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So much focus has been on mental health during lockdown, but how are we all coping coming out of it? We spoke to psychologist Gabrielle Treanor
We’re all feeling a bit mad after the pandemic, aren’t we? It feels like everything has changed, but nothing has changed at the same time. If you’re not feeling ‘quite right’, don’t worry. You’re not the only one. But are you burnt out after the pandemic, or finding other mental health issues rearing their heads?
Lockdown was amazing for some people. I’ve seen friends – normally under massive pressure in busy offices, slogging through a daily commute – thrive in lockdown, working at home. Free from the shackles of their nine-to-five, they had the time to do yoga, plan good nutritious food. And have a productive, uninterrupted working day, followed by self-care activities and hobbies in the evening.
And for many of those furloughed, it was just as positive. With time at home, spent with children, family, pets. Just time to breathe, and engage in enriching activities like writing, crafts, or sunbathing. Time spent living, not working. Complete bliss.
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Not everyone had a great lockdown though
However, we can’t ignore that this wasn’t the case for everyone. A third of adults reported smoking more and drinking more to cope with their mental decline during lockdowns.
Many struggled with the lack of social connection, particularly those living alone. We had to cope with the loneliness of missing close friends and family for months at a time.
Now it’s been over a year since Covid restrictions were lifted, and almost eight months since the need to legally self-isolate was removed.
But it certainly hasn’t been an overnight return to ‘normal’. And reactions have been mixed: some glad to be reunited with an abundance of human connection. While others have been missing the freedoms of time that came with lockdowns.
So, how has our mental wellbeing been impacted in the post-pandemic world?
Making sense of post-pandemic life
We spoke to psychologist Gabrielle Treanor to try and make sense of what she’s called the ‘post-pandemic emergence’.
Treanor discusses how throughout the pandemic, the majority of us were in a state of permanent survival. This was a time categorised by anxiety and fear. We were always on our toes, worried about paying bills, our health, the health of loved ones, death, and loneliness.
In the post-pandemic shift, we’ve come out of some of that anxiety surrounding coronavirus. However, we’ve been thrown straight into new fears. The war in Ukraine, adapting to a Brexit society, and even the emergence of Monkey Pox.
Our energy stores have been heavily depleted, Treanor says. Now we have no resources to fall back on when facing these new threats. Many of us are simply burnt out.
Treanor explains that a lot of the time during the pandemic, we felt we weren’t thinking straight, often distracted and tired from overthinking situations, or from simply having nothing else to do but think all day, stuck in the house.
we have no resources to fall back on when facing these new threats. Many of us are simply burnt out.
Although our freedom of movement has returned, largely, we are still coping with the effects of such a massive change in lifestyle, and many people are struggling to re-adapt.
How can we learn to adapt again?
From being stuck in the house for months on end, we’ve learnt not to make rash decisions. After having had the time to slow down, many of us were able to take a step back and consider our lives and decisions. Remembering this in post-pandemic life can serve us by taking time when it comes to making big choices.
Valuing what matters
We’ve learnt to pare things back, and focus on the things that really matter to us. Whether that’s spending quality time with family, or seeing friends that you don’t speak to enough, or making time for ourselves, we need to hold on to that. We have a better grasp on what we value as individuals, and should remember that going forward.
Put some time into rebuilding your resources. When we become emotionally and mentally exhausted from overthinking, anxieties, and uncertainty, our resources deplete. Take time to recoup when you feel burnt out.
Creating space in which you can recover is vital to rebuilding your emotional resources. Find a safe environment, where you feel free from responsibilities, like work. Relax and do what you enjoy. Spending time in nature is also a sure way to reduce stress and benefit your wellbeing.
Staying ‘mentally healthy’
In such turbulent times it’s important to maintain your mental health, so here are our tips to be as ‘mentally healthy’ as you can.
- Focus on your hobbies – make sure to dedicate time to doing the things you love. Working on crafts, sport, playing an instrument, or reading.
- Keep track of tasks – keep a database of your tasks and break them down, so that you can see them clearly and it doesn’t take up unnecessary mental resources thinking and planning in your mind.
- Connect with loved ones – after so long of not being able to socialise, reaching out and spending time with friends can feel quite stilted.
- Reach out for professional help – If you’re struggling, here are some links for further help,
Lana can usually be found spinning her collection of records, or writing odd poems in her phone notes. Her mixer of choice is a ginger beer, and you’ll never find her away from the sea for more than a few weeks.
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