If you can keep your head ...

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Kipling's "If" was one of my favourite poems growing up. Those opening lines seem so pertinent in these uncertain times - If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs - not so we can be a man but so we can find a way through these unsettling times and perhaps provide some leadership to those around us.

I am not telling anyone anything they don't already know, but sometimes it helps to acknowledge things, and know others are feeling them too, so here goes.

It is really very odd right now. I haven't seen anyone with Covid 19 but I know I need to be very worried about it. I am probably in a relatively safe age and health profile, but I know people who are pregnant or who are old or who have a history of lung conditions. Suddenly I am not supposed to go to the office or the pub and I don't really know how long that is going on for. An economic crisis seems to be following inexorably the health crisis. Huge swathes of the economy seem to be at a standstill while the financial markets seem to be in freefall. Every day the government is making fresh announcements of restrictions that don't always seem to be part of any coherent plan. Our leaders seems to be struggling to lead, and without a doubt they were not elected with their current role in mind and so it may be little surprise they may not be best qualified for it. And it all seems to have happened so very fast. Everything seems to have changed in the space of a fortnight. It is weird. And that makes us anxious.

It can be very hard to know how to react. Often recently I have thought someone is overreacting and encouraged them to be wary of that, only to find they were right - the worst they feared was going to happen did in fact happen.

Our supermarkets and their bare shelves offer an insight to the rising panic among us and the disconnect between what we are told and the reality we perceive. The supermarket chains are telling us they have plenty of food to go round and that there is no need to stockpile in our homes, that they can continue to do that for us, when the reality of what we see when we venture out is very different. (Bizarrely olives seem to be the only fresh food not considered vital to our collective hunkering down - I could have had any variety of fresh olives in Sainsburys last night and in whatever quantity I liked). And then I see people wiping down their trolley before they hold the handle or put their shopping inside and I silently flit between worry that I haven't done it and bemusement at the precautions they are taking. And they are probably right but I don't like the worry.

Apart from olives, the other thing there was a lot of still was wine so I went with that, in bulk, only to be told I was limited to three of any item (regardless of vintage, chateau or grape variety it seems). Three seems to be the magic number.

So here are three things I want to share to help us each keep our heads and maybe allow us all to be the leaders we can be to those around us, those in our shadow, whoever we are and whatever role we have or hat we may be wearing - we need lots of leaders right now and we need to keep our heads. This is not my wisdom but comes from the World Health Organisation and is about the information we consume, because it is that information that seems to be driving how we react and how well we can keep our heads.

1. Most of us do not need to be updated every ten minutes on the latest news. Some might but I know I don't. I also know that if I do keep checking up then this fuels my anxiety. There is a reason the BBC (for example) has bulletins at set hours through the day. Right now I reckon the lunchtime news and the ten o'clock news will do. When things quieten down I can drop the lunchtime fix. We don't need the constant feed and we certainly don't need to spend endless hours chasing down every available rabbit warren the net has to offer because, just to be clear, a lot of it is bollocks.

2. Choose a source you trust and stick to that source. Don't go chasing those bunnies.

3. Notice the effect the news-feed frenzy is having on you - if it is making you feel worse, more anxious, stop.

And then if you find yourself worrying a lot, perhaps you have lost a bit of perspective and might be over reacting, here is one more tip - borrow someone else's. Find someone and talk to them about what is in your head and ask them what they think. That's a good idea at any time. Right now, when many of us are feeling isolated because of social distancing (and when did that become a thing?) that very isolation can contribute to our anxiety and to our loss of perspective. So seek out someone else, ideally with a webcam so you get a better quality of connection and conversation, and do yourself a favour by borrowing their objectivity, and do them a favour by giving them some contact and a chance to be a leader.

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