What everyone is experiencing right now isn’t normal, let’s get that straight from the start. There isn’t a rule book in our generations for how to handle this, no template, no guide. How anyone handles the experience is personal. There comes in recognising that respect to not apply pop psychology or misunderstood concepts. To not judge, to not shame and to certainly not tell anyone how to cope.
In reality, there is grief right now. Mourning for the life we don’t live now. A sense of confinement, that brings a loss of power and a fear of the unknown. Mix in a large splash of paranoia, sprinkles of fear and you’ve got quite a cocktail running through our brains right now. Amygdalas are singing the tune of panic and primal instincts are kicking in.
Grief isn’t easily defined
There is often a misconception when talking about grief that leads people to bring up the ‘stages of grief’ experiment as a framework. To context, that experiment was done in a very particular situation. The Kübler-Ross model was done looking at terminally ill patients. It also is often thought of as linear, this isn’t fact and Kübler herself regretted listing in later life.
It’s comforting to think there is a framework, a theory that can fit and bring coping. The reality is that’s just not the case. Grief doesn’t play by exact rules, it fits each person differently. At best you can think of the model as an indicator that grief can be processed, not a schedule and certainly not a guide on how to get through.
Boredom has a purpose
Boredom gets a bad rep, it’s thought of as negative and something culturally across the world to avoid. Keep active, don’t be passive, a busy mind is a happy mind. There’s often a confusion between states too, being still isn’t boredom, being paralysed with the emotions of a situation isn’t boredom. In fact, not knowing what to do isn’t actually boredom if that’s because power is taken from you.
Just like anything we experience there’s a purpose to the state of being bored. Maybe it’s a simple reminder to pause. Perhaps it’s a spark to kick you into action, it doesn’t have to be. Each person also experiences boredom differently, some never do and some do a lot. Just like any state it has a purpose and often that’s a personal one. Accepting a state of not doing is totally ok, similarly if you just can’t be comfortable there, find just enough activity to soothe.
Every situation is different
In all of this it’s often hard to see outside our bubble. To see what others might be experiencing. Empathy allows us to contextualise our own situation, in many ways we compare through that and process. When you can’t escape the confines of your bubble, that’s a whole lot harder. If you interactions are just inside, relating and realisation are limited.
Every person has a different situation. Some have children they are balancing throughout this, trying to keep a sense of stability in a sea of storms. Others are caring for people at home when services are unable to come out and support. Some have lost people during this. Many are isolated, the digital screen their only human touch. The life behind the avatar is so much deeper and important to remember right now in any interaction.
Play is processing
Children act out situations in their life and process through play. There are mountains of studies on the psychology of play. There’s solid evidence that choosing right now to immerse in a game is actually healthy. You are escaping but still active. Your subconscious is going to be processing things.
Depending on the type of game you will be getting different benefits. For example, if you are playing a building or farming game there’s a sense of control. Spending your evenings chasing butterflies and creating the perfect island in Animal Crossing is incredibly healthy right now for your mental balance.
Similarly, reliving a game of more comforting times like Final Fantasy VII remake, there’s good in that to flood your brain with happy memory chemicals. If those aren’t your thing, your brain will be quite recharged by vanquishing dragons, beating up some pixels or becoming a virtual heroine for a while.
There is a reason so many are turning to home crafts right now. From baking to knitting, gardening to jam making – each brings a sense of control over the situation for a while. Cleaning is also something brings that order, that hit of achievement.
There’s a need for home right now in the space you exist – it’s worth noting that doesn’t have to be a ‘four-walled home’ as much as the feel of it right now. Home is a mental state, not a physical space.
This all though needs a note of caution, if you right now can’t do anything that’s totally ok. The key is micro-controls, not to try and control everything. It might be your micro-control is just making sure you eat well. It might be it’s putting the cap on the toothpaste. Whatever it is, that’s personal and valid.
Simply don’t judge
Every single person is going to process the situation differently and that is very ok. Some are able to experience this in privilege and others are just trying to ride through the high waves of this storm and not drown. Every experience truly is personal and we are all at different stages of this. Perhaps, our paths will cross with others as the experience ebbs and flows, but we are on our own route. Our little ship might have a few others onboard it, but even if you are in the same physical space, the experience varies.
The simplest thing and most important thing we can do right now is not judge. Not assume another’s headspace or experience. Approach every situation and interaction with as much empathy as you have right then. It might be at that time you don’t have much, that is also fine, sometimes you have to save up to be kind to yourself. Now is the time for slow reactions, not fast takes. To not shame or compare. A time to remember each human has a different experience and that’s an incredible part of this existence.