Staying Informed Without Getting Overloaded

How can we keep things in perspective and maintain a positive balance during the corona virus pandemic?

During any crisis, be it war, fire, flood, famine or pestilence, it’s important to stay up to date with important information, but it’s also really easy to be overloaded by non-stop discussion and bombardment by both media and social channels. 

In recent weeks, it seems that every time one turns the radio on or watches anything on commercial television, the only thing anyone talks about is corona virus related. It’s relentless. Government officials, scientists, medical authorities, celebrities, talk shows, podcasts, and current affairs specials are all contributing to the conversations, with varying degrees of accuracy and relevance. Every news bulletin tells us how many people have been diagnosed and how many have died. 

It would be quite possible to consume media about global developments, self isolation, quarantine, and empty supermarket shelves all day, every day— and there are probably people doing that. 

That’s not healthy. 

It very quickly becomes emotionally  and mentally  overwhelming , and can blow out into quite disproportionate fear and paranoia. 

We are all as susceptible to that as anyone else, so it is important to strike a balance between keeping abreast of what we need to know and limiting the amount of constant discussion about the virus that we allow into each day. 

My strategies and decisions for achieving this include: 

  • Being very selective about where I get my news and information. Each day, I inform myself via reputable and balanced news services. Then I turn my focus to other things. 
  • Choosing to deliberately reject “fear language” and negativity, because that doesn’t help anyone. 
  • Being discerning about the content of social media feeds, and how much time is spent reading them.
    Keep in mind that social media is very rarely one of those reputable and balanced news services. There’s a lot of misinformation out there.
    The “mute” functionality is very useful in those circumstances.
  • Adopting an “only positive” approach to sharing and promoting other people’s content. If it’s encouraging, entertaining and constructive, share away. Spread that stuff around like a five year old sprinkles glitter. 
  • Occupying our thoughts with productive and proactive things. Whether that is work, recreational, or creating positive content for our own social media depends on the needs and demands of each day.
  • Balancing the amount of screen time in each day with screen-free time. Especially in these times of social distancing, it’s vital to ensure that healthy habits are maintained. Go for a walk, enjoy some sunshine or look at the night sky, prepare and enjoy good food, talk with family and friends, dance to a favourite tune or two, read a book, play with the dog, clean out a cupboard or pull some weeds in the garden… the possibilities are myriad. 
  • Keeping things in perspective. Yes, there is a global health crisis making many people sick and curtailing personal and social freedoms. People are losing jobs and businesses as a result. The economy is wallowing. It is a very serious situation. 
    At the same time, most of us are simply being asked to stay home and find ways to entertain ourselves. It might be inconvenient, and we might have to abandon or change plans, but it is still a much better option than what some people are facing.
  • Supporting local community. When you do need to buy things, try to invest in local and small businesses so that they can survive the crisis, too. This can help you to develop a sense of connection and belonging that is as encouraging for you as it is for the folk you support. 
    An additional benefit is that many small businesses are currently offering contactless shopping and delivery options at no extra expense, and the quality of the goods and services they offer often far surpasses their bigger competitors.

We can’t control the virus, but we can control our own responses to the disruption and social climate it has created. By being proactive about keeping informed and staying positive, we can avoid being overwhelmed by the volume of discussion and the fear and negativity that can so easily take hold as a result. 

Staying informed without getting overwhelmed during the #Coronavirus #pandemic
#perspective #mentalwellbeing #blogpost

Image by Wortflow from Pixabay

The Workers Australia Can't Do Without.

When half the country seems to be working from home, there are some very dedicated people keeping the place going.

As Australia has begun the process of going into partial lockdown in response to the corona virus pandemic, it is becoming astoundingly clear who the country cannot do without. 

Here’s the thing: it’s not the billionaires, the movie stars or rock singers, the football players or the fashion models. 

Don’t get me wrong. They’re important people. But who are the ones we rely on to keep doing what they do so that the majority of the population can actually isolate or socially distance themselves in comfort and safety? Who is actually unable to stop working and stay home in the interests of self-preservation?

