When social distancing anxiety hits home

”You’re far too close, stand back from each other, six feet people , two metres. I’m being serious, this is serious, very serious.”

It’s the reception area in a part of a Dublin hospital, small groups of health care staff are busy doing their jobs as they would every day, but the words stop people in their tracks. The words hit home, the mood changes, anxiety rises, just in case we weren’t aware- social distancing is a new reality.

The consultant doctor, whose words are above, is a respected, calm, erudite senior member of this team. He doesn’t scare easily, this is not his first rodeo, so just in case anyone was in any doubt, the corona virus Covid-19 , is not to be discarded as a bad cold or flu, his team is down 50% and the surge hasn’t arrived in Ireland yet. If they are anxious about social distancing then we all should be mindful of social distancing.

The words resonate with my experience , I travel to the hospital by public transport, the bus is usually packed, standing room only. But not at the moment, 100,000’s have been laid off work or working from home, caring for children who’s schools or crèches are closed. The bus is sparsely filled people observing seat distancing, trying not to get too close. It’s eerily quiet, the usual multilingual chattering has gone, transferred to internet chat rooms.

But not everyone has switched onto the need for social distancing, a young man sat behind me on the bus the other morning, more concerned with his mobile phone than being aware of the seat distancing all us other commuters were observing, not through any conscious pact on our parts or bus company policy , moreover just through common sensibilities about the current situation we all find ourselves in.

I chose to get up and get off the bus, I had a few choice words with the youngster, he didn’t care, I cannot be responsible for other people’s thoughts and actions, only my own.

Walking around the city brings it’s own anxiety, I see too many people grouped together, sitting far too close (6 feet guys, 2 metres please), walking two or three abreast. This raises my own anxieties, I have to cross over roads to avoid groups, stopping in doorways, turning my back to allow others to pass by. As an anxiety management therapist I know the damaging effects of constant anxiety- https://anxietyclinicdublin.com/anxiety-test-results/

I’m fortunate enough to be able to regulate my own anxieties, but just like the corona virus Covid-19 , I don’t have immunity from them, but I have solutions such as conscious breathing and mindfulness. Likewise we have solutions to contain the corona virus Covid-1, hand and general hygiene, avoid unnecessary contact and SOCIAL DISTANCING.

I’m now doing more work over the internet via Zoom and VSee, it’s not quite like the real one to one or group settings I prefer but it’s our current reality. A reality that might change the way we think about how we work and live and what type of societies we want both locally and globally. But that’s for another post.

So let’s be conscious of our actions and the impact they have on others, we can all ease our anxiety by slowing down and listen to sensible advice. I know I have: “…I’m being serious, this is serious, very serious.”

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