It’s OK, not to be OK.

‘I’m seeing people writing blogs, doing arts and crafts and baking and I can’t even brush my hair some days.’

Some of my friends are finding these times difficult. They are tired all the time and struggling to find the energy or inclination to do anything constructive (in their eyes). Some, spending 5 hours on hold to HMRC just to make an appointment to access help for the self-employed. Others are so anxious they cannot even leave the house even for the permitted hour of exercise. These are unprecedented times. They look at social media and feel inadequate that their lives aren’t as productive as everyone else’s appears to be. Firstly, we must get through the ‘Facebook life’ nonsense and recognise that generally people only show their best bits online. Secondly, in times of crisis we often revert to the basic requirements of life.

If we think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the pyramid is built on the foundation of basic physiological and safety needs. Before we can even think of reaching the pinnacle of self-actualisation or self-esteem, we must first satisfy our most basic level needs.

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At present, for a lot of us, our basic needs are not being met. The basic need for safety is being tested with the threat of the coronavirus all around us. Anxiety levels are high just when going to the supermarket. We don’t feel safe even leaving the house. Then imagine how safe all the key workers are feeling. The government guidance to stay at home plays on all our fears when we do step outside. Safety needs also encompass our job security. Many have lost their jobs, been furloughed or are worrying about what the future holds.  

Our physiological needs – our most basic of needs – are also put at risk. The need to be able to pay our mortgage or rent, to keep a roof over our heads. The need to put food on the table to feed our families. With some of us now left with no income or having been furloughed our basic needs have now become our greatest concern.

Our psychological needs of relationships and esteem are in jeopardy. We have lost the normal day-to-day interactions with our friends, family and colleagues that make us feel connected. We are having to create new ways through video chats and phone calls but without the reassurance of physical contact and a hug. Our need for achievement and self-esteem for many is reliant on ticking off our to do list of cleaning, DIY and walking the dog.

So, no wonder we aren’t all writing blogs and baking. We can’t satisfy our self-fulfilment needs when we can’t even satisfy our basic needs.  It’s OK to feel like you cant get out of bed early, it’s OK to flop on the sofa and watch Netflix all day, it’s OK to stay in your PJ’s all day, let alone bake a 3-tiered sponge cake, decorate half the house or create a hand puppet theatre!

I wrote a post recently about using this time at home productively to plan and prepare for better times. As the weeks have passed, I realise that whilst this is achievable for some, the vast majority need to focus on more basic, pressing concerns.

So what should we be doing? Whatever works for you, is the right thing to do. Whether that be regrouping your thoughts, not setting your expectations too high, writing the novel that’s always been inside you, throwing yourself into home-schooling or baking as if you are a contestant on Bake Off.  Do what feels right, take care of your physical and mental health,  ignore what everyone else is doing and stay safe.

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