It’s the doctors and nurses, police officers, firefighters, and paramedics, the people who stack supermarket shelves and work the checkouts, and the teachers. It’s the people who work the service stations and fast-food and takeaway restaurants, the cleaners, the truck drivers, the retail workers… and the list goes on. 

They are the people who are still going to work every day, regardless of their potential exposure to germs – and not just Covid-19, either — and to the frustrations, anxieties and hostility of the general public. 

Most of them can’t work from home. And, with the possible exception of the doctors, most are paid nowhere near what they are worth. 

Teachers could, of course, deliver their lessons online as my own school is planning to do if we are ordered to close the college. That’s not as easy as it sounds, either, especially with younger students. It’s a lot more planning and preparation every day, as the curriculum will still need to be delivered as fully as possible. There won’t be any less marking, either. 

Of course, whether or not schools will be closed is still a matter of debate in Australia. The government doesn’t want to close the schools, because that would mean the people in medical jobs would have to stay home to look after their kids. Who would look after the sick people then? 

So when you are out shopping for groceries and annoyed that the shelves are half empty, don’t take your frustrations out on the store workers: they can’t stack shelves with what has not been supplied. Save the blame for the people hoarding basic goods out of selfishness and greed. They’re the real reason you can’t buy the basics at the moment. And let’s be honest: when those people are at home self-isolating and eating ten people’s worth of pasta and rice, and the loo gets blocked up with all that hoarded toilet paper… they’ll still want the plumber to come out and fix it. 

When you have to wait in a longer-than-usual line to collect takeaway food, don’t give the servers attitude for the delay. They are doing their best under extremely demanding circumstances. And remember, they are saving you the effort of cooking for yourself, so there’s that to be thankful for. 

When you see a medical worker or first responder getting coffee or taking a break, don’t kvetch about them having some downtime. Instead, thank them for the tough job they’re doing, especially if it’s a job you wouldn’t want to be doing during a global health crisis. 

When you hear about nursing homes, hospitals and schools closing their doors and not allowing visitors in, don’t complain about inconvenience or behave like its an overreaction. Thank them for being proactive in taking extra measures to protect the people for whom they have a duty of care. 

When you hear people complain about the inconvenience of social distancing and working from home, remind them that some people don’t have the ability to do so. 

They are the workers on the front line, keeping the country going while everyone else stays home. They should not be on the receiving end of anyone’s bad behaviour.

On Offending Facebook’s Community Standards Yet Again…

Apparently, yesterday’s blog post about supporting our young folk through the Covid-19 pandemic was offensive to Facebook’s community standards. They took it, and the shares people very nicely did because it was a positive and commonsense post, down. They gave no explanation except “Your post goes against our community standards”. 

What? How?

With all the rubbish stuff people are posting, I am at a complete loss as to why something constructive on an important topic was removed.  

Was it because I named the virus correctly instead of using the more generic term?  Was it because I mentioned kids and teens?

I’ll never know. The great bot overlords at FB’s censorship department don’t explain things. They’re too busy censoring the wrong posts and thinking themselves clever for it.

It is yet another reason to stick to WordPress.

Supporting Kids And Teens Through The Covid-19 Limbo

Self-isolation does not have to be completely isolating. There are ways to support and encourage our kids and teens through the times of Covid-19.

To many people right now, the world seems like it is in crisis in the wake of the corona virus outbreak. Those of us old enough to remember SARS, swine flu and H1N1 tend to understand more of the reasons for that than our kids do, even if we still don’t understand why toilet paper is worth pulling a knife on someone, 

Yes, you read that right. It happened in a supermarket in Sydney, Australia, a couple of weeks ago.

To many of our kids and teens, though, it seems like some kind of madness has taken over. As concerts, sports, social events, classes and rehearsals have been brought to a screeching halt as they look on, some of them are starting to buy into the fear that they have seen expressed on TV, in social media, and among some members of the community. 

That hit home really personally on Sunday when our theatre company told the cast that we had decided to hit the pause button and defer our production of Little Shop of Horrors that was due to hit the stage in May. 

“This whole thing sucks!” one young cast member said. 
“I know!” another replied. “It’s taking all the joy out of life!” 
“I get it, though,” responded the first one. “We have to keep people safe. But it’s making a lot of people really miserable at the same time.”

