5 things not to do today by Dr Emma Kell

There is an awful lot to feel anxious about just now; from bereavement to worry about vulnerable relatives to household niggles and frustrations, there’s so much to challenge us, so It’s not surprising that many people are struggling. Anxiety is a pernicious thing and can pervade many elements of our lives without our permission. Here are five things you can give yourself permission not to worry about during a global pandemic. Some may be controversial!

1. What other people are (or appear to be) doing

There are reports ever of people getting fit and toned, learning Russian, writing novels, learning the cello and entering art competitions. At the time of writing, several houses have somehow managed to source and put up an array of beautiful bunting for VE day. I am delighted that some people have discovered a resurgence of creativity, but if you dig a little, many more will report reduced concentration levels, extreme exhaustion and feeling, despite everything, really, really pushed for time, all of the time. It doesn’t matter. Do (or don’t do) what you need to do.

2. Whether you’re a ‘good enough’ parent

Many, many parents are questioning their abilities as home-educators. You’re not teachers! You’re not expected to be! If you’re managing a bit of maths, a bit of English, and a bit of something else each day, you’re doing brilliantly – and probably better than most. And if your kids watch a film, jump around outside for a few minutes and help stir the porridge, that’s a kind of learning and development too. Try not to worry – their safety is the most important thing, and they will catch up – that’s our job as teachers, when we return!

3. How you look

Many have been amazed at the realisation that they quite possibly don’t need the three wardrobes full of clothes they possess. Whilst a handful are donning full make-up and jewellery for online meetings, trust me, the vast majority of us are wearing pyjamas on our bottom halves… and saving money on the fripperies we might have bought. If you miss opportunities to doll yourselves up a bit (and many of us don’t!), why not dress up for the hell of it this Saturday and meet with friends on video or dance around with the kids in the living room?

4. Your schedule and productivity

The vast majority of us are finding that our productivity levels are vastly reduced compared to ‘normal’ times. This may be simply because we are utterly discombobulated or because there are many, many people trying to look after young children or care for elderly relatives whilst at the same time holding down a full time job. Multi-tasking is exhausting at the best of times, and many of our colleagues and bosses will be in the same position, so empathy should abound. And if it doesn’t, follow the advice of a colleague: ‘if it isn’t statutory or of nobody’s health and safety relies upon it happening, bin it!’

5. What ‘might’ happen

This is a biggie, and we’re all guilty of it. Will we follow Denmark or Germany or China? Could we (please!) have a leader like Nicola or Jacinda? Will there be a second wave? When will this be over?

As a teacher, I have spent many, many hours (despite my best intentions and efforts) feeling anxious and alarmed by headlines suggesting the ‘return to normal’ for schools is imminent without any meaningful reassurance about the safety about the school community. So many things to get upset about – different rules for schools to other workplaces, the apparent ‘dispensability’ of teachers. We can tie ourselves in knows of speculation but it won’t make the slightest jot of difference. If we’re in a rare position of being able to influence things for the better, we need to make our voices heard, but beyond that, lying awake at night won’t help anybody.

There is just one answer to all of these questions: as yet, nobody knows. So all we can do is let it go, for now, and get back into our pyjamas, check in on a friend or relative, and then eat and sleep a bit more.

Emma Kell is a speaker, writer, researcher, teacher, SLE and author of How to Survive in Teaching. Also listen to the Clem and Em podcast here:


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