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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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Opinion: It’s OK to be feeling a bit crap right now

Yesterday, I had a picnic lunch with a friend. We’d picked up a couple of spinach and feta borek on Karangahape Road in Auckland and walked a short way to a table in nearby Western Park. It was a warm sunny day, and we chatted away and laughed in the shade of a tall tree. 

At one point, the conversation turned to world affairs, and of course, the war in Ukraine, and covid. My friend then said he was suffering from constant fatigue and was feeling completely unmotivated. 

He and his husband had recently moved into a home they have had renovated. He mentioned that there is a spare bedroom full of unopened boxes he just doesn’t have the stamina to deal with. He confessed, somewhat guiltily, that all he wants to do when he isn’t at work, is lie down and sleep. 

I reassured him that he wasn’t alone.

Fatigue and anxiety are rampant and almost everyone I talk to admits to feeling ‘deflated.’

It’s distressing of course, but it’s completely understandable. 

We are living in a crazy time in history. It could be argued that there have been worse moments humanity has lived through such as the bubonic plague, two world wars, and the era of flared jeans. But those are in the past, and we are living with the current state of affairs, and it’s very unsettling.

My generation has never faced a global issue as big as covid. It has disrupted our lives on a daily basis. Millions of people have died, and it has still not been overcome. Here in New Zealand, we have been spared the worst aspects of the virus because our government and population have taken a very sensible approach to managing it. Now, as we transition to ‘living with the virus,’ we are seeing record numbers of infections, something we are not used to. 

Then there is Ukraine. Seeing a sovereign nation invaded and bullied by a tyrant is horrifying. Most of us would like to do something, but what? The consequences of this war are scary, and it has been started by a thug who has threatened to use nuclear weapons.

We are also seeing product shortages and skyrocketing petrol prices. Inflation globally is on a rise and doesn’t look like slowing. 

If you engage with social media, and mainstream media, you will see a constant bombardment of negative and pretty awful images and stories. Yes, there are also endless pictures of cats, cups of coffee, selfies, and trivia, but most of the news we see is negative and relentless. 

That kind of onslaught feeds anxiety, and it exacerbates any emotional issues we already have.  

So, if you are feeling fed up, strung out, and totally unmotivated right now, you’re not alone, it’s perfectly normal, and you know what? It’s ok to feel that way. 

That doesn’t mean one has to give in, and give up, it just means we don’t have to stress ourselves out about being stressed out. 

There are things that we can do to ease our anxiety. Unless you are in absolute danger, check-in with yourself, and ask yourself “what’s happening in my life right now?”  Is the issue serious enough to warrant help or intervention, or am I anxious about things that while inconvenient, are not impacting on me too badly?

Get exercise, eat healthy, and find ways of disconnecting, even for a short time, from social media, newspapers, and other sources of negativity. Plan and prepare for the future, but in a way that is realistic.  Realise that there are many things we cannot change, but we can change our attitude or reactions to them. Practice meditation, walk in a park or forest, connect with friends. Avoid sugar if you can. 

There is also one interesting technique I recently read about from the Adult Mental Health website called the 3-3-3 rule. 

Look around you and name three things you see. Then name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body – your ankle, fingers, or arm. Whenever you feel your brain going into overdrive, the 3-3-3 rule will help centre your mind and bring you back to the present moment. 

Whatever you do, just remember that you have dealt with crises before, and so has humanity. Hopefully, the current ones will ebb in time, and while others will arise, if we take care of ourselves, we should be able to weather them as well. 

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