Five Miles From Home
Someone once told me of a statistic that most car crashes happen within five miles from home.
I don’t know how accurate that is, but the rationale was that when we enter home territory and reach a sense of familiarity, of almost getting there, we stop paying as much attention to the risks around us. We are so focussed on getting home that we lose awareness of the dangers that we had been so mindful of for the other 90% of the journey.
The end of lockdown is in sight. It has been an arduous journey. As a nation we are teetering on the brink of widespread PTSD; it will likely take years to grieve the losses, heal the wounds, calm the fears and rebuild society in the wake of the Covid pandemic. We know our mental health has been stretched and strained along the way, but it is in this last stretch, with the end in sight, that we may be in most danger of mental ill health and breakdown.
We have been holding it together – but feel like we soon won’t have to (think being well all term and then coming down with flu as soon as the holidays begin). We are weary - any novelty, adrenaline, ‘making the best of it’ - wore off a long time ago. We are desperate for some relief. But we are also nearly there, and could easily switch off from being vigilant with our mental health and emotional wellbeing.
You may already have felt yourself beginning to creak in the last few weeks. We are all mentally and emotionally worn out. But in these last ‘five miles’ it is critically important that we keep attentive to the hazards out there. We are not home yet.
So a few thoughts on keeping alert in these last five miles from home…
1. Listen to your body. Our bodies have a lot to say about how we are doing and when we need to up the attention. I may tell you I’m fine, but my body might tell you through endless headaches, neck and jaw pain, gritted teeth, muscular pain, digestion issues, poor sleep, poor skin…that I’m not. Stop right now and scan down your body. Where do you feel tension? Consciously allow yourself to relax. Make a point of listening to your body and finding out where the tension, stress, sadness is. Respond in kindness and help it (ie. YOU), to heal.
2. Get close to nature. Now the days are getting warmer and lighter, we must get out and allow nature to help keep our chemicals in balance. We’re all a bit depleted after the winter…we need to expose ourselves to the restorative impact of light and warmth. Plant something. Walk somewhere. Sit on the doorstep with a cuppa. It doesn’t have to be arduous. Participate with nature in the soothing of the soul.
3. Keep reassessing the needs of the household. Just because the routine was working last week, doesn’t mean it will this week. Just because you managed something in the first lockdown, doesn’t mean you can this time round. Be wary of maintaining routines and patterns because ‘that’s just what we do,’ rather than because it is actually working for you. Every Sunday evening we sit down to look at the week and talk about our priorities and needs for the coming seven days. Sometimes the priority is work or kids related, but sometimes it is to get more sleep!! We have found that weekly conversation has given us opportunities to adjust out routine so that everyone’s needs are better met.
4. Along the same lines, readjust expectations of yourself. You are highly unlikely to be able to achieve what you would have done a year ago. Our capacities are reduced, and in a society which prizes achievement and demands output, and that we deliver something, feeling like we can’t do what we used to is quite frightening. Underneath, this boils down to the question: Am I worth more than what I achieve? Am I worth more than how relevant I appear? Am I still worth something when I can't contribute anything?
The aching reply from God is YES. But we struggle to believe and feel it. Sometimes we need permission to slow down, so here it is:
You are of far more value than whatever you achieve or accomplish. You have permission to slow down, to rest, to care for yourself and your loved ones, and to be present in this moment to the needs for wellbeing.
Focus on doing less things, and aim to do them well. There will be other times for busyness and productivity, but this is not necessarily it.
We’re five miles from home, but we need to make sure we get there in one piece.