Mindscapes in a time of crisis

Until Covid-19 crashed into our lives the cry “every man for himself” instilled the fear that you were on your own, without help, without hope. It signalled selfish behaviour, without merit.

In the present crisis its meaning may be turning 180⁰. When Chaucer (1340-1400) introduced the phrase “each man for himself” in The Knight’s Tale it was as an endorsement for self-reliance, inner strength, and personal fortitude. It was not considered to signify selfishness.

At a time of necessary self-isolation, which often means being totally on your own in your own space, this notion of self-reliance is the very attitude that will help get us through. Never before has the popular song lyric that I detest above all others been so inappropriate: “people who need people are the luckiest people in the world”. Maybe it was my autistic mindset, albeit undiagnosed at the time, that made my sensibilities baulk at this belief.

Worrying current trends

The proliferation of ads for “lounge wear” and TV Series box-sets.
I know that clothing companies want to stay afloat, but why promote clothing that encourages us to lounge around, dress down, have duvet days and sofa days? Health experts keep telling us that keeping the mind and body active will help maintain good mental health and well-being. Active.
When people reach retirement age, or develop conditions that restrict mobility, loved ones might be a little concerned if they began to take less care over appearance as a consequence of not getting out so much.
Severe mental health conditions can lead to poor attention to self-care. People are encouraged to get up, dress, and be active physically and mentally rather than lie around. Conversely, people who lose employment may sink into depression not least because they see no reason to get up and get on.
Vicious circle? Chicken and egg? Call it what you will: inactivity begets lack of purpose begets de-motivation begets inactivity.

Within days of schools being closed I saw a photograph of a young lad – aged about 11 or 12 – slouched in a chair, i-pad in hand, dressed in an animal print onesie. His expression was one of studied boredom, and that was the message being given by his parent. Self-fulfilling prophecy personified.

If bingeing on box-sets or battling against aliens is your thing then go for it.
Just not all day, every day.

There is a flip-side

Today I was laughing almost to the point of tears. Why? Because individuals in Australia are lightening the mood by having ‘dressing up for bin day’ and posting online. The outfits were hilarious. What a wonderful idea to bring fun into communities, along with challenges and sense of purpose to come up with fresh costume ideas. If you need a good belly laugh check it out!

With the Hay Festival in mind I treated myself to a new ‘festival’ outfit. When things changed so dramatically I determined to wear my new clothes at home. They make me feel good, and make the day seem more special. So many clothes retailers are having sales that it’s a no-brainer not to take advantage. Favourites are Joules and Next as I can be confident of their quality, style, and fit. For footwear it has to be Moshulu; despite having foot problems their range always has something to tempt me. They have super fun slippers as well as a great selection of ballet-style shoes, perfect for indoors. Just as lounging clothes do little for well-being after a while, so wearing slippers or socks all day will do little for the feet. It is recommended that footwear is changed regularly, and feet do need proper support for at least part of the day.

I know that many are on very tight budgets and may be offended by my suggestions, but I merely want to stress that we need to face each day head on. If you’re persuaded to shell out on new leisure wear think again – check out something ‘smart’ casual rather than ‘lounging around’ casual. When this is all over, which it will be, would you rather have a new look that says “I’m back and raring to go!” or one that says “leave me alone to crawl back inside”?

Variety is key!

Snuggling up with a book is not the only alternative, so if reading leaves you cold – then give it the cold shoulder.
You like information or thought-prompting ideas in small doses? Check out TedTalks. Anything from 10 minutes to thirty, and an almost inexhaustible range of topics from some of the finest minds and speakers around. Be warned – they can be addictive.
Art Galleries and Museums are more your thing? Many of the world’s greats have online virtual tours with more being added, especially at this time. There are also tours and Podcasts from the National Trust and English Heritage, videos of speakers from Hay Festival, as well as BBC Podcasts from a wide variety of radio programmes. There will be many, many others available from organisations and establishments around the world.

Time enjoyed is not time wasted

Other suggestions for useful ‘time-wasting’: get on with projects that have been sitting on the back burner; go through your pile of books-to-read; start that fitness regime that was on your resolutions list; try out some new recipes, hair-styles, make-up routines; give yourself a home spa session. If you fancy something completely new check out what’s available online:

  • aviary making and bread roll baking
  • competition goals and deep space holes
  • egg decoration and fun renovation
  • garden design and home-made wine
  • ice-cream treats and jewellery cheats
  • kitchen tips and lunar trips
  • Marvel comics and natural tonics
  • online banking and piano vamping
  • quarantine hacks and railroad tracks
  • sports car thrills and trampoline skills
  • urban gleaning and vehicle cleaning
  • wood deck laying and xylophone playing
  • yogurt dips and zebra clips

Don’t forget about weekends. Seriously.

A huge problem that is spawned by donning lounge-wear and bingeing on TV each day is that it can quickly erode the division between the week and the weekend. Both body and mind need some routine to keep the internal body clock ticking. Retirement can lead to a kind of ‘mental displacement’ as days lose their sense of relevance. People in solitary confinement record the passage of day and night to mark the diurnal pattern. The phenomenon of ‘cabin fever’ or being ‘stir crazy’ is as much about the mental strain of losing a sense of routine and meaning as it is about the physical pressure of constraint within four walls.

Have you found that your ‘mindscape’ – the way you view and interact within your space – has changed? For the better? Or not so good?
Please share ideas you have for things that work for you. We are in this together, and the way it seems at the moment we’re in it for the long haul.

If you have found my post useful please like, share, and comment.
Thank you for reading.

Stay well. Stay safe. Stay apart. X

Published by Marilyn

Diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder after fifty years in the mental health system I decided to share my experiences and consider the impact my health has had on my well-being. Being creative is the mainstay of my life and it's how I express my deepest emotions. Photography, writing, and design challenge me and help keep me rooted in the present.

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