I said 2 days ago that we’s all have to get used to to regular – even permanent – mask wearing and social distancing. Unless, that is, the future variants – like Omicron – got progressively weaker. And we all learned to live with Covid in all its guises, as a form of flu. And now I’ve seen this . . . “It is almost too good to believe. The days go by and there is still little evidence that the Omicron wave in South Africa is leading to a concomitant surge in severe illness. We cannot rule out the “highly optimistic scenario” of a mutation that is extremely contagious, displaces Delta, but does less harm. We’ll know by mid-December.” When the UK government is going to review the new requirement for entry
So, get ready to dump this insurance company shares I told you to buy on Monday . . .
Below is one psychotherapist’s guide to coping with Covid uncertainty. Of course, if we ask another one, we’d get a different set of prescriptions. Even assuming the prior analysis is shared.
Cosas de España/Galiza
If you’re not an avid reader of Hola! and so have never heard of Marta Ortega, this is for you. Big news in Spain. Especially as it caused the relevant shares to fall 6%
Paul Preston on Franco, yet again. A new book, of course – Architects of Terror.
Not, by any means for the first time, the populist Boris Johnson and his medical advisers are proffering different advice re getting together at Xmas. Party like there’s no tomorrow, says the former. Don’t, say the latter. But at least BJ seems to be wearing a mask more these days, in line with government orders.
I’m staying on the North Cheshire/South Manchester border. Most of the houses in the area are traditional red-brick, semi-detached (duplex) properties, built between the 1930s and the 1970s. All of them have 4-10 metres of garden at the front and, usually, a lot more at the back. Which you don’t get with more modern houses. Rather noticeable is the lack of grass in the front gardens. Nearly all of them have been concreted over to provide parking for 1-3 cars. Of which a surprisingly high percentage are SUVs. And many of these are of the expensive makes – Mercedes, Audi and BMW – with the occasional Jaguar – which you’d never have seen in front of such modest houses 40 years ago. Which says everything about the disproportionate rise in property values. The pension fund of many Brits.
I fancy I wrote much the same thing last time I was here, 2 years ago . . .
The Way of the World
Designer Crocs! How did we get here? Good question. This pair will set you back 450 quid. Assuming you have more money than sense:-
Finally . . .
Something else to upset the pious Catholics in my family, should they ever read this:-
If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here.
A psychotherapist’s guide to coping with Covid confusion
As the omicron variant throws our Christmas plans into disarray, here’s how to remain calm amid the uncertainty
Humans need certainty, which is why the latest confusing messages around the arrival of the omicron variant are taking a toll on our mental health.
Just as we thought life was returning to normal, this has thrown our long-awaited Christmas plans into question, as face masks have been partially reintroduced and we wonder what’s next.
One minute, we are hearing this could be a new, deadly variant that will evade vaccines. Then, on the other, we are being told we need to increase the vaccine take-up, and get our boosters.
It’s a strange kind of double-think, and it’s incredibly disconcerting.
A lack of certainty can take a toll on our mental wellbeing. Uncertainty has evolutionary roots, associated with potential danger and threats to our existence. That’s why humans have evolved to become habit-forming creatures. Taking the same journey into work in the morning, for example, reduces risk and also cuts the amount of energy it requires to think up an alternative.
Although this anxiety once played a crucial role in determining our survival, it’s disproportionate to the risks we face in the modern world. We no longer have to worry about the foods we eat, or whether we have access to sanitation. But any change still has the potential to make us feel uncomfortable and nervous.
Often, we project these fears into the future by worrying about what is going to happen. Indeed, it is believed that around 80 per cent of our thoughts are negative, so overthinking and doom-spiralling are all very natural parts of being a human. Many of these emotions stem from feeling like we don’t have control over a situation. But, in the majority of cases, these fears do not materialise. When they do, we find that we can cope with them.
With the latest news about the pandemic, it can feel tempting to engage in worry and/or checking behaviours. We may be anxious about catching Covid, or concerned about whether we will be able to see loved ones this Christmas. Generally, we build trust in other people and institutions based on statements and events. We may feel like our trust in politicians has eroded when they aren’t able to keep their promises.
So, is there anything we can do to stay sane? These thoughts can become quite intrusive and, even though we know they’re not rational, it can feel impossible to get rid of them. The more they cross our mind, the more we start to engage in compulsions to try and soothe our anxiety. However, these behaviours can have the opposite effect. Regularly checking the news, or the latest Covid numbers, may seem like it’s putting our minds at ease, but instead it becomes a vicious cycle.
Certainty may feel comforting, but it also has limitations. It mirrors black and white thinking, such as “I should be able to do this.” It’s much better to adopt a position of flexibility and tolerance. Whether it’s new restrictions that have been put in place, or an event has been cancelled, thinking “I will do my best to manage” will help us to be more adaptable.
We can practise tolerance by adjusting the way we speak to ourselves. We should aim to have more balanced thoughts, rather than rules like “shoulds” and “oughts”, and to have a good dose of compassion towards ourselves and others. Then, we can reduce the behaviours that contribute to keeping us in an anxiety loop. For example, some people are fine watching the news all the time, but other people find it quite triggering and do well with moderating their intake.
Rather than binge-watching the headlines, or ‘doomscrolling’, we could try out healthier habits to alleviate the ruminations. Exercise typically works well for most people – a simple walk can help immensely. Others might find it helpful to engage in a hobby that puts them into the ‘flow’ state, where they’re entirely immersed in what they’re doing. A lot of people find that work can help them feel more purposeful, and contribute to a wider goal.
Sometimes the more we push things away, the more they can return with a vengeance. Instead, you could experiment with relinquishing control by ‘sitting with’ the discomfort and watching it pass. Take time to be present and notice your bodily sensations. Write down your worries, then pay attention to your body, which includes your heart rate and your breath. It can be a very grounding way of staying in the present, rather than worrying about the future. This can take a lot of practise, so don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t work for you the first time. Mindfulness is notoriously difficult, but even two minutes of gentle meditation a day can have a calming effect.
Gratitude exercises can also help us to stay positive in challenging times. Ideally, you want to think of three things you’re grateful for and write them down at the same time each day. This helps us to focus on the 20 per cent of thoughts that are positive. We are social creatures, and connections to people help to enhance our wellbeing. If we can extend our gratitude to other people, or do more sharing and collaborating with others, we may feel more positive as a result.
Yes, our loved ones can help us. But the greatest strength of all lies in learning not to fear our own thoughts, to be single-minded, in a world of double-think.