be as a result of their job or being furloughed.  For example, while teachers are having adapt lessons to account for remote learning, furloughed people are having to learn new skills to boost their employability and/or conquer boredom, so everyone is learning something in the midst of the pandemic, even if it simply coping with their new ‘normal.’ 

How easy this is will vary from person to person, but there are particular challenges for those who are neurodiverse.  People may find it difficult to fill their days if they aren’t working, particularly as organisation is sometimes tricky for neurodiverse individuals.  It may prove harder still because the options that would have previously been available to them are no longer there.  Some of the options that are may also prove challenging.  For example, many people with dyslexia struggle to read for pleasure and trying to do so could compound feelings of frustration.  The importance of technology is again emphasised when you consider that apps such as Audible and screen readers might help some people with this, but such things can only go so far as no distraction is permanent.  In other words, technology is not full-proof, and can often add to our frustrations rather than ease them.

On balance though, I’d rather the technology was there to get angry at than it didn’t exist at all, because even if it has the potential to make someone’s life easier that should be encouraged.  Not only that, but the knock-on effects of this are also important; greater productivity, potentially more leisure time and possibly improved mental health, which would not only lead to a better quality of life for many, but also strengthen the tenacity for which the neurodiverse are known.  When neurodiversity is known to lead to innovative solutions to challenges and new ways of thinking – both things that have been essential during the pandemic – championing the benefits of technology for the neurodiverse has never been more necessary. 

Gemma Bryant, Blog Volunteer

 

Silver Linings

I’m sure none of us is enjoying the Coronavirus Lockdowns at the moment. Being stuck indoors while the weather is improving. Looking at the same four walls day in and day out. Being confronted with our family, rather than our friends 24/7. It’s all a grind.

But as I write this article, I must admit that I’m not suffering in the slightest.  And I’m forced to ponder ‘Why Not?’ Why am I perfectly happy being locked down, by myself, for over 6 months now?’ (I’ve been self-isolating since November for non-Covid medical reasons).

I have come to a surprising conclusion and I see it as a beautiful ‘silver lining’ for life in general and this current isolation…

None of us like to be mocked. Or shunned. Or even bullied.

As a young person with dyslexia and dyspraxia I was always an ‘odd’ child. Couldn’t read or write well, was clumsy and uncoordinated and came out with some ‘out of the box’ ideas.

For those who loved me, I was simply peculiar. I was considered the ‘absent minded professor’ and left to my own devices. It was an environment of benign neglect with plenty of food and shelter, but little engagement or even hugs.

For those who had no obligation to love me it was simply easier to ignore, shun or reject me. In extreme cases, different meant ‘threat’ and led to bullying and violence. I was simply better off keeping to myself… to self-isolate.

And there we have it… for whatever reason, I learned to be self-sufficient, on my own, from a very early age.

In retrospect, I probably did go through the loneliness, anxieties and frustrations that many are feeling today in the corona virus lock downs… but I would have done that when I was too young to recognise it. I didn’t know I was supposed to feel sad about it. Like dyslexia itself, it just was how it was.

In the words of the famous self-empowerment song , and my anthem,  “I am what I am”. Why not sing along with me… sing it to your family!

https://genius.com/Gloria-gaynor-i-am-what-i-am-lyrics

Now there is a danger in being self-empowered and dyslexic… and that’s ‘creative licence’.

Being dyslexic, I’m fairly creative and, for me, ‘out of the box’ is perfectly normal. And being empowered, I give myself permission to be and to think whatever I want. Luckily most of this stays in my mind and doesn’t leak out. I love my internal orchestra and I think it makes a beautiful noise. So what if other people don’t get it, or me.

That’s why being locked down during the pandemic is no big deal for me… because I’m dyslexic. After all, I’m being locked down with the one person in the world that ‘gets’ me most, who I’ve spent most time with alone and who loves me like no other. Who could have guessed dyslexia has such a fantastic silver lining? … What’s yours?