She was 100% correct. I am feeling really miserable about it, too. That’s completely natural.

We will do the show — we just can’t say when. For now, rehearsals are suspended and we all find ourselves with a lot of extra time on our hands that we had been putting into working together for a common goal.

At a time when many of us are being isolated from the activities we love and the company of others who enjoy those same things, how do we stop the molehills of grief turning into mountains of misery? 

That’s a really big question, and I don’t profess to have all the answers. 

I do know that it’s important to find ways to encourage and motivate each other. It’s important to monitor and support each other’s emotional and mental health. 

So, here are just a few suggestions for possible ways to lift the spirits of the young people in your life during the disappointments and challenges caused byCovid-19:

  • Acknowledge their feelings. It’s quite natural to feel disappointed and a bit annoyed at the number of things being cancelled, postponed or banned. Instead of telling them to “suck it up” or “take it on the chin”, tell them you understand, and that you’re feeling similar things too. Empathy will always win more favour than platitudes. 
  • Involve them in the family decision making about social distancing, self-isolating and dealing with the practicalities that follow. Knowing that they have been listened to, and having some ownership of the decisions and plans that are made, will reduce feelings of resentment, anger and rebellion.
  • Praise and thank them for their maturity in accepting disappointments. A bit of intrinsic motivation goes a very, very long way with young people. 
  • Give them responsibility appropriate to their age and ability. It could be anything they feel is important and worthwhile: preparing a meal, keeping a particular area of the house clean and sanitised, disinfecting all the door handles in the house each day, or calling grandparents or other family members on the phone to support and encourage them. 
  • Limit the amount of “fear language” you allow in the house. This might  mean not watching the 6pm news on TV as a family, discussing what members of the family will allow on their social media feeds, and discussing things in a responsible way. Be honest about your feelings, but try to phrase your responses to the virus and consequent changes and limitations using positive and proactive language like “social responsibility” and “doing out part to protect the vulnerable” instead of using terms like “lockdown”, “corona virus jail” or “panic”. 
  • Encourage them to find constructive ways to use their spare time. ‘Netflix and chill’ is okay, but not all day, every day.
  • Self-isolation does not have to be completely isolating. Hanging out with friends in person may not be an option, but there are ways to socialise beyond the regular social media platforms where kids are likely to hear a lot of “doom and gloom” about the current situation. Try Skype calls or Google Meet, which enable people to spend time, chat, and still see each other, all from a distance.
  • Give them something to look forward to. Discuss and make plans for activities, holidays, or celebrations that will happen once the need for social distancing and self-isolation has passed. Anticipation of something good is a powerful antidote to feeling as though all the fun things have been taken away. 
  • Ask for their expert help. Whether it’s compiling a great playlist on Spotify, learning how to use Instagram or Snapchat, finding a great app or game for your phone or tablet, or ordering groceries or pizza online, older kids and teenagers are likely to have those skills down to a fine art. Even if you have a fair idea how to do those things, ask them anyway. 

While there is obviously no perfect solution, it’s important that we continue to try to find positive and healthy ways to deal with the limitations and restrictions that are being put in place.

If you have any other suggestions, please share them in a comment. 

Supporting Our Kids And Teens Through #CoronaVirus #lockdown disruption.
#support #PositivePosts #StayingHome #mentalwellbeing #MentalHealthAwareness #PositiveParenting

Some Things To Remember When Bunkering Down To Avoid Covid-19

While it’s important to be cautious and sensible, it’s also important that we stay as positive as we can during times of crisis.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

While I may not have stockpiled pasta, toilet paper, hand sanitiser and baked beans since the novel corona virus Covid-19 has made its presence felt around the world, I have been thinking about ways to stay positive during the pandemic. 

As someone who already lives with anxiety and chronic conditions, I know from personal experience that negativity can be as detrimental to one’s health as a virus. I fully agree that we need to be cautious and wise, but I refuse to despair or panic. I don’t think that’s going to help anyone— especially myself. 

So, let me take this opportunity to point out some things that it’s important to remember when we’re all trying to avoid either getting sick or contaminating anyone else. 

