In our weekly spot on the site where we chat about mental health and wellbeing, a few thoughts on things to keep our brains entertained.

It’s Wednesday, the first of February, and we’re pulling up a chair for a natter. Biscuits included.

This week I’ve had an insight into the lives of so many people across the country, the family and loved ones of the 35,000 or so patients in hospital with Covid-19 at the present time.

There’s the waiting for the ambulance. The feeling of helplessness as the doors close, leaving you at the side of the road. The time lag between it leaving, and you being able to ring the hospital to find out what’s happening. Are they being kept in? The switchboard tries to find a home for your phone call while a pit of fear grows into a storm in your gut.

It’s a cycle of enforced ennui, interspersed with frantic action. Ticking boxes, trying to move scattered pieces into place in a world fractured by the pandemic. Has your loved one been for a scan yet? Are they on a ward? Are they staying in? Are they going to be okay?

In our case, it was a 24 hour scare with exemplary patient care. It was also 24 hours where access was denied to my loved one, and all the emotion that goes along with that. I can’t imagine how that must feel, replicated by days, weeks, in some cases ever months.

Now I’m grinding against the slow wheels of bureaucracy, filling in those scattered jigsaw pieces. It’s stop start. Lists are made. Things have to be done at certain times, in sequence. Return calls take eons to materialise, with dead space in-between the phone calls.

Those spells of ennui are mind numbing. I’m desperate for diversionary tactics and distractions. And not one of them including any form of mindfulness or meditation.

Simple reason for this – if I try to unhinge my mind from reality and seek the zen, it doesn’t just loosen up the brackets a little, it blows the bloody doors off! Mayhem, murder, torture – my mind has its own grimdark novel brewing up a storm. Not one that brings much reassurance. Perhaps I’m doing it wrong, but I’d rather just pass on the meditation for the moment, thanks.

Instead, I’m filling the void that my shrieking thoughts want to occupy with mindlessness. Important distinction. Anything new, or that I have to think hard about is out.

The following help keep me pacified:

  • Otters on Twitter. So darn cute. Bad taxidermy. So damn funny.
  • Match 3 / object searching games (freebies, I’m skint). I can move those pastel-coloured squares about in pleasing combinations for hours. Grow a fake garden, find pleasure in imaginary flowerbeds. A world of mindless focus. My heart rate usually drops by 15bpm a session. Beat that, yoga!
  • Crime fiction. I don’t consider myself a crime reader, but I’m hoovering it up right now, reading 13 books in January. I blame Raymond Carver. Then I discovered Peter McLean, who does Carver with added demon. My book shelves are breeding again.
  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 4. Don’t judge me.
  • Endless Planet Rock. A stream of dad rock. Light banter. Much Pink Floyd. Easy.

I’m understanding the sea shanty love, even if it’s not my bag. Nodding along, tapping toes to tunes of ye olden misery and toil. It takes us out of the now.

There is so much entertainment and knowledge out there in the world that I could be tapping into. But I’m just too weary and sad to try on the shiny new stuff. And, much like where I started this piece, I suspect that weariness is replicated in living rooms across the land.

My brain is taking its breaks where it can. I hope that if you are having hard times that you’ve also found some form of relief that you can tap into with ease. It could be building a 3-D Hogwarts or Star Wars LEGO. Rediscovering your vinyl records. Anything that helps the passing of empty time when you need it most.

If you’ve found something that helps, then do give it a shout out in the comments.

Thanks for reading, and take care. Go easy in those quiet moments.

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