Blog by MIKE GORDON

Mike Gordon is a life coach and volunteer with Dyslexia Scotland. Although dyslexic, Mike has earned 3 degrees in science and business and has had two best-selling self-help books published. Mike believes his dyslexia has been a genuine enabler in his life: Isolation opens up imagination and creativity to him; while struggles with words have driven a sense of ‘rightness’ in what he says and does. Words are a blessing.

Jenga: The Game of Dyspraxic Life

Most people see bed as a place that brings soft, warm peace at the end of the day. A familiar landing strip for a comfortable arrival in the land of dreams.

For me, I see bed as a morning launch pad. The place where my day begins. The place where I lie for a moment to preview the infinity of this day’s possibilities. There, the day ahead is set up like a marvellously arranged game of Jenga: perfectly symmetrical, each block in its place, forming a beautifully squared tower of challenge.

While there, like some finely tuned athlete, I rehearse my game moves for the perfect execution. I visualise each block neatly sliding out and the tower stays rock solid. Once satisfied with my Game Plan I get up with hope and expectation in my soul. The best moment ever. Let this day begin.

And it does begin… but not as planned.

Firstly, the toothpaste decides it wants to squeeze out to anywhere but the head of my toothbrush. My coffee granules decide they’d prefer to scatter across the kitchen bench than in my cup. And finally, my left leg decides it would rather spend the day in the right leg of my trousers. Dyspraxia, the cousin to my dyslexia, has kicked in. The first three Jenga blocks tackled and already my tower is wobbling. But maybe it’s just jittery fingers? It’s bound to get better, isn’t it?

In my journey to work, only three minor slip ups: that uneven paving stone leapt up to attack my unobservant foot; the tree branch that I’ve watched grow, decided today was the day to greet my forehead and the train door decided it really did need to bite at my coat tail. All minor. All survivable. Each Jenga piece creating a wobble but not a collapse. Each piece a reminder not to get too cocky.

I climb back into my caution.

At the office, my caution pays dividends. I don’t get snapped by the lift door. My coffee goes in and stays in my cup, all the way to my desk. My backside finds my swivel chair without incident. This day is improving. Three Jenga pieces removed, without a crash.

But now it’s my time… I open my computer; my fingers find the keyboard and I’ve found my happy place. My mind unconsciously connects to the glass screen in the same way that the computer connects to the Wi-Fi. My dumb body and brain get out of my way and I’m ready to fly.

For some reason, my hands are completely attuned to the QWERTY layout and I achieve a seven-fingered grace that my clumsy body never usually achieves. On a computer, I am a Jenga Grand Master.

The same goes for my dyslexia. Words and meaning flow, without my conscious mind, or physical brain interfering.

I spend my day smashing task after task. Whizzing through emails. Soaring through written documents. Scrambling over spreadsheets like an Alpine goat on the Matterhorn. Each word or number is an individual Jenga piece. Each task is a whole game. And I rack up win after win.

I even win admiring fans. Colleagues ask me for advice and guidance. They marvel (a little enviously) at my throughput and are frankly astonished at my lack of errors. Is it really me!

And my supervisor is quietly satisfied with my performance. I figure, that in a ‘leave alone and rebuke’ culture, not being yelled at is tacit approval. And I’m tacitly grateful. I take satisfaction that my Jenga prowess is recognised.

I leave work at the end of the day and count up Jenga tally. I reckon I had at least a dozen great wins against some tricky or formidable opposition. The monthly budget reconciliation was a stinker. A couple of truly grumpy client emails. And those time sheets… they’re hateful, but I sailed through them. I award myself a daily gold medal.

My journey home was, of course, less spectacular. Yes, I bumped into 2 different people. Yes, I dribbled my Coke down my shirt front. And, yes, I stabbed and stabbed to get my door key into its lock. But that’s real life Jenga, not computer Jenga.

I bumped my way through an unremarkable evening at home until it was time for bed. I managed to miss my bedside table and spilled my water over my alarm clock. I had my usual toothbrush moment. And I tripped over the loose rug with my slippers. But I made it safely to bed.

