Contradictions and Confusion: Managing the Grey Areas of the Pandemic

Making decisions and knowing what’s the right thing to do isn’t ever easy, but when the advice given is a bit sketchy it’s even more confusing and stressful. Take a look at 5 ways you can feel good about your choices and do what’s right for you.

Remember March 2020?

How could we forget!

It was the month we were all put on lockdown, the month that went on forever and the month that choice was taken away. There was no choice of what to do or where to go. We were all to stay at home.

Whether you worked onsite or remotely, at the end of the day, home was the only place to be. There were no movie releases to think about going to see, no dinner invitations to consider, no children’s parties – there was nothing open and we weren’t allowed to mix outside our household.

Of course, no one wants to go back to that. But as the pandemic falls and rises and rises again, the fuzzy lines are confounding. Many of you will remember Matt Lucas’ video mocking Boris Johnson’s speech to the nation on easing the lockdown. Lucas said: “So we are saying don’t go to work, go to work, don’t take public transport, go to work, don’t go to work. If you can work from home, go to work. Don’t go to work. Go outside. Don’t go outside. And then we will or won’t, something or other.” We may have more choices now than we did back then, but the confusion is still there.

How do you decide what to do about…anything? How do you make decisions when instructive headlines (“How to decide whether to travel”) can be wishy washy (“it’s up to your level of risk”)? It’s stressful trying to find the right way to decide and respond when there’s no real clarity. But you can at least try to feel good about the choices you make.

Here are a few ways to do that:

  1. Own your boundaries. How’s your sister/cousin/colleague/nosy neighbour handling the pandemic? It doesn’t matter. Whether you’re comfortable dining in restaurants or sticking to takeout at home, there’s no one right choice – only the choice that’s right for you. Own your boundaries, no guilt required.
  2. Speak up plainly. If ever there was a time to be direct, this is it. Declining an invite? “No, thank you. I’m just not comfortable with that yet” is fine. Accepting an invite, but want to check if those going are testing negative, or have been double vaccinated - ask. On the flipside, don’t take it personally (or heaven knows, exert pressure) if a friend or family member isn’t ready to take you up on an invitation or asks you to take a lateral flow test before going round to their house for a cuppa.
  3. Resist surfing for affirmation. There’s a reason doomscrolling was one of the 2020 words of the year. Yeah – we’ve all done it; made a decision and then doomscrolled our way to unmaking it. Mass quantities of information mean you can always find a story about how the very thing you’re about to do went tragically wrong. Resist. Find your few trusted resources; make your decision, follow what you know about safety. Do the best you can.
  4. Talk to a professional. We’re not talking therapists (though in the current time of world, that’s always a good thing). In this case, we’re talking about checking in with your doctor if you have medical concerns or questions related to conflicting news. Seek professional knowledge and perspective from a doctor or try calling 111 (the NHS telephone service) for advice rather than surfing the net to find the truth. Side note: as we are all aware, doctors are pretty busy these days, so such questions are best asked in regular appointments if possible.
  5. Change the conversation: For some of us, just the topic of COVID raises our anxiety level. Worse, it makes us rethink decisions. If talk turns dramatic (“OMG, did you read about….?”), exit gracefully. Say something like, “Yes, these are really hard times” - and then move to a different subject.

Finally, as you’re treading those fuzzy lines, remember all the precautions you’ve taken and cut yourself some slack. Anxiety and re-evaluation is normal as things change… and change again. In the (paraphrased) wise words Ma Ingalls once said to her TV daughter: “Did you do your very best? You can’t ask more of yourself than that.”