Mental Health During Lockdown

July 2021

I feel like a broken record, talking about the same thing, but mental health during lockdown is something that really needs more attention, because honestly, not everyone is coping. Some people feel like there's no end, no relief, in sight.

With the Sydney lockdown still going and other states in lockdown periods, I’m concerned about the mental health of everyone. Not because we’re in lockdown but because we, as a society, haven’t seemed to accept the concept that there is no normal or going back to how things were. And all the media can seem to talk about is the economy and the financial impact that this means to the country. But what about the health and wellbeing of the people? Sure, there's an article here or there about it, but most of it goes unsaid.

From where I sit, I'm seeing a push from big corporates to get people back in the office like it was before. Allocated days where everyone's expected to be in, regardless of whether it works for you or not... Someone up top has chosen the days that suits them and everyone is expected to fall into line. No excuses for those that feel uncomfortable going in because they're worried about carrying the illness back to their family. No excuse for those who need to make alternative arrangements for the needs of their children, after spending months being able to manage it because they're at home. From the viewpoint of some of these managers, you have an office job that you travelled to before, so why not just do it again? And exactly when I say so? But we know that it's not that simple. Some people have found it easier to work from home... less travel time... less chattering and interruptions from colleagues... more time to do actual work... more ability to have more of a work-life balance.

But there's another side to this. Those working from home that are expected to always be online and to work longer and longer hours, because, when you really think about it, your laptop is "just there" within arm's reach, so why not? It won't take long... just a response to an email... just a quick run of some calculations... just an answer to a question... just something that ends up taking much much longer.

And maybe it's because we're not commuting or because it's so easy to log back on, that we make exceptions and just keep on working. We ignore any boundaries that would normally be set by being in an office and leaving at a certain time.

Oh sure, there’s talk about looking after yourself and family first, but when it comes down to the crunch, there are managers out there who keep pushing and pushing, because a deadline has to be met. Which makes the “talk” about looking after yourself, just that. Talk.

I’m not saying that it’s happening everywhere. I’ve been witness to companies (albeit a few) that really seem to understand everyone’s frustration and are changing and adapting to suit, and that’s great. These are the few that have accepted the fact that this world we live in now is different from the one that we used to know. We need to be more flexible and just go with it because none of us know when some kind of normalcy will be allowed and even when it is, for how long it will last. It’s frustrating, it’s different, it’s change, it’s evolution. But even during the smallest of changes, we, as humans, need time to adapt and time to deal with the emotions that come up with the changing situations.

We can't be expected to be okay with how things are today, because this pandemic has been going on for so long. Things change. Circumstances change. Situations change. There are new and different challenges each day and for some of us, it's getting harder rather than easier. All this change is confronting. It's inescapable. And the demands on our time are just increasing.

For those working as well as supervising their children (as they do their school day remotely and online), it can be really tough and incredibly frustrating. There's your meetings, your workload, plus their questions and needs throughout the day. There's their frustration and yours. There's patience levels hitting extremely low levels because everyone has had enough. Sure, it's not all bad and some days are better than others, but it doesn't mean that everyone is coping.

What we need is more compassion. More love. More tolerance. More kindness. More understanding. Especially now when a lot of us have nothing left to give. We need to be easy with ourselves and with others.

So today, just for a moment, take some time out for you. Be okay with wherever you are and whatever you're feeling. Take the time to do something just for you, even if it's just making yourself a proper meal and taking the time to eat it without trying to swallow it in one bite. Take the time to go outside and get some air, even if it's just for five minutes. Take the time to read a book or watch your favourite show. The activity doesn't matter, but the self care part does. Your mental and physical health matters. Your wellbeing matters. You need to take care of you so that you have the energy to share yourself with others. So that you can spread some love, kindness, compassion and tolerance. Because the world needs it.

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