I allowed myself a few minutes to review my day. A few Jenga fails but they’re nothing compared to my spectacular wins in the office. Even a Jenga World Champion should expect a few minor losses in the overall picture. It only matters when it really matters. With that satisfaction, I drifted off to sleep. Ready for another day of stumbles and acrobatics in a new day tomorrow.

MIKE GORDON
Mike Gordon is a life coach and volunteer with Dyslexia Scotland. Although dyslexic, Mike has earned 3 degrees in science and business and has had two best-selling self-help books published. Mike believes his dyslexia has been a genuine enabler in his life: Isolation opens up imagination and creativity to him; while struggles with words have driven a sense of ‘rightness’ in what he says and does. Words are a blessing.

Bring out the best in them

Parents – give yourselves a break from being teachers. ‘Home-Schooling’ perhaps isn’t a term that captures how you enable your child to learn at their best.

We’re hearing from parents all across Scotland and beyond about the challenges of being a tutor to your young home learners on the three r’s, or subjects you feel out of your depth on when trying to explain it to your children.

Let’s zoom out of those complex worries and bear in mind the true meaning of education: to bring out. Not to put in. Your young learners at home have a wealth of knowledge, interests, personal resources and passions of their own that they can use to explore any other learning, without a ‘jug and mug’ approach to doing it. If there’s one thing you can do to support them be their best right now, it’s to feed their imaginations, motivation and curiosity to explore learning on their terms and to keep them feeling happy, loved and secure so they’re confident to do that.

Scotland’s approach to developing our young people, after all, rests on the fundamental principle that wellbeing is central to their growth as a whole person. We’ve come to know GIRFEC as ‘Getting It Right For Every Child’ but what is the ‘it’ that we are to get right? In youth work, I learned this to be ‘Growing Individuals Ready for Every Challenge’, recognising the value in young people’s growth being focused on their development as whole people, not just as academic learners.

Now, more than ever, in the midst of a pandemic and lockdown we know we need to prioritise young people’s safety and health; support them to be active; nurture them; within home learning settings provide them with opportunities to achieve – in ways that excite and interest them; make sure they are responsible and that they feel respected and included in the family unit. Let’s focus on developing our children as a whole person to enable them to be and learn at their best now, and for the rest of their lives.

Parents – you don’t need to be teachers right now, you just need to be role models. Be your best self; encourage them to be theirs.

Blog by Katie Carmichael, Career Coach

Part 6: Anxiety About ‘Returning to Normal’

Blog 06

Welcome to Part 6 of the Lockdown Mental Health Series. If you missed Parts 1-5 you can find them here.

This will be my last blog in the lockdown mental health series for now, but if you’ve enjoyed them and you’d like to see more, email Helen on helen@dyslexiascotland.org.uk or comment below with other topics you’d like to have addressed.

Some of my previous blog posts have been about all the difficult feelings that lockdown might have brought up for people. Today, I’ll address anxiety, but for those who have enjoyed lockdown.

For some people, the lockdown has been a fresh breath of air, the break they needed, a pause from overwhelm, a quiet interlude, a needed respite.

For some people, that has brought guilt for enjoying something that’s causing so many others pain, and it’s brought anxiety about the thought of returning to whatever normal awaits on the other side.

Some people are saying that the world cannot return to the previous normal after this – but who knows?

What I do know is that whatever we return to, you’ll have a say in how you go forward, in how you interact with others, how you decide to spend your leisure time and make use of international travel, how you vote, how you think, what demands you put on your boss, how you choose to go forward as a fellow human, as a friend, partner, parents or otherwise.

But, there’s still not a magic solution if you’re feeling anxious about a post-lockdown world.

When it comes to anxiety – thinking about the future and going over all the ‘what ifs’ scenarios – the solution is simple but it’s not easy! And that’s to stop thinking about all the things that are outwith your control and start looking at what is within your control.

It’s about thinking about ‘what is’ instead of ‘what if’.

A technique used in counselling is to take a piece of paper and draw a circle in the middle.

