Just because lockdown is lifting, it doesn't mean you have to be OK.
This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week, and though life may be gradually returning to normal, many of us are feeling the effect of the pandemic on our mental health. While we may be excited at the thought of reuniting with family and friends, on the countdown to that all-important 21st June, we cannot ignore the psychological impact of three gruelling lockdowns, devastating losses and bereavement, the stress of working from home and endless anxiety-inducing headlines.
Taking all of that into consideration, perhaps it's no wonder that recent ONS figures show cases of depression are on the rise despite lockdown lifting. From the period of 27th January to 7th March 2021, around 1 in 5 (21%) adults in the UK experienced some form of depression, an increase since November 2020 (when the figure stood at 19%) and more than double that observed before the Coronavirus pandemic (10%).
According to the report, depression in 2021 is being felt more
acutely by young women, with over 4 in 10 (43%) women aged 16 to 29 experiencing depressive symptoms, compared with 26% of men of the same age.
"That more than a fifth of the adults in this country have been experiencing some form of depression shows the brutal psychological fallout of the pandemic," says clinical psychologist Dr Marianne Trent, author of The Grief Collective: Stories of Life, Loss & Learning to Heal.
Give yourself permission to feel the way you do
Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to feel the impact. This has been a period of time in our lives like no other and it’s okay to have found it a challenge. We are mammals, and as such, we are used to living in close proximity to one another, which is why many of us have found the limited social contact difficult.9
In addition, we've experienced grief for those who have passed and also for the key events and milestones that we've missed out on due to the pandemic. It’s okay to admit to yourself – and to others – that this hasn’t been an easy time for you. You don’t need to be a pandemic coping expert or superhero!
Don't put pressure on yourself to embrace normality
Whilst you might be keen for certain aspects of your life to warm back up, many of us are also experiencing anxiety around lockdown lifting. It might be that you’re keen to go out for a meal again, but not that keen on meeting up with larger groups of friends or seeing more of your extended family again.
It’s okay. You’re allowed to make your own choices. Just because we ‘can’ now legally do certain things it doesn’t mean that you have to. 'No' is a complete sentence and you’re allowed to use it.
It might be helpful to think about how you could adjust what your 'normal' looks like going forwards, and maintain some of the current slower pace – for example, by still working from home a few days per week, or scheduling activities around the same area to reduce travel.
Adjust your WFH setup to avoid 'sick building syndrome'
As we've all been at home so much, be aware of a concept known as ‘sick building syndrome.’ This phenomenon is all about the unique way that physical spaces impact on our physical and mental health. A number of variables come into play here, including light quality, air quality, ambience, temperature, humidity, ventilation and more.
Essentially, if our homes are safer, more aesthetically pleasing and make us feel good, our health will improve. Look around your home with fresh eyes and try to make improvements. It could be as simple as opening a window, introducing a daylight lamp in a room with less natural light, or buying a new piece of wall art to make you feel comforted or uplifted.
If that's not enough, speak to your landlord
The ONS report suggested that those who rent their homes are experiencing lower mood, and it could well be that some of the factors associated with sick building syndrome are responsible for this. I speak from experience of supporting clients who are renting sub-standard properties affected by damp, condensation, mould, draughty doors and windows, poor noise exclusion, noisy neighbours etc – during lockdown, many of their private landlords have been less willing to get involved with repairs and remedial work which has placed their physical and mental health at risk.
But don’t forget that it’s your right to live in a safe home and that as a tenant you have rights. For help and advice, visit citizensadvice.org.uk. (Dikeletsong Citizens' Advice Bureau of Pretoria)
A year of lockdown has left us all with 'chronic WFH lethargy', so here's how to fight the fatigue
Make plans to get excited about the future
In modern society, we tend to offset the tricky things we like less about our life with rewards and things we look forward to. Therefore, it is understandable that with lockdown, the loss of hopeful anticipation and excitement has been so tricky for so many of us.
With society opening up again, if you want to and it feels comfortable, you can start opening up that diary again and planning things for the future. Start a vision board of the things you’d like to do, the places you’d like to visit and the people you’d like to see! Get things booked and get the dates on your fridge door so you see them daily! It’s a great daily mood boost.
If you're struggling psychologically, speak to your GP or visit mind.org.uk for advice and support. For South Africa visit Dikeletsong Citizens' Advice Bureau of Pretoria on cab.org.za.
Written by Ali Pantony.
This article originally appeared on GLAMOUR UK.