  • Good hygiene is always good practice, not just during a global health crisis. It has struck me as ironic more than once that The Jetsons told us the 21st century would bring us robotic housekeepers and flying cars, but here we are, still telling people how important it is to wash their hands. Using soap. And to dry them thoroughly. And to not put their fingers in their nose or their mouth. And… yeah. 
  • Self-isolation means keeping one’s distance from other people, not locking oneself in a room and eating canned peas for the duration. You can go out in your car, or ride your bike, or walk your dog, without being in contact with other people. You could walk through a park in the sunshine, breathing fresh air and enjoying different scenery, without breathing anyone else’s air or touching any surfaces with your hands. I can spend time in the yard with my dog. 
  • Communication and contact are really important for our mental and physical wellbeing, so we must not let those things fall by the wayside just because we are avoiding physical contact. We can stay in touch with my family and friends using phone, instant messaging or social media. 
  • Time alone does not have to equal boredom. Ask any introvert: there are myriad ways to entertain oneself, even before involving a screen of any kind in the process. Books are always my go-to, and writing is something I always want more time to do. There are also puzzles, art, music, and exercise people turn to as productive and enjoyable ways to spend time. 
    Even once you pick up a device, it doesn’t just mean TV, movies and games. This might be a great time to take up that old guitar or ukulele, improve your cooking or DIY skills using YouTube videos to show you how. You could start learning a new language – or resume learning one you’ve let slip – using one of the great apps available. 
  • You might be dreading a couple of weeks on your own, but some people spend most — or all — of each day alone all the time, and that’s not their choice, either. Elderly people in particular find themselves alone far more than they wish to be. They are probably more fearful of the virus than most healthier, younger people, and with good reason: they are more susceptible to it, after all. A bit of extra time on your hands is an excellent opportunity to give Grandma or Granddad or Great Aunt Edith a call. Say hello, have a chat, and make sure they’re okay. It’s a little bit of joy and encouragement that might make all the difference in how they cope with the extensive media coverage and the fear that can easily generate in older folk.  There’s every chance it might make your day a bit better, too.
  • There is no more danger posed by the Asian people in your neighbourhood than there is by anyone else, especially if they’ve been living there as long as you have. Sure, the virus may have first come to light in China. That doesn’t make Mrs Wang in Number 14 a carrier, and it doesn’t give anyone the right to swear at her or accuse her of being responsible for the plague. 
    That may seem tongue-in-cheek, but that very thing happened to a friend of mine last week, and she’s not even Chinese. I may be judging my fellow non-Asians harshly, but I figure if that’s happening in regional Australia, it’s probably happening everywhere. 
    This also applies to the Italians, Koreans, and every other cultural group in your community. People are people, regardless of their cultural heritage, and now that Covid-19 is everywhere, being a jerk about someone’s origins is no more justifiable than it ever was. Which it wasn’t. Ever. 
  • Not everyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms is going to have Covid-19. Some will have a regular cold, some will have the flu, and some will just have allergies, which aren’t contagious at all.
    Here’s a handy chart from the World Health Organisation to help you know who to avoid because they’ll give you a cold, or because they’ll give you the flu, or because they might actually have that nasty new virus. 

Why Friday the 13th Is A Good Day

Far from being unlucky, Friday the 13th is a day that I have reason to enjoy.

Happy Friday the 13th!

I suppose most people are superstitious about something, but for me, this one is a matter of perspective.

My fictional black cat, Friday, leapt into existence on a Friday the 13th. From that first creepy story, he grew into a creature with a mind of his own — like all cats, really— and a killer sense of justice that springs into action whenever someone is behaving very badly. With a twitch of his tail, magic happens and horrible people get what’s coming to them in the most macabre ways. It’s all very satisfying… but of course, punishing people fictionally is like that. 

I so wish Friday was real. There are days when I wish I had someone like that to deliver a dose of poetic justice to someone who particularly deserves it. “This looks like a job for Friday!” has become a catchphrase between my best friends and myself, which comes in quite handy at those times when you can’t express how we feel about someone or a situation as honestly as we might like to. 

I don’t really believe in luck, and I certainly don’t think certain days or black cats are bad luck.

