The year was 2020 and it saw a global change in the way we live, the way we work, how we interact with each other, how we eat even how we socialise. It affected everyone regardless of age, gender, colour or creed. Why this drastic change? Because it was the year when the Corona Virus stepped in from nowhere and caused a global pandemic not to mention shutting the entire world down bringing it to a standstill and causing a pandemonium. We are in the second month of 2021 and guess what? We are still in lockdown in the UK!! This pandemic saw our health and wellbeing especially here move from being a nation of happy go lucky people to a nation of doom and gloom.
The pandemic pushed us into situations we never ever dream would happen. Parents are home with children instead of being at work. Home as become the children’s classroom and playground. This is where our creative skills are put to the test. We find ourselves in the kitchen becoming chefs cooking from scratch and not reaching for the usual takeaway. Drinking in the comfort of our front rooms has now become the wine bars or nightclubs. The lack of motivation we are feeling at our computers working instead of being in the office environment sipping our coffees and catching up with colleagues while at work. Gyms as become obsolete due to social distancing. The road, parks or home is “probably” becoming the new norm for physical activities however there are still restrictions. Exercise is limited under the new government guidelines even on the streets. Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime and TV in general is rated among the top as our new entertainment. Adults hit online in search of alternative entertainment and jigsaw puzzles became one of the favourites. German toymaker Ravensburger chairman, Clemens Maier, suggested puzzles had helped “lots of people find a balance in their lives, especially in a time of crisis”.
But the questions I would like to ask – why would we want to do any of what is forced upon us? How has it affected our wellbeing? What are the effects on us being socially distant? Did anyone had to seek medical help as a result of being mentally and emotionally locked down? How did our health professionals cope? How is staff who is unable to work from home coping with doing nothing? What has management put in place for staff as support during lockdown? Let us explore how we can cope Physically, Mentally, Emotionally and Socially after being in lockdown a year later.
The World Health Organisation definition of health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” To improve and maintain good health daily, we need to adopt healthy habits and commit to sustaining them. This includes physical, mental, emotional and social health.
Lockdown during this pandemic as overwhelmed us all globally and here in the UK where we are now enduring our third lock in, it is consistently in the news and across social media how much we are affected. The UK government and the NHS as endeavored to help us immensely to overcome most difficulties faced during this period but is it working? One report at the BBC describes Covid the cause of our lockdown has “Covid-19 may be a physical illness, but it has also hit mental health hard”.
I have spoken directly to different persons on their perspective of how being lockdown has affected their staff, their health and wellbeing or people in general, and I have gotten responses from two. Mr. Michael Perkins Retail Manager at Paddy Power in South London and Mr. Marques J. Hardin Ph.D. Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Story Lab (Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge.
Mr. Perkins explained how much lockdown as affected himself and staff has they try to cope during this third stage.
Marques emailed me his responses to questions I asked regarding the nation in general.
Question – How has lockdown affected our wellbeing?
“The pandemic has had an interesting effect on well-being. In some instances, the slower pace of life was a welcomed change to the hectic environment prior to the pandemic. From another perspective, there have been so many devastating losses and trauma associated with the pandemic. After a year many of us are ready for the world to ‘heal’ and want our family, our loved ones, and all of those fighting the virus to be safe and protected”.
Question – What are the effects on us being socially distant?
He responded by saying – “Humans are social creatures, and lack of engagement goes against our nature. Many people have not seen their family or close ones since the start of the pandemic. It definitely becomes saddening over time. Being able to communicate with people through social media and having interaction through platforms like Zoom has drastically helped with the limitation of physical contact, but it will never completely replace it. An interesting effect will be how some people perceive interactions and crowded public spaces after having to distance ourselves from others for so long”.
My final question – Did anyone had to seek medical help because of being mentally and emotionally locked down?
He gave me his final response as – “*For this question I have no feedback as it does not directly apply to me”.
Exploring how we can cope from my experiences, I came up with ways we can keep ourselves physically, mentally, socially and emotionally active during lockdown.
Physical Health – This is in reference to how we take care of our bodies with diet, exercise, lifestyle, sleep and maintaining good health especially while stuck indoors. To maximise our physical health, we need to:
- Stay physically fit – Develop regular exercise and maintain your weight, include stretching for flexibility and endurance. Take short walks and envelop fresh air where possible. Breath.
- Diet and nutrition – Maintain a healthy digestive system with the adequate intake of water, fruits, vegetables, nuts & pulses and lean meats. Limit your alcohol & drugs intake. Stack up on your supplements.
