"Nobody wants to be here and nobody wants to leave." Cormac McCarthy – The Road.
By Ian Mallon
So this is what the end of the world looks like.
I thought it would resemble the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse trampling around the garden ruining the daffodils, not a deranged sprint from the Tesco carpark to aisle seven to hunt down that elusive pack of Andrex.
Who would have thought that the simple bog roll would be the post-apocalyptic comfort blanket for the human race?
These are strange, unsporting times indeed and you need to prepare for what will become a monotonous existence, surrounded by the same people, day after day after day.
And I’m only at the end of week one.
The UK and USA are about a week behind us here in Ireland, and those of you in either country will be going through the same issues next week.
The only silver lining on this black cloud is that I’ve never walked and jogged as much in my life. A fully-loaded, full-fat lockdown could be on the cards, so get out there and exercise while you can.
The thing about enforced, or encouraged, lockdowns is that very soon you’ll realise that this is Christmas without the Merry.
At least during the Seasonal break, there’s the presents and the booze and the horse-racing. Now there is empty nothingness, with a promise of a touch of terror on the horizon.
You are locked-in for what will be weeks, and may well be months, stuck with your once-loved ones who have become more irritating than a Love Island nymphet.
And that’s not to mention what they must think of you as you crank and grumble your way around the house like Jack Nicholson in the Shining, wondering which door to take an axe to.
The main thing to know from the beginning is that if you’re not prepared there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, there’s not even a tunnel.
There’s just a feeling of an unending hole in the ground into which you hurtle downwards, forever locked in a nightmare in which you’re constantly falling.
You don’t even have the relief of waking up in a sweaty, trembling mess at the end of it. And if you do wake-up, you quickly realise it’s not a night-terror, it’s our new reality.
So pull yourself together and make sure to seek out some fun during these desperate times.
As the nominated hunter-gatherer of the house, I am the one who at least gets to go out and fetch the shopping, and with that comes its own marvels through chronic observations of man’s (and woman’s) obsessions in life.
I only wish I had invested in toilet roll shares before the ‘Emergency’. And what about the white sliced pan? – usually purchased by the half-dozen, by folk whose aorta’s will resemble concrete cul-de-sacs at the end of all of this.
In the past week, I’ve stood and gawked as previously normal shoppers shuffle their way past with trollies stuffed with jumbo packs of bum wipes and enough dough-matter to fill an empty airbus.
And I must have missed the Bear Grylls episode where he survives a nuclear holocaust on beer, scones, and an unending supply of crisps.
In a conversation with the nice till server in the supermarket, I asked what she had learned most from her first week as a ringside spectator of hell.
“I’ve realised that people’s priorities do not match their needs,” she shouted wistfully from an acceptably safe distance.
Like the teller, after a spell watching Man at his absolute strangest, I am suitably disappointed enough to return home and to slip back into domestic depression.
Okay, okay, enough – Self-Isolation, Lockdown, call it what you will… this takes some getting used to.
There are a few basic teachings from Week One that we can all learn from.
Just because we are living in extraordinary times doesn’t mean that we don’t need structure. In fact, a daily routine which doesn’t involve rolling out of bed at midday is essential for your mental state.
You may no longer have to sit in a car or wedge yourself onto a bus or train to spend three hours getting to the office every morning, but you should still get up at the normal time. Use the time not spent sandwiched between strangers by going for a morning walk or run.
In pre-apocalyptic times washing was the norm, but if you’re not careful, the temptation to fall out of bed, crawl to your newly formed home office and remain in your pyjamas, plodding away on your laptop is huge.
Apart from obvious hygiene issues, a warm shower and a refresh will set your day up nicely, not to mention the advice in these highly toxic times that basic washing means more now than ever.
With the munchkins off school, there will be a temptation to let the ones who don’t insist on hopping out of bed before dawn, to sleep for as long as possible. If you get them into some sort of routine early you are forming habits which will keep them sane through this indefinite spell.
- Keep a close eye on the teenagers
Anyone with teenagers in their house will realise that these pubescent grumps have been self-isolating for years, so despite the onset of a global pandemic, they’re probably the most adjusted to these times. However, these guys and girls are super-sensitive and will be more aware that something very odd is happening in their lives. Organising some structure in their days, getting them out for a walk or exercise is important for the minds as much as their bodies.
A tragic by-product of the i-Age has been the enthusiasm for kids to embrace Tik-Tok, Snapchat, and Instagram at the cost of books. Try and get everyone to take part in a reading hour, once every day. This will be met with stiff resistance, and I still haven’t succeeded in this achievement, but it’s worth persisting with.
Yes, working from home has its obvious temptations, particularly around lunchtime. You don’t need to go for a nap, just because you might still be in your pyjamas and you’re probably not more than 20 metres from your bed. It will only create a needless habit and you’ll probably spend the night awake stressing about the next day ahead.
- Staying Strong, Fighting Mental Fatigue
Your mental health needs a huge amount of minding in these extraordinary times. Due to financial and health uncertainty, as well as worrying about older family members, it’s only natural that you’ll slip occasionally. Remember you are one of the billions of people going through this, so it is normal and natural to experience mental fatigue. If you are feeling low reach out to a friend, loved one, family member or the Samaritan helpline which is available 24 hours a day to provide confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thought.
- The Samaritans helpline can be reached at:samaritans.org
(free to call from within the UK and Ireland), 24 hours a day
- Stop reading Fake news
Social media from sources which are not authoritative news or health brands create fear and misinformation. Only read content from verified news sources, and in particularly teach your kids the value of good journalism. Their news source, generally, is likely to be some crazy YouTuber locked in his bedroom in Idaho, and you need to teach them who to trust.
Don’t obsess over news reports
News and current affairs junkies will find this period as fascinating as it is terrifying. With the constant news cycle available it is easy to get sucked in, where you obsess over every single item. There is such thing as too much information, and if it’s on constantly it will spook those around you who may be nervous, or even downright terrified.
There’s nothing like a good game of draughts or chess to re-programme our minds and the busy minds of our kids in these technological times. If you can’t play chess, then learn, and you could be creating a passion that will stay with you for life.
Don’t reach for the bottle
Very obviously, stay off the booze, at least until your breakfast has digested properly. Seriously though, it’s easy to allow yourself a comforting tipple at the end of every day, and that quickly becomes the norm. Allow a treat once a week, but better off using this time to go dry and keep a clear head.
- Remember, that this will pass
Sure this is difficult, but the very best experts in the world tell us that this event will pass. It’s just a matter of when, and not if. Prepare for being in this situation for months – it is for your own good - and at least then you are in a long-term state of acceptance.
So, in a nutshell, don’t panic, try not to cry (in front of the kids anyway), don’t drink too much and stop panic buying up all the bog rolls and bread. But do stay safe, follow the guidelines, and try to find humour in what is a dreadfully unprecedented time.