Outside the circle your write down all the things that are worrying you and that you cannot control, like Covid-19, and government’s guidelines, and your parent’s health (for example), and inside the circle you write down everything you can control, such as checking in on your parents, deciding how to vote in a way that works for you at the next election, to wash your hands every time you’ve been out, to practise mindfulness and staying in the moment and so on…

Obviously, you can do this with anything that bothers you and it doesn’t have to be Covid-related.

Another exercise I’m using at the moment and which is based on the same principles, but more specific to Covid-19 and lockdown, is to take a piece of paper and make three columns:

  1. In column one, you write down everything you’ve loved about the lockdown. Maybe that’s the slowing down of pace, maybe that’s the fact the planet is getting a bit of healing time itself, maybe it’s that you’ve enjoyed working from home.
  2. In column two, you write about all the things you’ve missed because of lockdown, like maybe going to your local chippy, or driving up the coast, or hugging your friends.
  3. In the third column you write down what changes you’ll be taking forward after lockdown, maybe travel less, maybe talking to your boss about working from home more often, maybe reducing the number of activities your children participate in and encourage more home quality time.

The point of this exercise is to establish gratitude for what it is, above what it isn’t. And it gives you a moment to reflect – what can you control going forward? If you’re anxious about ‘returning to normal’ what can you take control of and try to change to make it a new and better normal for you?

I hope this series of blogs was helpful? I’d love to hear your feedback.

Blog series written by Terese Smith – counsellor, dyslexic and Dyslexia Scotland blogger

Part 5: Our Loss of Freedom

Blog 05

Welcome to Part 5 of the Lockdown Mental Health Series. If you missed Parts 1-4 you can find them here.

Lots of people I talk to are getting increasingly frustrated with the extended lockdown, and no wonder.

Just think about it – what do we do to punish people for really bad crimes? Or what is a popular method of punishing a child for having been naughty?

We take away their freedom to roam.

Existential philosophy believes that there are 4 ‘givens’ we humans need to stay content in life:

  • We need to feel connected to others
  • We need to feel free
  • We need to be comfortable with our mortality
  • We need to feel there’s a meaning and purpose to it all/our lives.

How many of these ‘givens’ are being met at this moment in time?

Even if you’re a Zoom or WhatsApp or FaceTime or phoning/texting enthusiast we’ve all lost some form of connection with others. Even if you’re stuck at home with several people, it’s still not the same as having the freedom to meet up with friends and go visit other family members, or to be around colleagues.

Our need for freedom has, likewise, been limited. Our freedom to roam, our freedom to make certain decisions about our daily activities, our freedom to book holidays abroad, our freedom to buy what we want when we want, our freedom to go see a dentist, a GP or the vet unless it’s an emergency, our freedom to eat out, our freedom to do an endless amount of things.

We’ve also been forced to face our mortality and that of our loved ones almost overnight and that’s a big one! There are whole counselling services dedicated to just that. It’s not to be underestimated.

And finally, what’s the meaning of this? Of Covid-19?

We’re meaning-seeking animals and right now lots of us are facing a bit of a crisis in figuring out the meaning and purpose of things as we lose loved ones or jobs, or our sense of direction.

As I’m writing these blog posts, I’m aware that they might not seem very optimistic and full of happy rainbows. And that’s sort of on purpose. It’s because it’s OK to not be overly optimistic and positive and feel full of happy rainbows during a global pandemic. It’s OK to have bad days.

However, it’s also important to not give up and not feel hopeless.

These blogs and the theories I’m presenting in them are to say that this is life sometimes – difficult and hard with little control and certainty – and it’s OK to struggle from time to time. It makes sense why you might be struggling just now. But there’s plenty of hope and light at the end of the tunnel too.

Human are so amazingly resilient. We’ve always bounced back as a species.

This too shall pass, as they say – it might pass like a kidney stone but it will pass!

These blogs and theories are to give you an understanding as to what might be going on for you, or around you, to help you make sense of things. It’s to encourage you to not be so hard on yourself or others who are struggling just now because it makes sense to not be having the best time of your life.