- Rest – Practice quality rest periods for sleep. Add meditation and yoga as part of your relaxation. Take time to switch off.
- Self-help and care – Seek medical help and assistance where necessary.
Speaking with health guru Keith Dorsette who is one of the CEO’s at the health Academy Saaf Camp in the USA, on how the team is feeling during lockdown, he responded with “In parts. Physically. Emotionally. Mentally.
- Physically: Awful. The combination of 16 or so hours daily with a. limited physical activity and b. lack of outdoor exposure is a deadly combo for a slew of physical conditions.
- Emotionally: Sad. a. Physically not in peak form b. Devasted that the situation globally is so glum c. Bothered that the majority are irreversibly brainwashed d. Optimistic that some are weaponizing with education and unified efforts.
- Mentally: Very aware that we are being attacked on multiple flanks albeit a war plan that has been in development for years and is now being executed”.
Mental Health – When we speak of mental health we investigate our psychological wellbeing. It does not necessarily mean we are insane. However, during lockdown, we need to pay exceptional attention to our stress level, anxiety, emotions or bouts of depression. This includes senior citizens, young people, children, students basically all of us. Dr Astle said when asked what can we all do to boost our mental health? – “For adults, living alone or experiencing financial difficulties were significant risk factors for poor mental health in Lockdown 1. Seeking out avenues of social or financial support early, before they reach crisis point, could be a good tip for adults.” Mental health minister as said she “has not seen an increase in the demand for wellbeing services since the start of the pandemic” … Oh really?
To make sure we are maintaining optimal mental wellbeing we need to:
- Have a routine – structure your day. Examples go out for long walks and get in touch with nature, try cooking something different adopt another culture, practice yoga or stretching exercises.
- Limit negative thoughts – Watch movies that make you happy, try reading some more, reduce mental fatigue and learn to cope with anything that sets you back. Turn a negative into a positive.
- Ignore negative news some are fake and very upsetting and communicate more with new people socially.
- Reach out to friends and family if you are feeling overwhelmed. Do not try to cope with problems on your own.
- Talk about your worries and get the facts from credible sources that can help you to overcome those worries.
Social Health – Simply stated social health is the ability to interact with other people whether it is in the community, friends, family, social media or even a personal relationship.
Nayma Nishat at World Book Organisation breaks it down as “If you want to really optimize your health, you need to go beyond physical and mental strength and actually look at the strength of your close social relationships. Research now shows that a lack of strong social ties puts you at a greater health risk than obesity”.
In relation to lockdown:
- Reflect on yourself and your needs socially.
- Know how to balance your personal time separately from your social time.
- Have fun while enjoying life. Think about the quality rather than the quantity.
- Reach out to others connect with people you have not spoken to in a long time.
Emotional Health – Developing a state of positive mental attitude which translates to personal growth, development and self-confidence. To define emotional health the organization BelongTo.org (n.d.) quotes the Mental Health Foundation: emotional health is “a positive state of wellbeing which enables an individual to be able to function in society and meet the demands of everyday life.”
To improve your emotional needs and health during lockdown:
- Always taking responsibility for your behaviour.
- See the positive in any negative situation and see how you can turn it around.
- Identify your strengths and build on them.
- Observing that setbacks are equally important to your personal development.
- Learn from the experience of being lock down. What would you do different were it to happen again?
- Find your purpose and prepare to come out of lockdown.
As we prepare to come out of lockdown for the third time in the UK, Story Lab is hosting a free virtual event to show excerpts of a documentary film in progress which features the voices of health and social care professionals during the first wave of Covid. This event takes place on Tuesday March 9th @ 5:30pm.
Marques Hardin also contributed by sending me more details of this event: “One year after the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a pandemic, Story Lab Research at Anglia Ruskin University present their creative collaboration with some of the health care professionals (HCPs) who have been on the frontline these past 12 months. Story Lab will show an excerpt of their latest documentary film project which grew out of “The Frontline” archive started in April 2020 as a tool to document and preserve the experiences of HCPs. Come and listen to some of Story Lab’s HCP collaborators on the film and find out why they chose to document their professional and personal experiences of the pandemic through various creative media (photography, text, artwork). We will discuss how creative expression helped HCPs find meaning in their experiences and the experiences of their peers, and how their creative work offered the public a deeper insight into the pandemic”.
As I close this feature, remember to be patient, take each day as it comes as this storm will pass and our health and wellbeing once we think positively, will be restored. In the words of Prince Harry “It is okay to have depression, it is okay to have anxiety and it is okay to have an adjustment disorder. We need to improve the conversation. We all have mental health in the same way we all have physical health.”