Time suddenly alters completely

The coronavirus-driven halting of everyday live has given us all so much time. But there is so much worry and dread to fill that time. How are you coping?

A month ago, could you possibly have believed how much everything was about to change?

It’s hard to comprehend the magnitude of the disruption. Everyday life has been put on hold. The unthinkable is becoming an everyday occurrence. In the UK, we had the previously unimaginable sight of a Conservative Government enacting a raft of socialist measures* (followed a few days later by the – we have to hope temporary – curtailment of some basic freedoms).

Empty streets everywhere. The silence where I live is unnerving.

One country now


The disruption is worldwide. This is a truly global phenomenon. The rupture in everyday lives is repeating itself in so many nations. We’re seeing similar patterns everywhere – the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, and governments taking extraordinary measures in response. I came across a compelling take on this in an unexpected place. YouTube music commentator Andriy Vasylenko posted a Community update talking about the novel coronavirus as a global leveller:**

“[T]oday it was both eery and peaceful on streets in my town… And I have this strange feeling like… the whole world is one country now. Things get shut down everywhere, we’re having similar experiences, and our way of living alters in a similar way.”

Defined by excess and luxury

The abrupt pausing of everyday life and sudden shortages of some foods is giving many people in the West a small taste of what life can be like outside of the first world. So says retired Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf, speaking on the Joe Rogan podcast. Stumpf says:

“I think our society is kind of defined by its excess and luxury. When you live in that environment and you never leave that environment, you don’t bend yourself before the world bends you a little bit, shit’s going to come off the rails when you get pressed.”

When (not if) we make it through to the other side, Stumpf hopes to see a reassessment of priorities and values:

“I hope that people on the other side of this (because it’s not going to be the end of the world) that it gives them a greater understanding, appreciation and perspective of what we have, how lucky we are.”

The virulence of anxiety and stress


We will get through this. We will see life on the other side of this. But in the meantime, we each of us have to find our own path through. Gentle reader: How are you coping? What’s the one thing that has helped you the most? How are you filling the time?

We now have so much time. But there is so much worry and dread to fill that time.

“Anxiety and stress are almost as virulent as this coronavirus.”

This is Stephen Fry***, speaking to Andrew Marr last Sunday (22 March 2020). He argues that to restore peace of mind, we have to change our relationship to time. Fry says:

“Time suddenly alters completely in these situations. A very important idea is to draw up some sort of timetable. You can take more time to do everything. But you can also turn off the notifications on your phones and tablets and other devices so that you’re not bombarded by headlines. If anything important – really important – happens, you’ll find out about it. Decide on a time to look in on the news. But there’s so much noise. “

Fry’s advice to try to limit our intake of news is particularly wise. He suggests limiting ourselves two or three bouts of news consumption, at set times throughout the day. The other week, Mike Hind tweeted some similarly wise advice on the advisability of going on an enforced news diet:

“I recommend reading less news, not more, during this period. The news wants attention. The science wants you safe.”

Allow time to take on another dimension

Breathing can be used finely to calibrate our response to or preparedness for a situation.**** For Stephen Fry, focusing on how we breathe can help us deal with the jolting alteration to time that we are all experiencing. He says:

“People can calm down by taking a deep breath and allowing time to take on a different dimension. Take more time to do everything.”

For me, yoga is the perfect means to allow time to take on a different dimension. Yoga brings immense benefits, physical and mental. Stretching, strengthening, breathing. Movement and stillness.

“If you’re breathing then you’re doing it right,” says Adriene Mishler, the YouTube yoga instructor whose videos have been such a friendly and invaluable guide through my own yoga journey for just over four years. For anyone who might be considering yoga, I cannot recommend Adriene’s work enough. Please see my post from last year on My top 5 Yoga with Adriene videos for some great recommendations on where to start.

The sun will rise again

Another way to fill time is to stream videos. A brief window into another world, a brief escape from the everyday. Sometimes a brief escape into the past.

My wife and I have fallen down a little YouTube rabbit hole of old British newsreel films and amateur footage of London from yesteryear.

The ease with which people walked freely and socialised in this wonderful 1968 home movie of a day trip to Soho and Carnaby Street seems impossibly luxurious and remote.


Then again, the ability to walk freely and socialise in Soho and Carnaby at the start of March 2020 seems equally luxurious and remote.

But we will get through this. We will see life on the other side of this.

If you’re reading this, you have the luxury of being alive. The world will recover. We will be back out there again. We have what it takes to get through this.

The sun will rise again.



* Sunday Times economics editor David Smith writes: “No government has come close to this one’s open-ended commitment to pay 80% of the wages of workers who would otherwise be laid off. No chancellor has ever announced such far-reaching measures on which it is impossible to put a price.”

** Here is the full text of Andriy Vasylenko’s update. Andriy is the creator of the MetalliGeek YouTube channel – an articulate, upbeat and (to the Metallica obsessive) fascinating and funny exploration of all things Metallica.

“Hi friends! How’s it going? Wait, I probably know, regardless your country)) Well, today it was both eery and peaceful on streets in my town… And I have this strange feeling like… the whole world is one country now. Things get shut down everywhere, we’re having similar experiences, and our way of living alters in a similar way. I hope when this thing has settled, the world will be changed for the better. More people will believe in what medicine and science have achieved over its history. Less bulls**t and screaming about things not that urgent, and more attention to education and people’s actual problems. No more medievalism in yet freaking 21st century. As late George Carlin said, the planet will be fine, it’s people who are f**ked)) Stay calm and safe. And I’ll try give you more sh*t to watch)) \m/”

*** Stephen Fry is the President of the mental health charity Mind, which offers an excellent array of resources on Coronavirus and your wellbeing. Please consider making a donation to Mind.

**** These words come from my recent post Each breath


1 Comment

  1. Excellent post as always Michael, thank you.

    I completely agree about turning off the news. I feel so much better when I avoid it. (And I do appreciate that being able to avoid it is a huge privilege, but watching it & becoming anxious doesn’t help anyone.)

    I’m doing more (light) reading, plus gardening, watching old videos (most recently the original BBC adaptation of Tinker Tailor – Alec Guinness is brilliant, though I also thought Gary Oldman & Toby Jones excelled in the more recent film) and keeping in touch with my children & with friends I’d normally be meeting up with from time to time.

    And this weekend my blog is definitely going to get some serious (though not Serious) attention.

    I hope you & your wife are keeping well – your guinea pigs will be enjoying all the attention!

    Very best wishes, Rosemary


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