NZ Herald Column Kyle MacDonald

It’s the virus which has sparked fear and disruption around the world. And New Zealand is not immune – our lives remain restricted under alert level 3 in a bid to eliminate Covid-19.

So, how do we get through the coronavirus pandemic?

Kyle MacDonald is a psychotherapist and mental-health advocate and will answer your questions in a twice-weekly column.

If you have a question for MacDonald, please send it to: cherie.howie@nzme.co.nz before 9am tomorrow.

We are a couple in our early 70s and our immune compromised relative has been living with us during lockdown. Under level 3 we agreed to expanding our bubble to another couple in extended family, also in their 70s, to help them on the understanding the new bubble would be exclusive between us. We now find they’ve not kept their bubble exclusive to us and have been socialising. We feel a bit let down but don’t want to spoil the friendship. What should we do?

At least at level 3 the advice is clear and the fact that your relative has reasons to be protected only serves to make it certain, you need to talk with them, but what to say and how to say it?

Almost everyone finds it hard to have conversations where we feel conflict is certain. And most of the time the conflict that does arise is much less troublesome than our worry would have us believe.

The important thing is to be clear, make no assumptions about their reasons why, and speak what we call “from the I” – that is, start all your statements with “I feel…”.

Avoid starting any statement with “You…” – tends to be an accusation.

It’s fine to do it face to face, or not, whatever makes it feel possible, and manageable.

And don’t apologise – you have every right to need to protect your bubble.

My wife was working from home throughout level 4. Once we dropped to level 3 her workplace decided to reopen their offices and she’s now back in the office five days a week. I don’t agree with this – the rules are pretty clear that those who can work from home should continue to do so – but she sees it as no problem, insisting there’s no risk. There’s nothing she’s doing in the office that couldn’t be done from home. I don’t understand her mindset and I’m really disappointed in her attitude. To me it’s no different from the thousands of people we all hear about who are ignoring the rules and putting us all at risk. We’ve spoken about it and she’s still insisting on going to the office every day. I’m having a hard time putting this behind me and letting it go. What can we do from here?

We have to manage theses conflicts and differences all the time in relationships – in fact it’s no exaggeration to say that it’s most of the work of a relationship.

And it’s always a tricky balance, between being clear about what we feel ourselves, and accepting the other person’s view.

Without knowing more about the industry in which your wife works it’s hard to say for sure, but many businesses can open at level 3, and the expectation is that people manage social distancing with workmates.Kiwi-born poet, Tom Foolery has racked up over 24 million views on social media with his ode to a post-COVID world. Video / Will Trafford

I can understand you feel anxious about this – given all we’ve been through, it’s hard not to worry.

But try to talk about the worry you feel, rather than the anger at your wife.

Anger is often a way to not feel other more vulnerable emotions, and conversation about your worries and fears – for her well being and your own – is going to be much more helpful than one lead by anger, no matter how justified it feels.

The lockdown gave me time to stop and think. Now I feel there are parts of my life that need to change. Some of these changes are quite big. But this has been an unusual time, to say the least. Is this the right time to be making big decisions in my life?

There’s no wrong time to listen to your feelings and thoughts that we find when we stop and really listen to ourselves.

And as you’ve found for many that’s what this time has offered – a reality check, a time to prioritise.

Any brush with our own mortality – however faint, can have that effect. And even though – thankfully – most of us here in Aotearoa have been safe, the fear and anxiety was about our own mortality – at least until it was clear we had this thing under control.

Most of the time we put our own mortality out of our mind. But being clear about the time we have, and where we are in the likely timeline of our own mortality sharpens the mind.

It leaves us clearer about what really matters – what we haven’t done, what we will likely miss out on.

Keep that focus. Write it down, and use it to motivate yourself to do what really matters.

If a person asks you nastily “step back” as a coronavirus reference, how should one respond? In this case it was meant more as social attack than health precaution. I was standing away and felt hurt and upset at the actions of the person I am unfortunately forced to deal with from time to time

At the moment we need to give everyone a wide berth and the benefit of the doubt.

Even though it’s hard, we’re all struggling, and the reaction you copped has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with the (unknown to us) challenges that person is facing in their own life and their own head.

Covid-19 in NZ — Wednesday 6th May

Total confirmed and probable cases

While our Prime Minister has implored us to be kind, we also need to “be compassionate.”

Assume that even bad behaviour is motivated by pain, anxiety and distress – by all means protect yourself, but also let it slide and move on.

Feel free to avoid if possible, otherwise walk away with your head held high.

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