It’s a strange world we’re living in at the moment. Instant access to the “news” and the fast pace of travel have turned against us. The uncertainty facing us all in the light of dramatic reports of everything to do with coronavirus are not helping mental health in any way. Until we can have some more balanced view of the threat to society in general, and our own personal circumstances in particular, we need to develop better coping mechanisms before we are all overwhelmed by fear.
Long term we can not all be confined to our homes but we can practise better hygiene and social distancing hopefully in the future alongside rapid testing and results (not yet available in any meaningful way), so we can return to some social situations. If there were a finite end in site it would help us all to learn to deal with our reality now, but there isn’t – so in the meantime, we need to learn to make our own risk assessments alongside government guidelines and restrictions.
COVID-19 is having a dramatic impact on the whole of society in one form or another. We’re lucky enough to be relatively isolated from the devastating health impact. We live in a remote area with low population but for those of you who live in cities the risk level is much higher.
Here are some tips as we see it to get away from the pandemic:
The single most detrimental factor to my own personal mental health and effectiveness during this period has been news overload. The constant reporting of numbers relating to COVID19 has had the effect of making me terrified to go anywhere or do anything. If I feel like that based in the Highlands and working from home anyway – then how much worse will it be for those who have to be in contact with large numbers of the public. How much worse is it for our public health workers?
Our news reports at the moment are almost exclusively focussed on COVID related issues. Brexit has very much taken a back seat as have reports on crime rates and worries about terrorists. Have they gone away as completely as it seems at the moment? Probably not. It would be interesting to compare news reports across the world. In Africa, it could well be a very different picture. There are after all still other problems worldwide which are of just as much concern if not more. If you live in a country where famine and hunger are very real prospects – how much time do you have to worry about COVID19 as well?
Definitely if you want any chance of getting your head in a better place – get away from the news and media. You’ll find that you will have a more even equilibrium and be able to achieve more positive results. You’ll probably also want to take a break from social media.
Experiment – see if turning it off for a morning is achievable. Increase your time away from the news until you can go a day or a week without checking in. Has that helped you to feel any happier? Have you got more time on your hands to take up new hobbies perhaps? Write that book you’ve been meaning to. Repaint your room. Explore your neighbourhood. Take up geocaching. Set yourself a fitness target … there are so many things you could add to your life which would give it more meaning than obsessing about the media reports and numbers but just be sensible.
We’re all spending a lot more time at home now – working at home, living at home, always at home. If you’re feeling at all stressed, being in the same environment all the time surely won’t help you. It is more important than ever to be able to get away from home, even if it is just to go for a local walk. Getting out for some fresh air, even in the park closest to you, will put you in a much better frame of mind to face the rest of the day.
The hospitality and travel industries have been the big losers in the government efforts to control the spread of coronavirus, but businesses have also made huge efforts to make their premises safe. Where alcohol is not served, these efforts have been more successful and some businesses have been exceptional in their efforts to adapt. Some good local examples in our area are: Anderson’s Restaurant, The Applecross Inn and Nethy House cafe amongst many others.
In fact, the Cairngorms National Park have been leading the way in helping businesses work together to fulfill all Test and Trace obligations with the #CairngormsTogether programme. Guests in the park use a QR code scanner to track which businesses they visit which means the guests, the businesses and their staff are quickly able to trace and isolate any potential infections. In turn this helps to keep the spread of COVID19 as closely controlled as possible. Fraoch Lodge is also part of this programme, though we’ve had very few visitors since March: partly through choice.
Staying away from home will not necessarily increase your risk of catching COVID19 if you follow all the current guidelines.
It’s an accepted fact that crowded, poorly ventilated areas are very high risk for catching COVID19. Fortunately, this in no way describes our working environment (see below).
One of the biggest pluses recently is the renewed interest in exploring the outdoors. Whether it’s camping (responsibly), cycling or hiking, being outdoors is a great way of escaping from stress and COVID19.
Heading into winter is a big worry for the health service and the government. They’re concerned that we’ll all spend more and more time indoors – which is probably true as we all cower away from the cold. However, you can still enjoy the outdoors and not suffer overly from the cold weather.
Take on new skills – book a navigation course
Check out the Wilderness Glamping heated tents – outdoors but warm and comfortable.
If you are forced to spend more time indoors and at home, you could turn to learn a new skill or a language to occupy your mind. Even if you’re on your own, this will help you to stay mentally active. YouTube videos can be great for introducing you to new skills, even if they are at first confusing.
Try to make sure that the approach of autumn and winter doesn’t trip you in situations which will create more stress for you. Keep up the new interest in cycling or any other outdoor occupation/activity which has come into your life. If you can, do come and see us and we’ll direct you to some socially distanced and safe walks/activities/food experiences here in the Cairngorms.