I remember another time of crisis that rocked the community I used to live in. A beloved teacher, colleague, friend, was killed on a work expedition. She was struck on the head by a rockfall as she dived to save a student.

The reason I think of it now, is that for days I went into overdrive of activity. We were in shock and the only way not to fall apart was to do things. Arranging the memorial service, collating favourite photos and songs, sorting through the workplace to find precious possessions to pass to her family. Some of it purposeful, much of it busy work.

I see much of that reaction right now. People desperate to do something, to be part of the response to the crisis. And then there’s the pure panic. I’ve had friends dismay at an avalanche of reporting pressure descending from above – at precisely the time when they are trying to adapt to remote working, support home schooling, reflect on how they might need to adapt their programme, role or organisational priorities. 

But Covid-19, like grief, is a marathon, not a sprint, and when the adrenalin fades, we will still need the energy to carry on.

I thought isolation would be a time to clear my inbox, get organised, spend time with members of my team, overseeing their projects, giving them support. Instead, it’s been dominated by externally-generated busy work.

So self-care must be about taking time. About stopping for lunch, planting the seedlings, taking the daily walk. It must be about creating space to reflect even when the demands crowd in.

It must be about discerning what is feasible from all that might be desirable; recognising that when others are piling in to fix a problem, the most helpful thing might be to step away. It must be about staying still enough to see the gap that no one is filling, and committing to that one thing.

In that vein, here are some phrases that might be useful in the coming days and weeks:

“That would be nice, but no”.

“What is the goal of this?”

“Who else is working on this right now?”

“My brain is too full to process that right now but can we revisit it?”

“Let’s put that on the list for September.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

“I think that’s a really bad idea.”

I’m planning to make it a goal to use these at least twice a day.

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