It’s to say it’s normal to feel scared, or sad, or worried, or low, or frustrated or angry – all your feelings are valid. Even if you’re feeling happy and relaxed just now, because some people are and I’ll address that next time.

But remember that negative emotions are usually normal reactions to abnormal circumstances.

Blog series written by Terese Smith – counsellor, dyslexic and Dyslexia Scotland blogger

Part 4: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (and why it’s normal to not feel motivated just now)

Blog 04

Welcome to Part 4 of the Lockdown Mental Health Series. If you missed Parts 1, 2 or 3 you can find them here.

Something I’ve heard over and over, both among clients, friends, family and read about on social media is people feeling guilty for not being more productive, not making the most of lockdown and for not feeling more motivated.

If you’re one of them, please go back and read part 1 again, and say out loud:

  • These are unprecedented times!
  • We’re going through a global pandemic!

Why should you be reminding yourself of that?

Because, Covid-19 which has seen an international lockdown and global social distancing recommendations, is not a luxury pocket of time that’s been granted us.

Lockdown is a serious measurement with long-lasting consequences for our economy and our overall mental and physical health.

Being stuck at home with limited access to friends and family, to, perhaps, certain hobbies that helped us feel happy and calm, limited access to shops, and even limited options for buying certain products like anti-bacterial spray or flour is not normal for us, so what is normal is to feel unsettled by this, maybe stressed or worried.

If you’re still working and you have children, you’ve suddenly got more on your plate than ever before, earning money while also becoming a teacher, maybe while feeling guilty that you’re not managing either job as well as you think you should, or that you’re not enjoying this opportunity of quality time as much as you feel you should.

Let’s repeat:

These are unprecedented times, it’s a global pandemic – this is not a golden opportunity!

You have not failed and you are not a lesser person if you leave lockdown and you haven’t learned a new language, or mastered a new skill, or finally tidied your whole house, or created a vegetable garden outside.

You have one job just now: Survival.

To stay as healthy as possible and keep yourself and others save.

That’s it.

That’s the extent to our goal as a species: Survival and ensuring the next generation’s survival.

Maslow was an American psychologist and he came up with what’s known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (sometimes referred to as ‘pyramid of needs’).

His theory was that we have 5 human needs and each stage must be met before we can move on to the next. That’s to say, that we have a basic human need to feel warm, to have shelter, to have access to food and water and be able to rest.

If you remove this basic human need, you won’t care about the next stages.

Now, if you’re lucky enough to have this need met, you will move on to try and get your next human need met – that of safety and security. But this is a difficult need to have met just now, for all of us, because there is an element of not being safe just now – we’re all at risk for catching Covid-19.

According to Maslow, if you don’t have your basic human needs met you can’t go on to get your psychological needs met, the first one being connection, and without connection, we can’t start building on self-esteem and without self-esteem, we can’t become the ‘best version of ourselves’ and tap into our creativity and imagination and all the things we need to learn a new language or new skill.

So, give yourself a break.

We’re not all in the same boat, but we’re all weathering the same storm and that’s a storm of not having our safety needs met and of loss of real connection.

So, instead of being productive or feel guilty, try a dose of kindness and self-compassion.

Blog series written by Terese Smith – counsellor, dyslexic and Dyslexia Scotland blogger

Part 3: The Five Stages of Covid-19 Grief

Blog 03

Welcome to Part 3 of the Lockdown Mental Health Series. If you missed Parts 1 and 2, you can find them here:

Have you heard of the Five Stages of Grief by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler?

Kubler-Ross and Kessler were working with terminally ill patients and found that they seemed to go through five stages of dealing with their terminal illness: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

During the first few weeks of lockdown it became apparent that many of us were following these pattern of grief, after losing our freedom to roam, losing a sense of safety, losing our right to see family and travel, the loss of our daily routine, or monthly payslip or promise of free schooling for our children and much more.

So, what does this look like?

Some people wouldn’t social distance, and would still meet up to party, or sunbathe in the park in groups, or gather in some other way, still visiting family members and friends, despite the lockdown – they carried on as normal. Or, in other cases, they denied the seriousness of Covid-19 in various ways, like comparing it to the flu, or believe it was less dangerous than driving.

