The one lasting impact of Covid-19? The impact on the nation’s mental health

As published in Estates Gazette: 1 June 2020

COMMENT Most of us have now been in some form of isolation for more than two months – it’s definitely an interesting time and, post-Mental Health Awareness Week, a good time to reflect.

Where necessary, some of us may have been going into workplaces, and many of us will have visited local shops to buy essentials, but fundamentally we have reduced our social interactions and outside activities dramatically. There will be many legacies from Covid-19 but one will certainly be the lasting impact on the mental health of the nation.

Personally, through suffering anxiety and depression, this whole experience has been a mostly unwelcome roller-coaster. There are many ways in which people across the country (and the world) have been affected, some of which include:

  • A reduction in social interactions, and face-to-face meetings replaced with Zoom calls.
  • Managing not only your own wellbeing but trying to “keep things together” for loved ones.
  • Beating yourself up about each little thing – each day brings new challenges.
  • Having work/home lines completely blurred, with your brain jumping from one thing to another.

The above have certainly worn me down at different times over the past few weeks and, I’ll admit, at times I have wanted to scream. Other times I have simply wanted to snuggle down and watch a film with the family. It is, however, too easy to focus on the negatives in life. Although it can be difficult to see them, there are a lot of positives coming from this situation. We can all learn lessons to make our post-lockdown lives happier, kinder and more fulfilling. For me it’s three simple things:

  • Creating time for ourselves. We have seen everyone’s sourdoughs and perfect peonies. We have found time to do something we want to do – for me it has been time spent in the garden and drawing. A hobby creates a second reality for us – a way to balance out the natural stresses of daily life.
  • Getting the right amount of sleep. Focusing the mind through reading and limiting technological stimulation before bed have become normal – e-mails and other notifications can wait until the morning. Above all, I give myself more time in bed to get a good amount of sleep.
  • Being kind and thankful. There is a lot to be thankful for, but we can take it for granted. There is nothing stopping us taking this into a post-lockdown world. Speak to your neighbours, visit local businesses and enjoy the outdoor spaces you have nearby. Even inner cities have hidden treasures to explore.

These may seem like simple concepts to take forward but they have all suffered at times over the past few years as a result of family and work pressures.

The thing is, when you think about them, they don’t really take much time to do and if we can’t carve out some time in the day to do these, then we probably should rethink our priorities.

Striking the right balance

At some point we will return to the office. What that will look like remains uncertain, but it will hopefully remain a place where we connect with people.

One lesson for us all could be to really mean what we say and do when it comes to interactions with our teams. We have spent more time focusing on supporting and developing our colleagues during lockdown – I would argue we have finally reached something like the right amount of time.

Take time to listen. We all get distracted by the world around us, but we can all afford to give our attention to someone.

Take the time to talk. Think about how you hold your conversations – keep questions open and really show an interest in your team.

My takeaway from the lockdown is that there are lots of positives in life. We should focus on maintaining these, not returning to what was normal before Covid-19. Above all, we can hopefully learn to accept and love ourselves a little more – we don’t realise it but we are taking daily steps towards a better us.

Lee Wilkinson is a director at PwC

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