Letter from Sue #1: Coping with Corona Lockdown

We all need to be congratulated – we have made it to Day 6 of Lockdown. How surreal and strange this still all feels at times. I am thinking that by now that feeling of “Well, that was a nice long relaxing weekend” has begun to pale and we are all wishing we could “get back to normal”!

From a psychological perspective I am hoping that by looking at a few of the issues that are surfacing for us over these next few weeks and offering some suggestions which hopefully may act as a “springboard” may be encouraging and helpful.

Although to a large extent we are social people and enjoy our communities and those in closer relationships to us, to be in lockdown and in very close proximity to others on a 24/7 basis is not usual or normal and can cause a great deal of stress, leading to irritability and frayed tempers!!

We are all in different situations but psychologists talk about our personal space, which is very important to us as individuals. Our personal space is that space around us which we only allow certain people to come into and sometimes only very briefly. For example, we can feel very uncomfortable and even threatened if someone encroaches on that space without us having “agreed” as it were for them to be there. (Think about how you feel if someone comes right up to you to talk to you or stands too close to you in a queue, or hovers over you threateningly)!

At this stage I think it is very important to try to honour that sense of personal space with the people we are in lockdown with. Not only do we need that space around us, but at times we need to be alone, to process, to regroup, to consider our feelings and just to “be”. This may not always be easy but perhaps we could think of creative ways to offer that space to people over this time.

There is a delightful story told of Susanna Wesley who was born in 1669 and died in 1742. She was the Mother of Charles and John Wesley who went on to become the founders of Methodism. Susanna made it a rule within her little house that when she needed time to be, she would sit down in a chair in her kitchen and pull her apron over her head! Everyone knew that if she was doing that, she needed space and time and she needed to be left alone! (She had 19 children by the way, 10 of whom made it to adulthood, so I would imagine at times things became very fraught!!)

Perhaps we could consider offering others “apron time” in our homes. Some of us may be able to put aside a specific designated space for when individuals need to be alone and be prepared to give them that space. It could be as simple as a blanket and cushion in a corner, or a special chair or somewhere outside (if we have that)! The most important thing is to allow that person the space to be alone, when they need it and the whole family recognizes the fact that the person is needing to be left alone at that time! Let’s talk about this with the people who are in lockdown with us and think of creative ways to allow people their own space!

Sue Tinsley