There Is So Much Noise Around

Last published 28 July 2020

This blog was written by JC Candanedo, Digital Health Ambassador for Partnership for Young London. It was first published on the Partnership for Young London website on 23 April 2020.

These days are noisier than usual. I'm not talking about the noise from the streets or from the neighbours. I'm referring to the noise in my head. There are so many negative inputs coming from different channels (family, friends, social media, news outlets) that if I let my thoughts take over I go spiralling down into a state of numb.

I know that we are all in this together and that I should count myself lucky because I'm safe and healthy and my family is as well. That even though all my projects for the rest of the year have been cancelled I can still count on my rent being paid and my plate kept full. But, that feeling of privilege makes me feel guilty about all the people who are going through a very rough time at this moment.

Yet, as cold as it may sound, none of this is my fault. It's no one's fault. And I have to focus on how temporary this situation is. This too shall pass. It will take some time but we will go back to work, we will start classes again, we will be able to see our loved ones once more and hug them, and kiss them, and tell them how much they were missed.

In the meantime, I'm trying to keep myself busy in an effort to avoid my thoughts from taking over. I used to have a very busy schedule before this all happened, so I've populated my diary with activities to do every day. That gives me a sense of normality, a routine, something to think of when I wake up and something to look forward to before going to bed at night.

Some of these activities include:

  • I have scheduled video calls with family, friends and peers: I am trying to keep in touch with the people in my life at least once a week. Also, speaking to my peers, especially those with similar activities to mine, helps me have a glimpse into what other people are doing to mitigate the effects of the lockdown.
  • Fitness: I have scheduled a run around the park three times a week and a yoga session online two times a week. I've always run and done yoga with regularity so this helps in giving me a sense of routine.
  • Webinars / Workshops / Courses: I've always complained that living in a city like London where so much is going on all the time can be overwhelming. You wished you could attend all the events that come into your inbox but there is never time to do them all. It gives me a sense of missing out. So, now that most of those events have been taken online, I have scheduled at least three a week to keep up with the topics that I'm interested in.
  • Breaks: it might sound counterintuitive, but scheduling a pause to have a coffee, or have lunch, or to stop working at 6 pm has also given me a sense of normality. I stop everything that I'm doing at 6 pm every day, and take the rest of the evening to catch up on the shows I'm watching and the books I'm reading.
  • Weekends: weekends are the toughest because my brain knows that I should be doing an array of leisure activities yet I'm locked at home. What is helping a lot is baking and cooking elaborate meals. I've made pizza, brioche, and paella. Also, cooking large batches and freezing leftovers makes it easier to eat tasty food other days of the week. Engaging in a complex activity helps our brain stay entertained.
  • Helping others: lastly, I've tried to stay available for others when they need to talk, vent or just need help with anything no matter how trivial it might be. This gives me purpose and brings a little bit of optimism into my life.

We are all going through a very difficult time, no matter how affected we are individually by the pandemic. And moments like these can be particularly tough for people struggling with their mental health. Acknowledging that you are not well is a good start. But, we must also reach out when we feel like we are drowning if we want to see the light at the other side of the tunnel. Ask for help, but also ask if others are ok as well.

We are all in this together and the only way forward is by supporting each other. Supporting family and friends, partners and ex-partners, neighbours, peers, employees, students, teachers. Everyone is affected and everyone needs our support right now.

This will end. And once this is over, we will never be the same. We will come out on the other side valuing things that we took for granted before, with a stronger sense of family and community and, most importantly, knowing ourselves a bit more. So, hit the mute button on those negative thoughts and focus on taking things one day at a time. I'll see you on the other side.

JC Candanedo

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