• Marie-Louise

The Overwhelm

The first week of lockdown went quickly, weirdly enough. There was so much novelty! For example, Facebook Messenger group video chats? As a middle-aged mum, I'd never used that before, let alone with a ridiculous filter plastered on my face. Now those chats are the highlights of my social calendar, not least because filters are far quicker and more effective than make-up.

However, shortly after the first week of lockdown drew to a close, the novelty started wearing off and the overwhelm started mounting.


This lockdown experience is so utterly surreal - the entire world has ground to a halt?! - that it's practically impossible to get our wee minds around it. I feel like there are two parallel universes and I have one foot in each. There's my usual reality - I'm in my apartment with my family and we're doing the same activities we normally would. And then there's the alternate reality that has opened up outside my apartment - streets are empty, restaurants are closed, families are stuck hundreds or thousands of miles away from one another, people are dying, and our doctors and nurses have become soldiers on the frontlines. It's completely overwhelming.


I think, for most people, the overwhelm kicks in particularly hard when you learn that someone you love has been hit by COVID-19. In my case, it's my Uncle Javier isolated at a hospital in Madrid, fighting the severe pneumonia brought on by coronavirus while my Aunt Cathy is stuck by herself at home, forbidden from visiting him. I don't think I could ever explain how utterly wonderful and beloved Cathy and Javier are, but I don't need to - everyone has someone they adore, their own Cathy or Javi.


And, at some point, someone you adore, or someone beloved by someone you adore, will be suffering because of this absolute shitbrick of a virus. The overwhelm will kick in and you're going to need to take a moment to acknowledge that all of this is NOT okay. It's fine to go have a little weep. I'm not usually a crier, but these past few days have seen me escaping to the bathroom to blub far too often. I mean, even a Taylor Swift song brought me to tears the day before yesterday?!


Our new sci-fi reality is terrifying and if you're not feeling overwhelmed by it yet, you probably will be soon. However, aside from having a snotty ugly cry every now and then, there are some less unattractive activities that seem to combat the overwhelm.


For starters, lower the bar immediately. This is a global state of emergency. You're not expected to churn out your best work at this time. We're all in a state of shock and worry, which isn't really conducive to being creative and productive. It'll probably help to try to plan your days a bit because, when faced with an unlimited chunk of unstructured time, it's really hard to get started on anything. But don't kick yourself if you veer from the plan enormously - these are extreme circumstances. Just be kind to yourself - your only objective should be getting through each day without losing your shit too often, and preferably enjoying a bit of laughter with those you love.


There's also a different kind of overwhelm threatening us at the moment. There’s so much free stuff and so many ideas bubbling up on social media that it starts to feel that we're drowning in all these helpful suggestions. I started a folder labeled 'Coronavirus' within my saved items on Facebook. Within it, I save all the awesome looking resources people are recommending, but, in all honesty, it's highly unlikely I'll use even a small percentage of them. With two small kids in my house, I don't need more items on my to-do list.


On the flip side, the benefit of those two small kids is that they are very talented at forcing me to go all Buddhist monk and tune out everything other than what's in front of me right here and right now. At the moment, that's a half-constructed cardboard castle. It's half-built because these giggling lunatics are literally laying down on the job. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go whip them into action so that we can finish the drawbridge before lunch.


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