These strategies are known as denial – a refusal to believe the truth.

Denial functions as a self-protective mechanism.

It makes sense. It’s to avoid emotional pain. And who doesn’t want to avoid that if possible?

But as things progressed, most people moved away from denial and many of us have experienced anger instead.

Anger at the government for not keeping us safe, or doing a better job. Anger at our children for constantly being around. Anger at our partners for not doing enough around the house. Anger at our employers for not acting faster or for letting us go, or not offering us protection. Anger at countries that didn’t act faster or who didn’t warn us in time.

Anger also protects us. It’s a way of projecting our uncomfortable emotions on to others instead of looking within to see what’s really going on for us – like being scared, or feeling anxious, or guilty, or embarrassed or hurt. Anger hides a lot of feelings underneath its surface (try looking up the ‘anger iceberg’).

Then entered the bargaining stage:

“If only I’d…”

“I wish I’d….”

“If I could go back, I’d…”

For some of us it’s smaller things, like, I wish I’d got a hair cut while I could.

For others, it’s much bigger, like, I wish I’d visited my grandparents before this happened.

Bargaining also keeps us safe. It’s a way to look back instead of focusing on the uncomfortable here-and-now.

Who hasn’t experienced some form of depressive mood at some point in life? Feeling low, sad, eating or sleeping in unusual ways, feeling lonely and without energy and more prone to tears?

When feeling depressed we’re being honest about what’s going on for us emotionally – and that’s the fourth stage of the grief model.

The last stage used by Kubler-Ross and Kessler is acceptance: To come to terms with what is and moving forward from there.

Acceptance is very important for our mental health, but, it’s important to know that just because there are these neatly laid out five stages, doesn’t mean that we will go through each of them in an orderly fashion and end up at acceptance with smooth sailings ahead.

These five stages will go round and round for some time, and even once we reach acceptance that doesn’t mean we won’t go back and experience some of the other feelings all over again.

So, if you, like so many others, have experienced a whole range of different feelings, perhaps you were experiencing grieving over all the losses we’ve faced in a very short amount of time.

David Kessler has since added a sixth stage: Meaning making – what is the point of all this? How can I find the meaning behind what has happened? Humans are known to be meaning-seeking beings.

I’ll let you ponder on that one for yourself, or you can read more about it here https://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/

  • Did this model make sense to you?
  • Can you see yourself going through these stages?

Blog series written by Terese Smith – counsellor, dyslexic and Dyslexia Scotland blogger

Part 2: The Human Need for Control and Certainty

Blog 02

Welcome to Part 2 of the Lockdown Mental Health Series. If you missed Part 1 you can find it here.

I find the concept below really helpful, when we modern humans are feeling distressed for one reason or another. Remember we’re group animals, designed to live in small tribes, in nature, and that our brains have not evolved at the same speed as the world we’ve created around us has.

If you remember this fact, suddenly the reason most of us are feeling an element of stress all the time makes sense: We’re not designed to live in this fast-paced world, with technology knocking on our door 24/7, always being available via email, text, WhatsApp, social media, etc. We’re not designed to work full hour days and then come home and take care of the family and home as well and feel the pressure to make the most of our leisure time on top of that. We’re not designed to live in this noise of cars and crowds and music in shops or the radio blaring all day long.

If we remember this concept of our ancient brains then suddenly the reason so many of us feel lonely at times makes sense too: We’re not designed to live these individualistic lives on our own. We’re meant to live in a tribe, or at least in a community, but in the Westernised world we’ve been moving away from this for decades now and the consequences are clear. We’re lonelier than ever before and we feel more disconnected and that we don’t have the help around us we need, and which our ancestors had.  

If you think of humans as these primitive group animals with the one purpose of surviving, suddenly lots of the ways we interact with each other and the world makes sense. That’s why we’re so protective of ‘our own’, that’s why we fear ‘otherness’, that’s why we feel a need to control our environment and to feel there’s certainty in our lives. It was necessary for the survival of our small tribe and the next generation.

