Covid; a reminder that how we assess our success needs to reflect our current circumstances

EDIT; this as a few weeks late, turns out the catch up from Covid has taken longer than anticipated so this blog has been languishing on my laptop waiting for me to have time to publish it.

I've had a mixed week; on the one hand I've been amazed and thrilled to find out that Shore-Up has been awarded funding from the Royal College of Occupational Therapy to run a group this year. In contrast I’ve also felt that I’m not doing very well at meeting the demands on me in work, at home or in general.

But what I haven’t mentioned is that the day I received this exciting news was 6 days into my eldest son’s isolation period following a positive Covid test and was in fact the very same day that I myself tested positive for Covid.

We have had houseful of changing pressures and expectations this week and in the midst of it, I have had to consciously remind myself that it makes sense that life feels hard at the moment: the stressors that feel like they shouldn’t be that big seem to have an exponentially large impact on my capacity to manage as well as I would like to because my circumstances are different to usual.

Don't get me wrong, we’ve been lucky: the kids have all had it but not been too unwell, and the worry of the last two years that our youngest, with his inclination towards viral induced wheeze related hospital stays each winter, has weathered this particular virus with apparent ease. Me and my husband were the last to test positive and have both felt pretty ropey but, you know, ok in the grand scheme of things.

So, why am I feeling guilty about not meeting demands? Why do I feel that I ‘ought’ to be doing better? And how can I better understand what’s going on?

The answer for me, as always, lies in thinking about the whole context of my life and to do that, I do like an occupational model. And so, it is with a sense of predictability that we return to the Person-Environment-Occupation model that I love so much. As a reminder, this is a model that helps me to make sure I think about the stuff about me that’s going on (person), the stuff about where I am socially and physically, (environment) and the stuff about what it is that I’m doing (occupation). This model knows that these three elements are intertwined and dynamically impact upon one another meaning that when there’s change in one area, there’s likely to be a reciprocal shift elsewhere. Nothing happens in isolation, and everything impacts on everything else.

I like this model because it gets me out of my rut of thinking in a one track way about what I’ve not done or how I can change or be better (sometimes this is what needs to change, but even then, it’s always in the context of occupation and environment). It makes me take a wider view which often means I can see more impacts, options or possible changes and supports that could help.

So, here’s the ‘brain dump’ list of the impact of our 'it's not so bad for us' bout of covid has had for me:

And when I try to order this mess of negatives into the model, here’s what comes out:


  • change in role- home/home-school/work

it’s all muddled together with no clarity; there’s not the right balance between all these bits of myself to feel satisfying.

  • I don’t like cancelling work appointments

I’m in my job because I like to feel that I can help people; when I need to (in my eyes) ‘let someone down’ by cancelling, that kicks off negative thoughts and feelings for me.

  • Illness and physical well-being; I felt rubbish!

Cough, headaches, fatigue. Couldn’t think, getting the online shopping delivery through the door sent my heart racing and the combination between brain fog meaning I’d get upstairs and forget what I needed so I’d go back down, remember go back up, forget go back down, go back up for something else and then have to have a sit down because I was so tired was a very real negative!

  • Worry and concern for physical health for me and the family

This takes energy that just ekes out without me realising.

  • The need to adapt and adjust daily routines and habits

I always forget this bit; I expect myself to be able to do things to the same standard as usual even when there’s big changes that mean I need to consciously think, plan and adjust rather than just working on habit and routine. This takes energy, quite a lot of energy.


  • No variety in space or social contact

Its tedious and unsatisfying to be at home all the time with my (very lovely)family and nobody else.

  • Noise levels!

I love my kids but all of them there, all day when I didn’t feel well means that the noise levels are as high as my ability to tolerate noise was low. Not a great combination.

  • Demand on my attention (social environment)

Usually even on a day at work there’s some time by myself, thinking or driving or even just walking to school for pick up. None of that this week and I missed it.

  • All our usual supports and tension releases weren’t available

We’re usually lucky in that family help out if me or Rob aren’t well but obviously not this week. Also, things like cancelling my Pilates class, my exercise class, the coffee I usually have with friends, all the little spaces and places that keep me going and give me somewhere to be and do something outside of the house and the kids and work. I’ve missed these environments and the feedback I get from them.


I’ve already mentioned the environments that I’ve missed due to self-isolation, and this is clearly linked to missing the occupations that occur in those environments. But it’s also linked to the routine and the habits that I’ve missed.

Life is pretty automated most of the time, when there’s disruption, even if only for a short while, there is a need to consciously think and adjust to meet new demands. Not only does the mean that there is increased demands on your energy (as mentioned in person), but it also means that I miss out on the routines that make my life satisfying. I miss the regularity, the certainty, of a balanced (mostly) life that includes all the occupations that matter to me. I miss the knowledge that there is a plan, an expectation and it will ‘just happen’ because of the routine and habituation of my life. This, I think is what I have found the hardest to identify when I’m in it and has the most impact on my energy and stress. I don’t like uncertainty, I like a plan, I like a predictability in my every day that means I can just take that thinking off my to do list. This week has really demonstrated just how much this is true e for me.

So, what did this understanding of the context mean for how I managed my Covid life? Well, it has made me find adjustments in more places than just relying on me to ‘energy up’ and ‘push through’. (person elements). Yes, I did cancel appointments this week but when I look at the whole picture I can more easily recognise and accept that it wasn’t because I don’t care but because I couldn’t give the usual standard of therapy when I was feeling like I was. This is not a bad thing for my clients or for me. I can accept that once I’ve thought more logically about it.

In terms of environment, it means that we said yes when neighbours and friends offered to drop some shopping off, it means that our usual family support came in a different format (my sister is THE QUEEN of Zoom entertainment for the kids- everyone needs a Jess in their life!) and I could adjust my expectations of myself and my family. It also means that I’ve focussed on keeping just one room less of a shit-tip than the rest of the house and again, the logic of looking at the context means I can see that this is enough and that it won’t be forever; it just needs to be good enough for now.

Occupationally, our family routines shifted, and the balance of our activities changed. I did let the kids go on computers more than usual, but you know what, Nitro type (weird obsession in our house) is hardly going to damage them for life is it? and if it means we get through the week with one less squabble or one less exhausted plea for quiet from me then I think it’s worth it. The kids’ routines and occupational balance has also changed, I can’t expect them to find it any easier than I have so let’s just ease the process where we can. We’ve played lots more cards and the birthday gift of Bananagrams couldn’t have come at a better time but if they don’t finish all their home schoolwork, then they’ll survive. We just need to get through; good enough is good enough.

So, why am I talking about all this to you? well, it's to help me recognise what helped but also to show that by doing all this thinking I can make conscious choices about the things that matter in these circumstances, I can choose more appropriate measures of success that get me though my day, I can amend and recalibrate my expectations of myself and my family and in doing so, be a bit gentler on myself and them.

It's ok, it makes sense and it's not forever.

And with that thought , I'm going to make myself a hot lemon, take some more paracetamol and have yet another lies down.

I hope that whatever your household’s current situation, you can use these ideas to get perspective on how you're doing, amend your goals and expectations accordingly and give yourself a break do you need it.

Thanks for reading, any comments or shares are always welcome,

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