Book Friday: Steady (Keeping Calm in a World Gone Viral) by Dr Sarb Johal

After yesterday’s slightly losing it, I did what I always did. At times like this, I channel my inner Hermione and search my shelves.

My shelves nowadays are mostly virtual and Kindle based, so I looked in my virtual stacks and found a book I bought last week in a book-buying spree, but had not yet read: Steady (Keeping Calm in a World Gone Viral) by Dr Sarb Johal. Dr Johal is a New Zealand based psychologist with a long interest in mental health during disaster management. Ideal expert for writing a book during the biggest global health disaster in the last 100 years, I think.

It’s a chunky book, full of practical advice based on psychological therapies. Dr Johal recognises that this situation is unprecedented, that we’re all facing worries, issues, losses on a global scale like no civilisation on earth ever has before and also that, due to the approaches chosen to combat the problem, we’re also facing them in a life more isolated and cut off from physical interaction than ever before.

The book is split into 14 chapters, with headings ranging from Empathy (with others and, surprisingly, with yourself, because a useful skill to develop is to be able to step aside from your own feelings to empathise with why you feel that way. It sounds weird, but the book explains it much better than I do) and through how to support kids, staying connected and useful chapters on dealing with conspiracy theories and Coronavirus fatigue. He also deals with The Lockdown YoYo, where we stick to restrictions, the restrictions are lifted and then replaced when the virus numbers rise again. I recognise myself so much in this chapter: we’re on Lockdown 3 currently and this one has been harder for me than the previous two, I think because the weather and the early dark evenings and the amount of office work has increased and I have let pressure pile upon pressure…. the usual story as a wife/mother/business worker. Personal needs get put to the back of the pile.

Dr Johal’s answer to YoYo fatigue is to boost the Fab Four: not The Beatles, naturally, but the Four activities that build a ladder up from the pit of despair and into a place where, even in Lockdown, you allow yourself to enjoy activities, small actions to build resilience and create safe space in your own life. These four activities are pleasurable activities, achievement-based activities, physical activities and social activities. Keep your life balanced (between work and home, family and self, social and solitude) and it is likely your mood will remain balanced as well. Holding my hands up here, I have let my life get unbalanced. And I know that’s when I pay the price. I think I may well be rereading the book again tonight, and making sure that I get my life back in balance. I have a cold, shivers and a runny nose, so enforced stillness and the dropping of my housekeeping plate may be in order.

Throughout the book, Sarb intersperses his own experience as a human with his knowledge as a psychologist. It’s a really incredibly dense book, by which I mean that there’s information and advice on every page, in every chapter and every bit of it is quality. There’s a great emphasis on the pillars of wellness; sleeping well, eating well, managing stress and getting exercise for mind and body. Covid pandemic or not, those are the areas we should be keeping as very true, solid foundations in our lives.

I have highlighted passages throughout the book, some to follow, others for interest. As I said before, the ideas are written in terms of a covid response but applicable to life after Covid (and there will be a life after covid, I promise you) when we will be submerged by a deluge of information and advertising by companies that have done without us for a year. The final chapters, indeed, focus on that post-Covid life, on setting out our life values and on realigning our compass to help us create the world we want to live in. Managing our ongoing anxiety, accepting our ongoing feelings, taking care of our community and ourselves and remaining flexible so that, whatever happens in the future, we know we have the tools to cope with it.

After yesterday’s breakdown, this book was the one I needed to read. Like the best box of chocolates, it’s not one to be eaten and digested in one whole chunk, but to be read slowly (I will be taking notes) and slowly incorporated into life. This weekend, I will sleep well, eat well, move well. I’ll spend time with my family and some time alone, I’ll take care of my home, with a little light dusting. I’m granting myself a weekend off news, a rare event. And I will carry Sarb Johal’s final advice,

There is no new normal.

There is only change.

And this can be difficult to accept.

Dr Sarb Johal, Steady

Sarb Johal is on the internet via his own website, Instagram and Twitter. My only other advice regarding getting the book is to buy it on Kindle, as it is definitely good value at £3.61 as opposed to nearly £20 for the paperback ( I have the Kindle version, and it’s well-formatted and totally useable). It’s very readable, not totally psychobabble, and very practical. Now then, where did I leave my duster? Let’s get moving, get resilient and get smiling as well.

Today’s header photo is by Tyler Milligan on Unsplash. I chose it because I liked the multiple piles of carefully stacked stones. Anybody who has ever been to the beach and stacked stones will know that it’s a lesson in balancing different needs. It’s also a fine metaphor for life: you build your stack, get it balanced and then a wave comes along and knocks it all off balance. What you do next is a clear demonstration of whether you have resilience or not. A resilient person will build again, often further up the beach so that the stack will stand for longer. A person lacking resilience will drop everything and lose it. I hope we all find the ability to adapt to the change and move up the beach. I also like how the stacks are close together: that’s the community we need to choose to build together.

All my blogs, Facebook groups and other social media content is free to enjoy and ad free as far as possible.

How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters.

I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:

Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.

Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.

If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.

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