How much has your mental health been affected in the last 15 months?
How much did you miss seeing and hugging your friends and family over the last year?
How often have you felt like hitting your head on the wall for no reason?
How many times did you have to change your plans?
How nothing felt exciting anymore?
How much leftover toilet paper do you still have from the first lockdown?
How are you supposed to go back to the ‘real world’ now that restrictions are being lifted?
I have been asking myself these questions recently.
Has your mental health been affected? Have you experienced low mood, anxiety, detachment, feeling listless and difficulty concentrating? There is a perfect word for the ‘meh’ feeling you have been feeling over the last year. It is called ‘languishing’. Adam Grant’s article for the New York Times describes it perfectly!
I have been experiencing all of the above! I have been struggling to focus. Something happened to my brain in the last year because my productivity, my concentration and my general attention span have all reduced drastically. Tasks that would usually take no time now would take ages to accomplish.
I have been feeling anxious and up and down a lot! My fatigue over the winter months was overwhelming. Some weeks I left the house only once or twice. Despite my best intentions, my bed was more alluring than 10,000 steps outside in a freezing cold and rain! I thought I am getting ill. I had some tests done, but they showed that physically I am perfectly healthy, and everything is fine. I did not feel fine. The feelings of depression and near constant anxiety have really affected me physically.
I coped by practicing yoga, baking, cooking, painting, watching stand up comedy, meditating and writing. I baked countless banana breads since the start of the pandemic. There’s one thing that really helped and it was TALKING and WRITING. I was talking to my therapist, friends, family and writing things down, just to get them out! My journal is the one place where I can let things out without censoring myself.
The relationships with my family have changed. My partner Zach and I really nailed bickering in the first lockdown! Being with each other 24/7 IS VERY CHALLENGING. We usually do lots of stuff outside of the house separately. After being together with somebody for a while you know which buttons to push. And we pushed those buttons so often! The second lockdown was about avoiding each other in the house to give each other some space to breathe. The third one was completely different from the first two and opened our communication so much more.
The silver lining
There’s a silver lining in all of this… My daughter Sophia, her not being in the world full of infections had an incredibly positive impact. She has rarely been ill over the last year. Before that we had about 20 hospital stays since she was born. Her genetic condition, Down’s syndrome, can make children more susceptible to infections and their course is usually much worse. She has simply been thriving!
I am thankful for being able to work from home and being with my family during this time.
I have so much gratitude for the thousands of doctors, nurses, support workers, delivery drivers and all essential workers going to work every day risking their lives keeping the NHS and the country going.
I felt so sad about the lives lost, friends and family who were not able to say goodbye to their loved ones because of the restrictions.
So, how do you move on and navigate this ‘new normal’?
The truth is that I have no idea how to.
But… I know that I will take my time jumping back into ‘the real world’. I will be kind and gentle with myself coming out of this lockdown. You probably will not see me rushing to go out or to travel abroad. There is no rulebook for a pandemic. You get to write your own rules and decide what is good for you. You get to choose how you cope, the best way you can.
I have also decided to forgive myself for all the things I did, things I did not do and the things that I should have done (but did not).
What will you do? How have you been coping over the last 15 months?
P.S. Can we all talk about mental health more often and how much we are affected by the global situation? Please. If it helps one person to feel less lonely and less alienated, than it is worth it.
The points of view expressed here are the author’s own and she reserves the right to change her mind anytime she wants.