These are unusual times.
Although the various countries have different levels of guidelines or rules, many of us have found ourselves at least to some degree confined to our homes for the foreseeable future.
Of course, this has affected different people in different ways, one of which might be increased strain on our mental health.
Today’s guest post comes from Simon (aka Tibblesworth) who discusses the UK lockdown from his perspective.
The army is manning the streets, food is rationed and we’re barred in our homes to protect us from an invisible killer, relentlessly targeting both the young and old indiscriminately. Our friends and family are not to be trusted, let alone strangers. The very air we breathe is becoming our enemy. The emergency services are under-manned, under-funded and under too much stress to comprehend as they buckle and eventually break. The very world around us is disintegrating, humanity fading to a memory as flora and fauna begin to reclaim their ancestral homes. Humanity begins to crumble as the laws and social constructs that have so long supported us decay.
Our only hope is to stay at home and complain with mild disregard for our fellow man on social media.
When this is all over, I’m inventing a time-machine and making a fortune with this as the key plot of my new post-apocalyptic novel.
And warning a few important people, of course.
But mostly, novel.
Crazy times, huh? I don’t know about you but the aura of fear that permeates the world right now contrasts so starkly with the spring sunshine and gentle warmth that I’m never really sure if I’m in lockdown or on an extended holiday. I’ve never been much of an outdoor socialising type anyway, and with my daily dog walks in the sun and occasional trips to the shop or the pharmacy, the only thing I’m really missing is my family, my work friends and a good Chinese takeaway.
In this, I’m fully aware of how very, very lucky I am.
The reality bites occasionally. My housemate fought his way through the virus and came out the other side unscathed, so we were isolating before it became cool. Hipster lockdown, yo. Again, I was overly lucky. Bar a couple of days with a slight cough and a slightly risen temperature, I was perfectly fine. The coming Monday will mark a month of us being at home. I keep reminding myself how lucky I am, but the repetition is painful and my lack of purpose becomes a poignant reminder of how we as a society focus so much on our careers.
Being stuck indoors, many alone in their isolation, is particularly tough on the most vulnerable members of society and whilst, rightly, the media’s lens has focused on the elderly and the physically ill, we have to remember the effect this is having on those with mental illnesses.
My own depression began to peak as I realised I had no reason to get out of bed. My anxiety flares when I worry about whether my family will be able to survive on furloughed pay, or whether our jobs will ever truly come back. My parents are both on the at-risk list, as are many of my friends. This is a horrible time.
What I find most frustrating is that everyone has an answer. Or seems to have, judging by the perfectly presented snippets we see on social media.
You should be exercising. Take up baking. Read a book on horticulture. Do an online course in analytical data interpretation. Start writing a blog.
Okay, you can ignore the last one.
Of course, if what gets you out of bed in the morning is doing one of those things (I’ll happily sample your baking) then more power to you. I fully support everyone in finding and pursuing a purpose. We all need a reason to exist, and it’ll be as individual and uniquely tailored to you as you want it to be. Social media, in times like this, can be a blessing and a curse. Sure, Karen and Kyle take their kids on eight-mile hikes, come home to bake cookies for everyone, wash the cars, tidy the house, do the shopping for the whole street and then spend the evening playing Monopoly without once getting frustrated, flipping the board, ramming that stupid little dog into someone’s ear and leaving the hotels on someone’s bedroom floor so they tread on them when they get up in the night.
My main takeaway from this would be this; don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for doing as much or as little as you want. If you need some time to rest, read a book until you fall asleep in the mid-afternoon sun. Don’t let anyone guilt you into thinking that you need to be out doing your prescribed daily exercise, then cooking meals for the elderly couple who live at the end of the road. Everyone is as clueless as you feel right now, mental health issues or not. As a nation, and as a species we are at a unique point in history, one that’ll likely be the bane of teenagers history lessons for hundreds of years to come.
Nobody knows what to do. Do what feels natural to you.
A few things I am doing that have helped me keep focused and positive:
- Listen to music that you love; find some releases you’ve missed whilst too busy with your daily life.
- Read a book in the sun.
- Develop a routine that allows you to fit in “me time” whilst still completing the necessities (i.e. dog-walking, food prep, working from home).
- Facetime/Houseparty with your family, friends and significant others. Remember that everyone is in the same situation.
- Start a project with an open-ended goal, removing some of the completionist pressure that comes with a static end. Mine is writing a bit, exercising a bit, reading a bit. Nothing concrete.
If these help you, then great. If they don’t seem like things you’d want to do? Fine, don’t do them. Nobody will be offended! You do you – there’s a whole world of things to see and do. And it’s your choice.
I’ll end on this. If you’re struggling and need some ideas or someone to talk to, please reach out. I’m happy to be an ear or a shoulder. For those in the UK, the following resources may be of use.
- Samaritans (Tel: 116 123)
- Mind (Tel: 0300 123 3393)
- My Lonely Parent (Advice and friendship for single parents)
- Campaign to End Loneliness (Coronavirus and social isolation)
A huge thank you to Simon for sharing his thoughts. You can find him at his blog, tibblesworthstuff.
How have you been handling the lockdown? Maybe you have your own tips or advice for protecting our mental health at this uncertain time? Let me know in the comments.