Posted on 29th May 2021 at 14:19
Mid way through the year, we are finally experiencing some sparkles from the magic wand the new year initially symbolised, in terms of emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been a long and intolerable wait for some while for others, it was the cocoon they longed for. And as the pandemic lockdowns brought increased anxiety for most, the emergence from lockdown has also brought increased anxiety too. Those that felt that the world had slowed down to their pace, now feel anxious that the fast pace will return and they will feel unable to keep up once again. Those that experienced a respite from the need to fill every day and week with plans, feel a surge of anxiety that that need will now return. Anxiety over the shedding of the ‘covid stone(s)’ – the weight acquired from comfort eating and drinking, lack of usual exercise options or developed cooking and baking hobbies, is countered by the experience of those that lost stones as the lockdown respite allowed them time and space to engage with a weight loss programme or lost weight from financial stress, front line stress, relationship stress and grief.
Working from home has been a mixed bag too. For some it decreased the stress of commuting and juggling childcare requirements while increasing flexibility. For others, the sanctity of home was breached with no clear separation between work and home life or the ability to establish one. Coupled to this is the technology fatigue from the intense use and reliance on it for communication. What started off as a ‘Godsend’ at the start of lockdown has now lost its appeal. While our monitoring of the human face was altered and intensified through the use of screens, the wearing of masks interfered with that very basic form of communication and connection – reading facial expressions. Facial expression is part of being human, with expressions we share and yet can set us apart from each other in an important aspect of how we communicate. This past year, we have all being cloned with apareil formerly the trademark of bandits or surgeons, with nothing to set us apart other than the pattern of the material.
The USA, and likely other countries, has experienced a “zoom boom” of facelifts as a result of what is termed ‘Zoom dysmorphia’ – where people have become obsessed with imperfections that they have picked up on while using Zoom. Any obsession has anxiety at its roots.
There are reports of corporate bodies selling off office blocks with the intention to continue with their staff working remotely. It is good to hear that working remotely does not necessarily mean working from home, with many companies offering to pay for desk space in nearby office blocks. I personally believe that this is a good compromise to creating flexibility and increasing productivity while at the same time, protecting that boundary between home and work life. For those that managed to discover and develop new hobbies and interests, I hope they will be retained as creativity is also a critical tool in maintaining work life balance.
One thing we all agree on, is the realisation that technology is no replacement for being in the physical presence of another human. That need to reconnect had become very urgent and therefore too, has the lifting of restrictions to enable that. Despite our demonstrated resilience and ability to adapt, the need to re emerge from this pandemic has become an emergency in its own right aligned with the promise that sustained us that this too will pass. Not all were able to be resilient and adapt and our mental health services will now be called at on at a rate they are not equipped for.
The fatigue of lockdown is being replaced by the fatigue of re socialising with many noticing a weariness after being to the shopping centre or at a social meet up outdoors. This socialising exhaustion is to be expected after a long period of lockdown according to psychologist Julie Smith. When we move out of what has been our safety zone, our brain generates a stress spike to caution us to be careful and vigilant. This too will pass as reassurance increases.
As those of us under one hundred years of age have shared living through a pandemic for the first time together, none of us could have been experts. We had no leader to look to and those charged with being the experts in science and leadership, were learning on the hoof also. But we have all learned and quite a lot too. As a professional in mental health, I have been surprised and delighted at how successful the use of on line consultations have been. Formerly reserved for brief absences, longer term therapy has been carried out successfully and preferred in many cases. Collectively, we have also noted that this mode is more tiring because of the intensity of focus from the room to the screen. So, the future is likely to offer both face to face and on line consultations and will be particularly beneficial to those that cannot make it out to an appointment, through illness or distance.
The most enduring anxiety for all of us, is that of a re surge of the virus and more lockdowns. With the vaccination roll out and reassurances of vaccine effectiveness to the various emerging viral strains, we need ongoing care and vigilance to ensure an effective transition from lockdown culture to a culture of ‘living with the virus.’ Here, a certain level of cases within the capacity of our hospitals, becomes routine, such as what we have lived with before with the winter flu viruses. Retaining handwashing and other good hygiene practices can reduce levels of all microbial infections, not just the corona virus. At the moment, we have the higher temperatures of Summer in our favour and this contributes to our sense of respite.
So again, we are in a period of anxiety, albeit different anxieties related to emerging from a pandemic. If you need some support with this, please contact us here. You may also find our Mind Down podcast useful in helping to reduce stress and anxiety. In the meantime, be patient with yourself as you allow body and mind re adjust. Above all, enjoy reconnecting with your family and friends, indoors or outdoors, and that enhanced appreciation of each other.
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