I enjoy Friday the 13th because it reminds me that sometimes great things grow out of chance ideas. And, it’s fair to say, it beats most Mondays hands down. 

Friday appears in Curious Things and Curious Times by Joanne Van Leerdam. Widely available in all online stores in paperback and ebook.

Why We Should All Celebrate International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is not just a day for feminists. It’s for everyone.

History is full of amazing achievements and world-changing events. It is also full of amazing women who accomplished incredible things, made discoveries and inventions that had significant impacts on the world as they knew it but also on the future, and did it all despite being suppressed — and sometimes oppressed— by social structures that gave the power, property and privileges to men. 

A photo of a statue of Millicent Fawcett, campaigner for women’s rights
Photo credit: dimitrisvetsikas1969 on Pixabay

Don’t get me wrong — I like men as much as the next girl, but it’s fair to say they’ve held the lions share of the power, wealth and privilege in times past. That’s why I have particular respect and admiration for those women who had the temerity and confidence do do their thing regardless of what men, and many other women, thought. 

I’ve written a number of posts about some of these strong and inspirational women, and I have honoured their legacy in poetry

Today, I want to encourage everyone to celebrate International Women’s Day by considering everything they have been taught or given by women – not just historical figures but, more personally, their mothers, aunts, teachers, carers, family members… and the list is endless. 

Women have spoken into our lives and invested in us individually in countless ways. Whether personally or professionally, casually or consistently, they all deserve our recognition and thanks. 

While we should be doing that every day, International Women’s Day gives us an excellent reminder to make a special effort to thank and acknowledge the women who have got us where we are today. 

Sure, there is still progress to be made and true equality to be achieved. But we’d be a whole lot further behind if it were not for those women who have gone before us and set alight the lamps that have shown us the way. 

Why We Should All Celebrate International Women’s Day
#InternationalWomensDay #WomensHistory #IWD2020

If you’d like to read some of the poems I’ve written to celebrate the strength and resilience of women, you can read Her Light Burns Brightly and Stained Glass on my wordynerdbirdwrites blog.

These poems are also available in my collection dedicated to strong women, titled ‘Stained Glass’.

Australia’s Toilet Paper Panic: Yet Another Reason Why I Question People’s Priorities

In response to the growing panic about the spread of the new corona virus COVID 19, it seems many Australians have decided to stock up on the essentials in case they get quarantined.

I could understand it if they were rushing the stores for tissues, paper towels, hand sanitiser and soap. Maybe even some cleaning products might be a good idea. But they’re not.

It seems the thing people fear running out of the most is toilet paper.

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Social media and the news is full of reports and images of empty shelves where all the toilet paper was stacked.

It seems to me that these people have got their priorities wrong. It’s not Ebola, for crying out loud. Even if they did get the virus, they probably wouldn’t be needing any more toilet paper than usual.

Do they actually know anything about this virus and its symptoms? It causes respiratory illness. It makes people feel like they have a nasty cold or flu. They’re going to be blowing their noses and coughing.

That kind of lack of attention to detail will cause far more problems than not having 124 rolls of loo paper in the cupboard.

People need to stop and think before joining the panic. Supermarkets do home delivery every day of the week in Australia. If someone is quarantined, they’ll just drop off the delivery at the front door and leave without seeing or talking to anyone.

And if there is any toilet paper actually left in the stores, I’m sure they’ll deliver that, too.

Down, But Not Out.

When people prove disappointing or worse, don’t let them drag you down to their level.

It’s fair to say that I’m glad to see the weekend. 

Earlier this week I found myself disappointed again by someone else’s basic inability to be a decent human being, and stunned by the willingness of others to simply accept it and look the other way. 

Sadly, it seems you can go the extra mile a couple of dozen times, give of yourself and your time to achieve a common goal, and support and encourage someone as much as you possibly can, but they’ll still cut you down and leave the knife in your back when it suits them.

I know, I know. I made the same old mistake – trusting that someone else would operate on the same principles of basic decency and human understanding that I do. I should know by now that the fact that I *should* be able to trust certain people is irrelevant. I’ve been hurt that way countless times before, and It seems I still haven’t learned. 

