Looking back to the start of 2020 and the new decade, I imagine close to none of us could have predicted the way this year has gone. Global lockdowns, tens of thousands of deaths and many changes for everybody’s day to day routines. Covid-19 has not been an easy adjustment for anyone. With all of this change, and the general rise of stress levels, many of us have come face to face with our mental health in a way like never before.
The hardest parts of the pandemic for me have been working in an extremely stressful essential services office, which was demanding long before Covid-19 but has gotten way more difficult to manage throughout this year. This, coupled with the sheer lack of social interaction with friends in order to help me unwind after a tough day added even more weight to my anxieties. Yes I am luckier than a lot of people as I didn’t lose my job and I got to go through lockdown with my awesome fiancé, but it still doesn’t diminish how difficult it has been for both of us. However, we were able to find some things that helped us through the rough patches:
In my opinion, the most important thing for me was simply communicating with those close to me, mainly my partner. If we had an annoying day at work, were upset by not being able to leave the house or unhappy that our plans were being cancelled or postponed, the first thing we did was vent these frustrations. We ranted and shouted and told each other just how fed up we were, and despite it not changing anything, it helped. Now I know some of you may not have a significant other to help you through this situation, but the same applies to friends and family members, hell even your dog will listen if you need to get some of it out of your system.
Secondly, it helps to plan something to look forward to. I have a weekly quiz night with some friends which started way back at the start of lockdown and has been going on since. It is a great chance to see some friends and have a bit of fun in an otherwise limited situation. Along with this I also arranged some catch-ups over zoom throughout the past few months, which allowed me to get some level of interaction with my friends. Also, in a similar way it has been nice to arrange things to do after lockdown has ended. We have tickets to a musical which is almost a year away but it’s good to think of spending a nice evening together whenever things are back to being a bit more normal.
Even just taking some time to practice some self-care is of great importance this year, even more so than any previous year. You may be a key worker in a public facing role, working from home or furloughed and worried about finances, but even just setting aside a tiny bit of money to order in a meal, or buying some nice spa supplies and spending a night treating yourself with the love and care you need, will help you recharge and give you a little boost of energy you need to get up and take on life the next day.
In current times it helps to just take things one day at a time, and focus on what you need to do today to put some happiness in your life and the lives of those around you. If it means time alone pampering yourself or even something as small as sparking up conversation with a local shop worker, it can make the difference in your day and theirs. It’s amazing how much people will want to talk to you and check in, and thank you for doing the same with them, despite being a stranger.
Just this week while getting a taxi home from work, I had spoken with the driver and asked how he had been keeping over the past few months and he explained how he was out of work for most of them, and when I asked how he handled that time, he simply responded with one word: ‘Suicidal’. This struck me probably more than it should have, for a few different reasons.
I knew many people were suffering from mental health issues, and many had lost their jobs, relationships and suffered financial instability and bereavement which added to these issues all the more, but this was one of the first strangers I had actually discussed it with. I guess it allowed me to see things in a different light than I previously had. We discussed how he was doing better now that he was back to work, but that things still weren’t where they used to be. This conversation also stood out to me as it’s very rare that people would talk about their mental health or how they are doing in the past. It was a small silver lining in all of the negativity that Covid-19 has brought our way, that people were more comfortable sharing how they felt.
That’s a big thing I want to highlight in this post; just how much we have grown this year. Countless news articles, posts and videos of people coming together to support and entertain each other during this tough time has not gone unnoticed. Many have stepped up through volunteering and others helped by following guidelines, and whilst I know a lot of us have grown sick and tired of how things are and the slow journey back to some sense of normalcy, we can’t forget these acts of kindness and community as we move forward.
Even just taking some time to reflect on some of your own experiences and victories over the year can be beneficial. Maybe you finished your degree, started a new relationship, or finally took a chance and started that project you’d been putting off. Hell, even if you became worn out by work and managed to get up and face the next day, you achieved something and did yourself proud. Be sure to take notice of it all, and congratulate yourself, so that you can at least take something away from this year, no matter how small.
If you’re experiencing any of the feelings described in this post, or know somebody who is, then there are many things you can do to help. Talking to somebody about how you or they are feeling can be very beneficial. If you’re not sure what to do but need urgent help, there are many emergency hotlines that provide support and encouragement such as Mind.org and Samaritans.org. You’re not alone in feeling this way, others are there to help.
Photo by Markus Spiske (@markusspiske)