Coronavirus (COVID-19): New Zealand Locked Down
Updated: Mar 26, 2020
My son's laugh trailed off in the background.
My finger scrolled through the latest report and I paused in shock. New Zealand was to move to stage three immediately and within 48 hours we would be in stage four. Complete lockdown. I had believed that it was coming, as I had seen the growing protests online to call for New Zealand to jump to stage four before community transmission happened, as well as the polarising opinions about what Jacinda Ardern should do or should’ve done.
Stage four meant that everyone was to stay home and only essential services remain running. To my surprise, some businesses asked that they allowed be open, specifying they also sold "essential services." Thankfully, woke New Zealanders started a petition demanding for the safety of our community, The Warehouse would not be allowed to open. For more information around which businesses would continue to run, read "Coronavirus: What stores and services are still open during lockdown?"
Everything started running through my brain. What if? Schools closed? Anxiety? Chaos? Supermarkets? Playgrounds? All the while, my son ran around in the fresh air with a gleeful naivety.
It felt like some sort of disaster movie, except it wasn't sudden, we knew life was going to change in two days. And me naturally needing a bit more structure to reduce the anxiety, I had nothing to hold onto, no rules other than to stay at home to save lives.
When I had processed it by the end of the night, I was hugely overwhelmed. Dr Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris explain everything very clearly in "The Side Eye: Viruses vs Everyone." and is why once the threat level reached 3 and I immediately wanted to stay home and lock myself in. I did not want to have on my hands the lives of all the elderly and those immune-compromised. I had a conversation with my Dad with regards to my Mum. If she were alive, there would be no way that she would survive if she got this virus. My cousin on social media also shared thoughts from his brother who is a doctor at an Auckland hospital.
"He says if we don’t do this properly they’re literally forecasting more than 1000 new COVID19 patients per day will turn up to that single hospital."
And for someone who's experienced anxiety a few times in my life, the uncertainty for so many, (built up from the last few days,) crippled me.
So how did I navigate the next two days knowing that the daily life would change drastically?
Don’t panic buy
Since the first confirmed case of coronavirus, I have picked up a few extra canned goods and a few extra frozen goods each time I shopped, so I didn’t have the stress of a last-minute panic buy. And we’ve been told, that supermarkets will remain open, we don’t have a food shortage, so buy normally according to the limits indicated.
But to be honest, every time I went to the supermarket, I would come away feeling distressed. Walking the aisles, you could just feel anxiety levels were at their peak, and looking at the empty shelves and full trollies being pushed around, made me start to feel anxious as I stared at the handful of items in my shopping basket. Did I also need to buy into this frenzied mode?
In the end, my strategy was to make a list and just get in and get out so that my mind wasn’t clouded with doubt. And afterwards I would text my friends that I knew had a similar mindset, to help reset me with their affirming words. At the end of the day, if we all panic buy, it means there is nothing left for those that actually need it.
Explore social media for all the right kind of conversations
Media can be such a minefield and can add fuel to this storm growing inside our heads. Choose to limit what you read up on the internet, and choose to read articles or browse social media that calms and educates out of love instead of causing you to fear.
Parenting Place had an amazing live chat discussing family life in lockdown which helped to broaden my perspective and gave me a few tools to go forward.
Scott Kelly is retired NASA astronaut who gave his perspective on tips on how to live in isolation in an article called "I Spent a Year in Space, and I Have Tips on Isolation to Share." He lived on the International Space Station for a year, and couldn’t go outside literally, so I was very keen to read what he had to say.
My friend Auckland GP Himali McInnes has also written a piece "Auckland’s Covid-19 frontline" to explain what it's like dealing with waiting room patients in the time of Covid-19. Reading it made me very thankful for all those people who are fighting for us and gearing up for war every day. As well as those who are working to provide us our essential services. I mean, we have it pretty easy. All we have to do is stay at home.
And social media is great to find ways to entertain our kids while we are all in isolation. One page I was invited to was Fun at Home! Is a Facebook page where people can share videos or photos of things that we can do at home with our kids while in isolation.
And there are some awesome people out there who are releasing free audio stories like David Walliams.
Do what works for you and your family
After listening and reading to these examples I decided to start with a loose schedule. But bear in mind that you may feel something else completely different is right for you, and that’s fine. It’s all about being aware of how you work and what triggers you. Some of you and your children may be better off with no structure at all. I know, I need to have a little structure, to feel a little control over an uncontrollable situation.
When I was getting my five-year-old son down last night, I explained to him that creating a schedule was our first task on our new adventure at home together. This was a way that he could be involved in making decisions on how family life would be done and when exactly he had Mummy time (as well as his screen time). His face brightened up with glee which made me happy. Today we brainstormed all the different activities he could choose from for the activity slots, which I felt would empower him. He even put on his first load of washing yesterday, which he was extremely proud of (and a huge help to me,) but then I freaked out because he'd mixed the whites and colours. Luckily it turned out fine. Because as much as I try not to show him, he must feel my anxiety.
It's ok to not be ok
Someone told me that our five-year-olds aren’t going to remember what exactly happened during COVID-19. What they will remember is how their parents reacted. I’m not exactly proud of how I’ve responded to things as sometimes my anxiety has got the better of me. What I've learned is that New Zealand, (as well as the world, is in unknown territory). And what I need to remember (advice from my sister-in-law), is that we are all triggered in different ways and to not beat myself up about it.
It is ok to feel out of your depth. It's ok to reach out for support and it’s definitely ok to be real with the right people. And when I stumble, I may need to tell my son that this is all new for Mummy and Daddy. I may need to ask for forgiveness and his patience as we see this through.
Through all of this, there are glimmers of hope for the future. My son made friends through the fence this afternoon. He called out into the unknown, hearing there was another boy playing by himself. My heart melted as they introduced themselves and discussed their interests. Then my son dobbed me in as being a terrible gardener. I then had to stop him when they started to talk about throwing a ball back and forth to each other.
Please, please. May everyone stay home and let's do this properly. I know the majority of New Zealanders are supportive of lockdown, but some don't, or are not taking this seriously. This afternoon a State of Emergency was declared in New Zealand. So I hope that fixes that. Don't compromise someone else's life. We are all in this together. Be kind and look out for each other. Kia Kaha. God defend New Zealand.
26/03/20 Edit: Just added Jacinda's message to all New Zealanders that she posted on the eve of lockdown. Love that she's leading out of love and kindness rather than of power and fear.
If you're needing connection in this time of self-isolation please request to join Postnatal Depression (PND) and anxiety discussion group. or you would also like a family schedule let me know. Happy to help x