Still, I refuse to beat myself up for that. I’m feeling disrespected, under-appreciated, taken for granted and consequently emotionally bruised enough as it is. 

I don’t know the reasons for it, and I probably never will.  That knowledge wouldn’t change anything anyway. As much as it sucks, it is what it is. 

I know at some point – hopefully not too far in the future – the hurt and frustration I feel will diminish. Maybe I’ll even find there’s a blessing in disguise in the situation. It’s always a possibility. 

I feel as though I have shed enough tears, ranted sufficiently, and discussed the situation with my husband and best friend to the point where I can resign myself to the way things are, Being at peace with things isn’t out of the question, but I’m not there yet. I’m still hurt, and I’m still angry.

What I need to do is focus on healthy ways to deal with how I’m feeling. To that end,  I’ve immersed myself in things I love: rehearsals for ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ with the most wonderful theatre company on the planet, reading great books, spending time with people I love, and cuddling with my fur babies. 

This is all just another reminder that we can’t always have what we want, or insist that things be the way we want them. We can’t stop people from being horrible human beings, and there are many things in life that are beyond our control. 

It’s important to remember, though, that there are plenty of things I can control. First and foremost on that list is the way in which I choose to respond to challenges, conflicts and adversity.

I refuse to seek revenge.  I refuse to hit back, or be manipulative, hurtful and cruel to that person in response. That would make me as low as them. 

At the same time, I refuse to let that person take advantage of me again.  I will not let that person have more control over my life or my feelings than they have already had. 

I refuse to allow this situation to keep me down, dampen my spirit or harden my heart. 

In addition to all the other emotions I’ve experienced this week, I’m determined that I am not going to allow that person, or this situation, to undo me. If they think they’ve won, they have seriously underestimated me. There is, after all, more than one way to win in any given situation.

I’m going to keep doing what I do. I’m going to make the most of my opportunities.  I’m going to shine, and succeed, and accomplish everything I set out to do.

Given that I have managed to do exactly that thus far while living with fibromyalgia and chronic back pain, a little opposition from a sulky so-and-so isn’t going to stop me.

And if they, or anyone else, want to criticise, I don’t care. If they happen to be jealous or intimidated by what I achieve, that’s just too bad. I’ll be over here, living my best life, wearing my sassy pants, and not worrying about what petty people think or how puerile they are. 

History isn’t “horrible”, it’s essential….!

Image by Walkerssk from Pixabay

While I agree with the author of this post that, in many places, history is taught differently and with a much more recent focus than in previous years, there are places where a broad spectrum of history is taught well.

In Victoria, Australia, the history curriculum is quite comprehensive in that it includes the study of ancient, medieval and modern civilisations and the issues and events that shaped and defined them.

By the time students at my school finish their compulsory education at the end of Year 10, for example, they will have studied Ancient Egypt, Israel and Babylon, medieval civilisations in Europe and Asia, the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions, both World Wars, the Civil Rights Movements in the US and Australia, and various elements of life in 20th Century Australia.

Like the author of this post, I am passionate about history, and I strive to make it interesting, relevant and engaging for my students. My interactions and experience with other teachers of the Humanities leads me to believe that this is true of most. We may all have different areas of particular interest and expertise, but we have a common goal: to inspire and teach so that students have an awareness of where we’ve come from, how far we’ve come, and how to apply that knowledge so that we avoid repeating the mistakes of the past in the future.

murreyandblue

Richard III – from ‘Horrible Histories’

“…Imagine knowing the entire list of British monarchs by heart at age 10. Imagine knowing about cavemen courting rituals or what soldiers ate during World War I. Imagine becoming so invested in the life of the infamous King Richard III of England that you joined the Richard III Society, a group dedicated to finding his bones and solving the mystery of what happened to his nephews over 500 years ago…”

The extract above is from this study breaks article which, as you might guess, is all about ‘Horrible Histories’!

It made me think, because I did know my English/British monarchs by the age of 10…by 8/9 in fact. There was a chart on my bedroom wall and it faced me when I sat up in bed. I noticed Richard III even then, because he was so different from the rest. Slender, dark-haired, troubled…or so…

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