Asking For Help In A Pandemic
As we enter Week 5 of lockdown, one thing’s for certain. This pandemic affects us all – and it affects us all differently. Whether your business is tanking because no one’s buying, whether you’re juggling working from home with home schooling, whether you’re trapped in a loveless and/or abusive marriage desperate to leave but stuck in isolation or whether it’s something else… whatever your personal circumstances, life is going to feel different to how it was a month ago. Asking for help in a pandemic is okay – really it is.
One theme that comes up again and again as I talk with clients, business associates and friends is that everyone knows someone worse off than them. The news is full of horror stories of the elderly, sick, disabled or homeless, whose lives have been turned upside down by COVID-19.
And this means people are holding back from asking for help. They feel guilty that they’re struggling when they have a roof over their head/still have a job/are healthy – insert whatever positive life factor you like here.
The point is, though, it’s OK to feel lost, down, thrown off your game by a global pandemic, whatever your situation. Asking for help in a pandemic is something we all need to consider.
No one has all the answers, no one has a crystal ball. It is OK to need help. And if you’re going through divorce your life wasn’t a bed of roses before this crisis hit. It is definitely OK to need help and to ask for it.
So this week in Asking for help in a pandemic, we’re looking at identifying what help you might need right now, and how you can get it.
It’s OK To Ask For Help
Before we get into the detail, let’s get this out of the way…
You do not need to feel guilty about asking for help.
Yes, there are other people worse off than you. No, you don’t have whatever affliction your neighbour or auntie does that is making their lives hard right now.
You have your own personal set of responsibilities, anxieties, burdens and difficulties. They include the stress of navigating divorce, and all the emotional, legal, financial and administrative pressures that brings. I’ve written this so often, but it’s true – divorce ranks as second only to death of a spouse or child on the Holmes and Rahe stress scale. It’s a big deal.
Just because someone else is having a difficult time doesn’t mean you are not entitled to as well. This is not a competition.
So please, ditch the guilt. Really. Asking for help in a pandemic is actually a smart move.
Take a minute, take some deep breaths, and feel into how you are at the moment. You might have been telling yourself that everything’s fine, you just need to keep going. You might have been telling yourself you can handle it all, bring it on.
And if you’re truly fine – that’s great. Some people have found lockdown to be a welcome pause, a chance to recalibrate (and there’s no need to feel guilty about that either if you’re feeling good!).
But if you’re not? It’s time to ask for help. Without guilt, in the knowledge that people will want to help you, and that you are deserving of it. Asking for help in a pandemic isn’t a weakness, nor is it reserved for other people.
Once you stop you may see that you’re feeling huge pressure: pressure from work, pressure to keep up with home schooling, pressure to keep the house from descending into chaos.
You do not have to deal with all of that alone.
You are a person, you are valuable, and if you are struggling, you need to reach out. Asking for help in a pandemic is self-worth not selfish.
What Help Do You Need?
Now’s the time to get honest with yourself. Where are you struggling?
Take five minutes, take a notebook and list all the ways life would be better with help right now. It might be lots of practical tasks that come up – help with managing time as you try and keep on top of work while the kids are off school, or help with keeping everyone fed. If finances are a struggle you might need help with planning and budgeting.
It might be before you can even think about practicalities you need some emotional support – you’re feeling at rock bottom and you need some help scraping yourself off the floor. That’s ok too. Often we need to get ourselves feeling more resilient before we can even think about taking on what the world throws at us.
What Do You Want?
Now you’ve got your list, it’s time to prioritise. Prioritising is the way to break things down and avoid overwhelm. It’s the way you eat that metaphorical elephant – one bite at a time.
So now’s the time to check in with your values. What do you most care about? What’s most important? I talk about values all the time with my clients, both in The Absolute Academy, and 1-1, because they are fundamental to your decision-making and future happiness. If you’ve not thought about your values for a while (or ever!), you can find a useful exercise to explore in this blog.
Get The Help
So now you will have a list of the areas you need help with, as well as a sense of what’s most important to you, and why. This is the rocket fuel you need to go out there (not literally – stay at home!) and get the help you need.
I know what you’re thinking. If time and money are scarce, it’s not as easy as all that. You have to make decisions about where to put your resources – your time, energy and money. And, make no mistake, putting your time into the wrong things is just as unhelpful as throwing your money away on a service that won’t help you.
Even if you have unlimited resources, you don’t want to waste them. You want to know that you’re putting your effort into getting the help you need.
Asking for help in a pandemic
So here’s my ‘Ask For Help’ action plan:
- Identify the area you want help with first. Be specific and focussed. You’re far more likely to get results than if you throw your hands up in despair and wish you had help with everything
- Look into what support is available relating to your specific issue. If you have money to spend, and you’ve identified this as a priority, spending is an investment in yourself, your sanity and your future life. Just as we need to invest in food to live, sometimes we need to nourish other parts of ourselves to survive and thrive.
- Do your research and trust your gut. If you’re buying a service do you get a good feeling about the person/business offering it? Are there testimonials or stories that resonate with you? Be specific about what you need and listen to how they can say they can help. Is it a good fit?
- If you don’t have money to spend, look into what free support is available. You may be entitled to government support, your local council may have services that can help, or there may be community groups and charities offering what you need. Google and ask around. If you’re worried about schooling, talk to the school. Other parents will be in the same boat – school will understand you can’t simultaneously work and teach.
- What other resources do you have? I know of people who are financially incredibly wealthy, but don’t have a group of friends they can trust. Equally, I know women who don’t have spare cash, but have a trusted and true circle of friends they can rely on, come what may. Make a list of all the sources of help you have available. Could you set up a weekly zoom circle with friends, and help each other work through problems? Could you take it in turns to batch cook with local friends so you know you have some days when meals are taken care of? Get creative, and know that you asking for help may well help other people feeling the same.
Be Your Own Best Friend
Asking for help in a pandemic starts with you. The first person you need to ask for help from is yourself. This may sound a little out there, but it’s true. We’ve already talked about the need to recognise that it’s absolutely fine and valid to reach out to others. You have as much right as anyone else to feel low and want support.
So get out of your own way and show yourself some kindness. Imagine it’s your best friend who’s struggling with life at the moment, rather than you. What would you say to her? Say that to yourself.
Kindness is also about setting yourself up to succeed. Create habits that help rather than hinder. If you’ve got a lot on, keep it simple. At the start of each day, write down no more than three specific things you’re going to do to move you forward. And focus on those.
If life gets in the way, give yourself the gift of 25 minutes. Known as the Pomodoro technique, simply setting a timer for 25 minutes and focussing on the task in hand can do wonders for your productivity.
And if rest is what you need? Do it. Rest. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, the like of which no one in our generation has seen. Cut yourself some slack.
A Community You Can Trust
Your divorce doesn’t have to stop because we’re on lockdown. The legal process is adapting. Plans are happening in real time, and you can read all about what the judiciary has in mind for dispute resolution during the pandemic and beyond in last week’s blog.
Now is the time to get everything ready – to know your numbers, to know what you want, and what you need to do next. It doesn’t have to be daunting. In The Absolute Academy we’re having zoom gatherings twice a week at the moment, so the ladies in there can support each other ‘face to face’ (virtually!) as well as get coaching, support and advice from me.
Now, more than ever we need to get in touch with our priorities, our values and choose our community wisely. If you want help navigating your divorce in these uncertain times, and you want to know people have got your back, The Absolute Academy is absolutely where you need to be.
I’d love to see you in there. You can join us here. If you have any questions about whether it’s right for you, or if you’d like to explore 1-1 support to get your divorce on track, just book in a chat. I’m happy to help however I can.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com