There are no winners in the misery Olympics – so let’s be kind

You’d be hard pressed to find somebody whose life hasn’t changed a fair bit in the last week.

We’re living through one of the biggest public health crises we’ll ever face. Whether it’s social distancing, sickness, or financial strain, we’re all facing some form of unhappiness. Made all the worse by the fact this is utterly, utterly outside of our control.

It’s hard. And most of us can acknowledge (and be sensitive to) the reality that there’s a sliding scale of distress. At the lower end, someone’s long-saved-for holiday is off the cards. Someone’s stuck in a foreign country with no way of getting home. Someone’s bored, lonely, anxious.

We also know there are bigger heartbreaks at play. Someone’s dream wedding has been cancelled. Someone’s stuck in self-isolation, mental and physical health deteriorating by the day.

And then there are the very worst griefs of all. Someone’s lost their job. Someone’s business isn’t going to survive this. Someone doesn’t know how they’re going to pay their rent. Someone’s sick. Someone’s died.

It’s important that we acknowledge this (and maybe mediate our social media outpourings appropriately). Stoicism is a beautiful thing. So is perspective. We’ll need plenty of both, as we ride this thing out. There’ll always be someone in a worse boat, after all.

But the real point is: there are no winners in the misery Olympics. We don’t have to pick and choose who gets to be upset, and we really don’t need to play a game of ‘but what about’ with all the rest of the world’s ills. If we do that, we risk fracturing the bonds that are so important to see us through – and damaging our own mental health along with it.

Be kind to others

So there’s two things to do here. The first: be kind to others. The impact somebody is feeling at the moment might look lighter than your own, but letting that thought bounce around in your head incessantly – or even speaking it out loud to them – isn’t going to make anyone feel better.

Unlike toilet paper, eggs, and common sense, being nice isn’t a limited resource. Our compassion can be boundless, if we let it.

(Unless they’re a celebrity, crying in a mansion about having to social distance. In which case, feel free to tell them to get a fucking grip.)

Be kind to yourself

The second – and perhaps more important – step? Be kind to yourself. It’s one of my biggest rules for good mental health anyway: be gentle. Speak to yourself the way you would speak to a loved one. Don’t beat yourself up. And don’t feel like you have to minimise your feelings because somebody else is suffering worse. I keep hearing people say this, voices catching as they do: ‘I know I shouldn’t complain, and other people have it much worse – but I just feel…’

Whichever way you’re being affected by this, it’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to cry, and to shout, and to be bloody pissed off and maybe lob a cushion at the wall.

If we all try and tamper down our feelings now, without processing them, we’re setting ourselves for some serious problems down the line. So breathe it out. Cry it out. Go for a (safe, solo, 2-metre-gap-leaving run) and stomp it out.  

Because we’re all going to suffer, before this thing runs its course. And kindness is the only way we’re going to get through it.

Put kindness into practice:

On the subject of kindness. Looking for a way to help? The National Emergencies Trust has launched an appeal to raise and distribute funds to support communities made most vulnerable by the coronavirus outbreak.

Alternatively, most counties seem to have a local fund set up. In lieu of a Mother’s Day meal, I’ve just donated to the Hertfordshire Coronavirus Appeal (my mum’s county).  

Only got a few quid spare? For less than the cost of a pint, you can buy a digital copy of The Big Issue. Big Issue sellers have now been taken off the streets, meaning many have lost their only source of income.


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