Of course, lots of these survival traits are no longer necessary to the same degree and considering our interconnected world, have become harmful instead when we divide people into ‘us versus them’.

But thinking about Covid-19 and the lockdown, how might this be relevant information?

Our tribes are now much smaller and usually consist of our closest family members only. But we’re still motivated to protect them above all else.

At the same time, there’s this big government force that has revoked our freedom to roam and limited our access to certain things and services.

Different governments have applied different measures and their messages aren’t always clear. That’s confusing and it leads to a sense of uncertainty.

We become instinctive and protective of our tribe and what that might look like nowadays is to buy all the toilet paper and flour and canned foods.

Why?

Because we’ve now stocked up on things we consider essential.

We’ve kept our ‘tribe’ safe.

We’ve tried to ensure a form of control by filling our cupboards and freezers.

We’ve tried to buy some certainty.

We’re animals and we learn from observing others – that’s why children often mirror our behaviours – so if everyone else is buying toilet paper so will I because either they know something I don’t about the importance of a fully stocked cupboard of toilet paper and so I shall follow their lead, or they’re trying to compete with me and ensure their tribe’s survival over mine, so I will engage in this competition too and try and win (them versus us).

Of course, not everyone went out and stockpiled but I’m merely trying to demonstrate why we saw this reaction happening across the world.

  • Did you learn anything new in today’s blog?
  • Did it help you gain some insight into other’s or your own behaviour?

Blog series written by Terese Smith – counsellor, dyslexic and Dyslexia Scotland blogger

 

Part 1: Unprecedented Times

Blog 01

Lockdown Mental Health Series: as it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we have a special series of blogs that we’ll post across the next six days. Here is Part 1 of 6: 

This blog won’t be related to dyslexia, but to a situation we all have in common right now and that’s the global pandemic of Covid-19 and the lockdown most nations have experienced over the last few months.

But where to start addressing such a big issue and what’s most relevant to address? We’re all unique and as such will all have our own priorities.

I’m a counsellor and, therefore, thought I’d share some of the most common issues that have come up in the counselling space over the last few weeks.

First of all, and I’ll return to this point time and again because it seems to get lost in the noise over and over, but to me, it’s essential to acknowledge:

  • These are unprecedented times for us all.
  • We’re living through a global pandemic.

Just pause and appreciate that: The whole globe is fighting off a disease.

Now, am I saying that to freak you out, which wouldn’t be very therapeutic of me?

No, of course not. 

I’m saying it because whenever we face a wobble, or uncertainty, or anxiety, or fret about our children’s schooling, or the future, or we find ourselves losing our tempers easily, or crying more than usual, or feeling numb, or unmotivated or unenergised, or uncomfortable, or angry with the government or at a certain group of people when we’re stocking up on food or toilet paper, or we feel like yelling at those who are, pause and just think about this:

We’re united across the planet to fight an invisible enemy.

Whatever you’re feeling, it’s OK!

There’s no manual.

There’s no unity across the world in best practice in beating this and moving forward.

It’s confusing, it’s worrying, it’s stressful, it’s frustrating, it’s a lot of things that can be hard to sit comfortably with, and that’s OK!

Over the next few days, I’ll be addressing:

  1. (Thursday): The human need for control and certainty
  2. (Friday): The Five Stages of Covid-19 Grief
  3. (Saturday): Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and why it’s normal to not feel motivated just now
  4. (Sunday): Lockdown and our loss of freedom
  5. (Monday): Anxiety about ‘returning to normal’

If there are other mental health topics you’d like me to cover, please get in touch with Helen at helen@dyslexiascotland.org.uk  and let her know or comment below.

  • So, how are you coping?
  • Have you seen yourself going through a change process as the weeks carry on?
  • Maybe getting more used to this new way of living? Maybe getting increasingly frustrated instead?
  • Did you recognise yourself in any of the above descriptions of emotions?

Blog series written by Terese Smith – counsellor, dyslexic and Dyslexia Scotland blogger

More helpful resources from SAMH here