Self-care and the coronavirus
We understand that Covid-19 brings extra challenges and concerns for adult siblings. We have asked Allie Stewart, Sibs’ Trustee and trained psychotherapist to share her expertise with fellow adult siblings.
We are in this together
“I have been dithering for an hour as to what to write about with regards to the current coronavirus situation and the new daily life with which we live. I have spent a lot of my working life helping others to deal with change and how to manage their feelings in response to that change so I thought it would be useful to start there.
Most of us with disabled brothers or sisters are experienced in crisis management. In later years, my sister who has Down’s syndrome and dementia, has experienced many health crises which have resulted in her being in full-time residential care. What I have learned to do this year is to get to know and work with the team who support her instead of thinking I must do it all. I have accepted I can’t, her behaviour is too challenging for one person plus Liz doesn’t know me now. I have a sister but a very different one to the old Liz for whom I grieve whilst she is still here.
Siblings are often very responsible people who put others first, have developed a lot of emotional and psychological resilience and tend not to take best care of themselves or talk about their own needs and ask for help. We are hyper-vigilant, constantly alert to problems and researching solutions. We battle authorities, have feistiness and readiness to confront. In the current situation we will need to accept that the situation is not within our control but we can assist in keeping ourselves safe and others safe by following the guidelines.
As a psychotherapist , for over 25 years although now retired, and career coach, what I do know is that change, when brought to us and not by us, arrives suddenly, we need to delve in to different personal resources to adapt quickly whilst we ride the storm.
Grief and Loss
Redundancy is like this, it triggers the grief process and the candidates I see in the beginning are mostly in shock and denial, if they have also undergone any other loss, divorce, death or illness of a loved one or a change in financial or family circumstances, the impact of the redundancy will be felt more strongly.
Right now, we are feeling loss which is affecting the many not the few. Loss of the life we had and worked for, loss of our usual routines and now loss of sociability in the old ways. This is temporary but as yet we do not have an official end date. Now we need new ways to live until that time arrives.
If there has been loss or trauma which has not been dealt with in earlier years, old feelings may re-surface and people start recycling previous events. You can also find yourself at a loss because you can’t use the old strategies to combat anxiety and deal with the fight, flight or freeze.
If you are naturally a mover (flight) when under stress and exercise at the gym or through sport you will need to get creative. Do you have anything in the house which you could adapt to table tennis or join in with the internet body coaches so you can programme in an exercise hour twice a day as well as taking your permitted daily walk.
There are strategies for turning off the stress response you can find a lot more about this on the internet. If you don’t have access to a computer, use soothing music, inspirational reading or, paint a picture. It’s much better to do soothing activities when you have done your exercise/walk as the endorphins will have kicked in.
Stress and Anxiety
If you are feeling overly anxious, get up to date advice here.
Or call your GP surgery for advice if you are very worried.
There are many strategies to turn off the stress response.
I love to be by the sea when I am stressed, it’s a very safe secure place for me. Right now though I have to visit the sea virtually and hold it in my heart as a forward goal.
Here is a lovely video of Alistair Appleton who is a TV presenter and a Buddhist/Psychotherapist by the sea in Sussex.
Exercise – this is a high priority for managing stress. Use dance or body coaches from the internet.
Know that you are secure and remember times when you have felt this way and think about them often – visualisation is a powerful tool
Use positive affirmations which mean something to you. Trigger the relaxation response. … Sound is a very powerful resource you might like the Singing Bowls
Learn to be in the present moment and not trapped in your thoughts and feelings (or more simply — learn to accept and let go)
Do the jobs you have been putting off and de-clutter.
Read, Cook, light candles, garden or send off for seeds to cultivate indoors.
The impact of self-isolation or social distancing might bring up unresolved issues as we cannot distract our way out of them by going to work, shopping, visits to theatres and friends.
It is important to know this to protect yourself from becoming overwhelmed plus it raises your capacity to live in the present and enable you to create a structure for your new days ahead. The sun will still come up and also set just as it always has done regardless of what’s occurring in the world. The birds still sang after the guns went quiet after battle in WW1.
Your old daily routine can’t be put in play right now and a timetable for the weeks ahead will give you the comfort of some structure and control.
My father was a Japanese prisoner of war for 4 years and although he talked little of his experiences what he did teach me was to live one day at a time. Until he died he never liked anything rearranged in the house, if mum in her spring cleaning frenzy moved the furniture to new position, you could bet by nightfall, dad would have moved it all back again. In the prison camp, personal space was a luxury, he did have a razor on a little shelf and this razor was always at the same angle and the same position for the years he was incarcerated.
We are not in this situation, read up on people who have been and survived, there are many inspirational stories out there – many of you will recall the hostages in the Middle East, John McCarthy, Terry Waite and Brian Keenan.
Think about who has inspired you or where you look for it in poems art or literature.
For today, do what you can, accept what you can’t control and keep in touch with your brothers and sisters, family and friends the best way you can. Find out about mortgage holidays and any other financial benefits that are open to you. Look for what support is happening in your local community. Be kind to yourself.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step – Lao Tzu”