"Focus on the present and the positive things"

Posted: Wednesday 01 April 2020

Many people living with macular disease face the fear of loneliness and isolation every day of their lives.

But with the coronavirus outbreak and the UK being in lockdown at present, there’s a danger that those feelings can be exacerbated, especially for someone who is coming to terms with the emotional impact of their sight loss.

Suzanne Roberts, the Macular Society’s counselling co-ordinator, talks about some of the concerns people with macular disease have been sharing since the coronavirus outbreak, and her advice on coping with anxieties at the current time.

She says: "The main concern that we’re hearing from people right now is how they’re going to cope without face-to-face contact with people if they’ve been asked to stay indoors. Many are telling us they’re unsure how they’ll cope without seeing people individually, or not being able to go to any regular group meetings they attend." 

Here are some of Suzanne's tips to help you cope at this difficult time.  

Focusing on the present and maintaining support networks

With all counselling sessions, before the coronavirus outbreak and since, one of the key things we try to get a person to do is focus on the present and the positive things they do have. In the current situation, it’s important that we help people to understand that it is not going to continue forever. We may not know when yet, but it will end.

For anyone who has concerns about not being able to see friends or family, we encourage them to think about their support network and how they can maintain contact. Alongside the telephone or internet, there are other ways you can communicate too. One client told me that, because they’d not been able to see their grandchildren recently, they’d written to them, and in return, the grandchildren had sent a letter back.

Another nice idea might be if you are getting essential shopping items for someone who is isolated, and you’re leaving them in a porch or somewhere safe for them to collect after you’ve gone, why not leave them a nice handwritten note too, just to remind them that you’re thinking of them? Or if you’re the one receiving the shopping, ask the person leaving it for you if they could leave you a note as well. Just small touches like that can help maintain personal contact and may make a massive difference to someone struggling.

Concentrate on what you enjoy

What we all definitely have to do is remember to be kind to ourselves, and that’s true for everyone; not just people with macular disease. There are simple things that we can all do, even if we are on our own.

We encourage people to think about an activity they used to enjoy, but perhaps have stopped doing for some reason; possibly because their sight loss may mean having to do it differently. It could be something simple, like listening to the radio; there are many heart-warming stories out there about people pulling together, even at this difficult time which can really lift you. Listening to some music that you like, or treating yourself by making your favourite meal, both help too.

Another positive thing currently is the good weather. If you’ve got a garden or balcony, sitting outside at regular intervals is really important, to give you a change of surroundings. One lady told me she was enjoying being able to hear the birds outside, which she couldn’t normally do, because traffic and aircraft noise would drown them out.

Mindfulness and relaxation

If you have access to the internet, there are a variety of very useful mindfulness and well-being exercises which can help manage anxieties that we often signpost people to. These are definitely worth exploring, as many of them are being made available free of charge at present.

One visualisation exercise we encourage clients to try involves a forest walk and is available on YouTube.

Breathing exercises can also be very beneficial. This very simple example from the NHS is suitable for everyone and can be done at any time.

Concerns about attending injections

It’s also completely understandable that people are concerned about attending eye clinic appointments in hospitals at the moment. As you may have already seen