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The beauty of escapism in times of crisis

Caitlin McBride


 

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Vogue Williams arriving during day two of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse

Vogue Williams arriving during day two of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse

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Vogue Williams poses at Punchestown racecourse on April 28, 2017 in Naas, Ireland. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Vogue Williams poses at Punchestown racecourse on April 28, 2017 in Naas, Ireland. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

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Vogue Williams is an Irish model and media personality as she poses on Ladies Day at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 11, 2020 in Cheltenham, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Vogue Williams is an Irish model and media personality as she poses on Ladies Day at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 11, 2020 in Cheltenham, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

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Autumn Phillips (right) during the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase alongside Peter Phillips (left) on day one of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham

Autumn Phillips (right) during the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase alongside Peter Phillips (left) on day one of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham

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Sabina Brennan

Sabina Brennan

Jess wears: Playsuit, Maje, Brown Thomas. Shoes, River Island. Photo: Kip Carroll

Jess wears: Playsuit, Maje, Brown Thomas. Shoes, River Island. Photo: Kip Carroll

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Vogue Williams arriving during day two of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse

I never thought I'd be so joyful at a total stranger's pregnancy news, and yet here I was mentally congratulating Vogue Williams on expecting her second child.

I got the same flutter of joy when I saw pictures of soon-to-be-exes Autumn and Peter Philips at Cheltenham; neither of whom showed signs of acrimony in their impending divorce. On Sunday, I read a 3,000 word piece on Jess Redden becoming an "accidental influencer" and becoming engaged to fiancé Rob Kearney. Lottie Ryan won Dancing with the Stars on Sunday night - a show I don't even watch - and I became enthralled.

"Good for them," I thought to myself. Parallel to my indulgent celebrity news run, I was also staying abreast of the constantly developing news updates on COVID-19. In between mindfulness-motivated walks in the park, practicing social distancing and stocking up on food essentials; I was keeping it business as usual as much as possible. And part of that in my line of work is quite literally keeping up with the Kardashians.

Celebrity news is my respite. It's long been my form of escapism, and one in which I will continue to indulge and exercise professionally as long as there is such news to report.

In fact, escapism is a healthy form of stress management, essential in times of crisis like now, says Dr Sabina Brennan, neuroscientist and psychologist, who hosts the Super Brain podcast.

"Business as usual is absolutely critical," she told the Irish Independent. "The reason I say this is because stress management couldn't be more important now. It's a stressful time, there's no denying it.

"In order for you to survive, there is a psychological stress response that releases cortisol and adrenaline that sets in motion a whole cascade of actions within your body - increased heart rate, opening up your lungs and shutting down unnecessary functions to allow you to fight or flee.

"Most importantly, immune function is suppressed and we all need healthy immune functions at this point in time. It’s absolutely critical if we want to manage our stress. Part of managing our stress is not becoming obsessed with it carrying on - as much as possible - with business as usual, and not feeding the fear."

Dr Brennan says that during stressful times, whether individual or widespread like in the case of recession and pandemic, " we lose our sense of humour."

"We become very serious and decide everything is linked and all that matters is the virus. Business as usual will help manage that threat. I can follow the hygiene instructions, continue working from home as I’m told to and not make unnecessary journeys," she explains.

"Newspapers should absolutely be still publishing articles that are non-virus related so that people have a choice."

During recessions, there is something known as the 'lipstick effect', which was widely reported on during Ireland's own economic hardship from 2008. It's a practice theorising that people - women in particular - are more likely to spend on lesser scale luxury goods, like lipstick.

It's a similar policy to the vacuous, but ultimately harmless, celebrity news cycle during self-isolation in the midst of a global pandemic.

Similarly, for Irish lifestyle influencers, for whom their main income is brand partnerships and event hosting, there has been little change in the way they present themselves online. Affiliate links are still being shared and sponsored posts published, perhaps one of the most surprisingly durable industries during these economically precarious times.

Stores are closed and warehouses locked down, but there's no harm in perusing new arrivals online and letting them sit in your basket indefinitely; an elevated form of window shopping.

With an abundance of events being rescheduled or cancelled altogether - some indefinitely - it's hard to predict the immediate future of the celebrity news cycle. So for now, I will continue to dutifully follow Kate Middleton's fashion (which may require a virtual trip to the archives) and wishing women like Vogue Williams well in her pregnancy.

And for once, I will utter the words, 'At times like this, I'm grateful for influencers'.

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Sabina Brennan

Sabina Brennan

Sabina Brennan

 

Dr Sabina Brennan's 5 tips for managing stress during Coronavirus:

1. Pull back from social media.

Only trust announcements from the likes of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Health Minister Simon Harris and the HSE's Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan. "If there’s been a big announcement, it will get to you - if only by osmosis."

2. Take news coverage in shifts.

Create a roster with a trusted group of friends, family or colleagues, during which each person will take a shift managing the incoming news. "For example, John is on duty on Monday, and you tell John to filter through it, and listen and report back to us only if there’s something which means we have to change our behaviours."

3. Sleep is more important than ever.

If you’re not getting sufficient sleep, your immune system is again compromised.  In order to fight infection, you need proper sleep and therefore, managing your stress is critical.

4. Get physical.

Exercise is critical. "Personally, I need exercise for my mental health. I cannot be concerned about my physical health in terms of a virus without prioritising my mental health," Sabina says. "If you engage in physical exercise, find a way to manage that - online gym classes will be made more available now. People need to consider healthy eating habits. People were stockpiling alcohol and dried preserves, but a balanced diet is still key to overall health."

5. Find time to laugh.

Download funny movies and memes in case you have no access to internet. Continue talking about the things that make us human that make us feel happy.

"Laughter is nature’s natural stressbuster. It actually release levels of cortisol. If you think of other stressful times, for example if a loved one dies at their funeral, what do you do? You do a lot of laughter afterwards, remembering them fondly."

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