COVID-19 struggles: you’re not alone

New level. New old rules. New anxiety. New nonchalant behaviour. New confusion. That’s the short story about living through a global pandemic, COVID-19. 

This coronavirus is proving to be the worst everlasting nightmare to live through. There’s so much communication and yet no clarity. Of course, the result of this is division. For us South Africans in particular, the tension is so palpable. Since we’ve entered level 4 of the nationwide lockdown, there have been a lot of happenings that have me wondering if people truly have working brains. 

We have, as Luvvie Ajayi beautifully explained, Susans and her many versions, including the male ones, being given platforms to play victims about their apparent suffering caused by the government – and government officials – due to the rules of the current lockdown. Meanwhile, the poor (read black), who are trying to call for help for basic necessities are ridiculed and humiliated in the mainstream media for merely trying to find ways to survive during this crisis. 

Phantom COVID-19 symptoms

To say that it’s a difficult time is a sigh-able understatement. Many, who like me, struggle with anxiety, depression, panic attacks on regular days before this pandemic are now also faced with phantom COVID-19 symptoms. I have mini anxiety attacks before, during, and after going shopping for essentials. When I return home I get all the symptoms related to coronavirus. I swear I’ve caught it in my essentials run and I start to feel sick. The power of the mind, right? This is a vicious cycle that’s not going to end any time soon. So, nje we have to buckle up and buckle-up harder.

Oftentimes, when we’re experiencing tough circumstances we feel alone. So alone. The mind tricks us into believing that we are indeed alone. But nothing could be further from the truth. We are never alone. What we’re experiencing, someone else somewhere is experiencing it too. And, whether we would like to believe it or not, there’s always someone in our lives who is always ready to drop whatever they are doing to help us in our times of need. Even if it’s something as simple as a call.

Empathy has your back

So, if you start feeling alone, just remember that you’re not. We are there with you at all times. Your close circle is a phone call or a message away. On a larger scale, social media is here for you. Despite the vitriol that we are challenged with on social media, it does a really good job at connecting people, particularly in their times of need. Ubuntu may seem a myth or a far-fetched concept in our times, but it gave birth to many help-methods such as #countryduty. People are more empathetic than you might be led to believe. Use that to help yourself call for help when you need it. 

Coping mechanisms 

I’m not a doctor or a therapist, should you need this type of professional help please reach out to experts. But what’s helping me manage and navigate mental and emotional help is the following: 

Eating healthy

I am fully aware of this privilege. Some people are scrambling just to get something to eat. But it would be amiss of me not to tell you to try eating nutritious food that your body needs to stay healthy and have the ability to fight off illnesses. Eat the greens and drink the water. 

Do home exercises

Again, a privilege. But exercising helps me manage my thoughts. I’m not a fitness bunny. I do simple home exercises that do not need equipment such as squats, push ups, sit ups, skipping rope, jumping jacks, lunges, leg raises, planks etc. If you do have a smartphone and an internet connection, find beginner videos on YouTube. Try the exercise and see how you feel thereafter. 

Binge a series or movies

Another privilege. I watch a lot of my favourite shows to escape the reality and give my mind a break from our reality. If you have access to movies or series, go ahead and watch. I’ve also found that familiar films that I’ve watched before, play more impact in helping me calm down. The other day, I watched James Bond movies and I was sucked in and enjoyed every minute of it. So, pull out old classics that you like and watch.

Read a book or a magazine 

Reading is another form of escapism that is highly impactful in pulling a person out of a dark place. If you have any books or magazines, even if they’re old, read them. If you don’t, there are so many free books online. There are also platforms such as FunDza mobi with free reading material. 

Play games

If you have access to the internet, you will find many games to play. A friend of mine introduced me to Episodes, which is a game about making stories. It’s very addictive, if you do download it, don’t spend money on diamonds, learn from my mistakes. There’s also SIMS, if you’re into that stuff. I have Word Search, Candy Crush, Block Puzzle, Jungle Marble Blast, and Solitaire to keep me calm when I feel an anxiety episode coming.

Change or do an at-home treatment

By now, we’ve determined that this is a list of things the privilege is privy to. With that, I bring you the change something about yourself. It can be something small like applying nail polish. It does wonders for the mind. Because I am my own hairstylist, I did braids and I’ve had joy styling it. So, if you can, change your hair or if you can’t braid, wash your natural hair and style it differently. There are plenty of options to choose from, you can do mini twists, flat twists or braid equivalents. You can get ideas from hair influencers. You can also do a DIY skincare session using ingredients that are already available in your cupboard. You can use egg whites, honey, lemon, turmeric powder, oats, sugar, apple cider vinegar and more. The internet is crawling with DIYs. But make sure you understand your skin type before you use any harsh chemicals on your skin. Beauty Influencer and skincare expert Pabi Kgadima might be able to help you. Visit her website and get contact details from there.

Sleep the expert recommended 8hrs 

Sleep can be a luxury to people who suffer from any form of mental health. At best, we manage about 4-5 hours before our brains start reminding us of what’s wrong or what a danger we live in. All jolting us awake for many more hours. If you can catch 8hours, please sleep. It’s essential for your well-being. Sometimes it’s difficult to fall asleep and because I do not want to be dependent on my anxiety pills, i have a meditation app called Rain App. It helps me relax and fall asleep. 

Stay connected 

My friends keep me sane. Our serious chats, DMCs (deep meaningful conversations), stupid chats and banter keep me going. We feed off each other. I am eternally grateful for the friends that have become family. We chat through free platform, WhatsApp, and other platforms that need data such as Instagram and Twitter. We also video call via Google Hangouts, Duo or WhatsApp Video Calls just to have that ‘virtual physical’ connection. 

It is the same with my family. It is sometimes difficult to fathom that they’re 15 minutes drive from me but I can’t go see them because of the gravity of the situation. It’s safer for me, and them to stay put at my place. But we connect through socials and we play virtual games and quizzes.

I hope the above helps. Stay home and wash your hands. If you’re not back at work, please only leave the house for essentials and when you do, wear a protective mask, sanitize and practise social distancing as per rules.

If you feel that you need professional help, please contact SADAG at 0800 567 567 or if you’re feeling suicidal call them at 0800 456 789.