Sitting on my balcony trying to stay productive, laptop and smoothie in hand. I am aware that this feels like a huge struggle for most people, given the governments conditions. It all feels very surreal right now. Like a ball of anxiety pressing on the nerves in your brain right? This is why it is extremely crucial to maintain a balance of keeping busy and allowing your brain to breathe at the same time. We all find different ways to cope with the pressure of stressful situations. Whether it’s sticking on Netflix and eating a bunch of snacks, working out, cleaning and making your surroundings pretty or anything else that brings you serenity during chaos.
Then you have the whole introvert extrovert thing where some people are indulging in their usual routine of staying indoors enjoying their own company and the others are developing difficulty in dealing with being isolated for so long. All accompanied by the uncertainty of what is to come in the following weeks and months. Now as those who are care leavers, we know very well that familiar feeling of uncertainty that seems to have never left. Nonetheless now it is awake and in full swing for a lot of us, with anxiety crawling through the roof. Flooded with worries such as how you will continue to study, how you will survive without work and how the rent will get sorted. These being just a few terrors going through many minds at the moment. As we all know, mental health goes hand in hand with physical health and now is the time to be over-the-top when it comes to exercising healthy habits. Being cooped up indoors and swarmed by the media constantly discussing the elephant in the room can be manic. Personally, my OCD and anxiety has been eating me alive but midst all of this, I have managed to craft a range of activities and things to do whilst this all pans out.
I am currently studying English literature and philosophy however, like most educational institutions, my lectures have now taken the form of online learning. Now for someone who’s sleeping routine is more of a freestyle than a pattern at this point, I find it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time let alone absorb tons of information via an online chatroom where there’s a lot going on. Moving onto money; there is a lot of spending going on but also a lot of shortage within the community. People are ravaging the supermarkets and making it difficult for the elderly and vulnerable to have essentials. The key is to have enough so that you do not have to drift into the public eye too frequently and risk getting sick. Only shop what you need, grab your toiletries, some fruit and veg, cleaning products and filling meals that last. Personally, I stocked up on vitamins and herbs to keep at home. Putting thyme in water with lemon does wonders and works as a refreshing treat. Turmeric fuels your immune system. Supplements such as multivitamin complex, vitamin D3, vitamin B, protein packets and shilajit have all become vital parts of my routine. I am a huge fan of herbal teas, calling all the jasmine, hibiscus, matcha and green tea heads; light a candle or two and drink up!
Reading and listening to music is helping me harness my sanity and even motivates me to get up and engage in other proactive activities such as cleaning, dancing, painting, tending to coursework and calling loved ones. Now I cannot stress how key it is to call and check in with the people you care about. Everyone handles stress differently, some better than others and you never know whose day you can brighten just by checking they’re ok. This is also a good practice for yourself as communicating and tapping in with others promotes healthy functioning, the type that we need to survive. Self-care comes in many shapes and sizes, whether its eating what you love, face timing a friend, banging on a face mask listening to your favourite record, going through your skincare routine or lounging in bed til 12 in the afternoon just do it and do NOT feel guilty about it. So what if you haven’t finished that bit of coursework, so what if you haven’t completed any chores or answered your DM’s, take your time with it, take your time with yourself. Also try to take regular breaks away from the media, this includes your phone, TV, laptop etc. Let your brain rest a little and see what it does. As much as the media keeps us informed, it can easily spread chaos in the minds of many where in fact the core worry is maintaining self-health and staying optimistic. I used to literally swamp in my negative thoughts until they’d consume me but someone once firmly told me, “Look at the glass. See it half full rather than half empty.” At the time, it didn’t mean much and only irritated me but once I actually took it in I started implementing it and can now say it is something I go by daily when it gets tough.
You may find that you are feeling overwhelmed with the updates and people buzzing down your phone. Just take a breather and remember you are not obliged to respond to every notification that pops up. You are not a robot nor a therapist and it is important to keep this in mind. I have been trying to find a decent balance between checking in on my loved ones but also neglecting my phone as much as I can as I find that most of my anxiety stems from constantly being online and alert. Social media breaks are a beautiful thing and so is distancing yourself from all the areas that bring panic into your space. Now is the time to appreciate what you do have, who you keep around and all the positive influences in your life. This may consist of deleting that person that doesn’t reciprocate your energy, only answering calls that are essential, minimising your screen time and drinking plenty of water.
On the other hand, there are loads of free courses online in all sorts of different subjects waiting to tickle your brain and inspire you. Just because we are restricted in exploring our surroundings currently does not mean we cannot explore the other sides to our brain. That fashion module you buried in your desktop, that specific meal you’ve always wanted to cook, that doodle you never executed in your sketchbook, whatever it is you now have the time. Delve in and delve deeply. Two fantastically intriguing books I have read recently are Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. Another brain feeder is binging on documentaries about random topics you’ve never shed light on previously and engulfing yourself in new knowledge. I am wishing light and resilience on all my fellow care leavers, you are braver and firmer than you can even contemplate.
"Trying to open eyes softly not harshly. Bloom where you’re planted." Maya is 21 years old and currently studying English Literature and Philosophy.