Lockdown is starting to ease in most places, but things have changed. We see zoos fill seats with stuffed toys, and people wear pool noodles as hats to enforce social distancing. There is an air of hypervigilance and unease .
And yet, we’re good at lying to ourselves, filing lockdown days away as The Past. But real integration is not about creating a psychological chasm between “then” and “now.” Beyond the obvious of continuing our acceptable hygiene standards, we invite you to reflect on the lessons we should not forget as lockdown relaxes:
Here’s What Lockdown Has Taught Us About Mental Health
1. What we need less of and what needs more of
While most of us often talk about that mythological “One Day” when we’ll declutter our relationships, heads, and lives, lockdown compelled us to live that experiment. Lockdown has illuminated us about what we’re grateful for and what we want more of— love, peace, better working environments, meaningful relationships, —and the future we want for our kids. There’s no substitute for these.
A few of the subtractions and additions that have become strikingly obvious if not utter necessities that we shouldn’t forget about:
Most have realized what lifestyle choices we may need to shift and what financial expenditures are balls-and-chains. Maybe we’ve learned we don’t need to go to the gymnasium to stay physically active, for instance, or that you could cook a little more frequently.
Most of us have begun to observe those relationships that are draining, one-sided, or overly dramatic, but that we keep for all sorts of reasons.
Most of us have gone from seeing burning out and overworking as signs of masculinity to realizing the things we no longer aspire to because they hinder our personal lives professionally.
The pandemic has revealed we are all in the same storm, but different boats—oppression and inequality are rampant.
What habits, mindsets, and relationships are adding the most joy to my life, and which are draining the most life out of me? What can we do about these?
2. Being with others is the key to happiness
Most of us have been depending on Zoom meetings and social media to stay in touch with people during the crisis. But, while we’re grateful that we can visit with folks via video conferencing or keep up with friends on Facebook, these aren’t similar to seeing people in-person.
Why? For one thing, social media does not always bring us closer together. People often cleverly curate what they post online to make their lives appear lovely and carefree, which leaves little room for sharing vulnerability—a vital way to reconnect with others.
And, of course, there’s also plenty of clickbait and alarmist news on social media that can wreak havoc with our peace of mind. If you’re looking for an emotional connection there, you’re bound to be disappointed.
[Also Read: How Walking can help your Mental Health]
3. Reducing stress is good for everyone
There have been multiple things to stress out about during this crisis, for sure. Becoming sick, the risk of losing our jobs, or inadvertently infecting a beloved family member is scary. Home quarantining has kept us from applying our traditional ways of coping with stress—exercising at the gym or like going out with friends.
And being fed a constant diet of alarmist and dire news has magnified our sense of helplessness and anxiety, giving us sleepless nights.
Being in a continuous state of high alert is not good for our bodies or minds —or those near us, either. Emotional contagion is true, which means feeding our fear and stress impacts others, too. That’s become even transparent as so many of us find ourselves in closer quarters with roommates or family members whose moods feed off of each other .
[Also Read: Coping With Stress While Working During COVID-19]
4. Showing gratitude matters
It’s pretty clear that we should be thankful to the “essential warriors” during this time of shelter in place. Health care workers, food suppliers, first responders, and delivery people have taken on risks to themselves for everyone else’s benefit.
How can we possibly repay them? By paying the kindness forward and showing a little gratitude.
5. We need less stuff than we think
Before the present shelter in place took hold, we would never have guessed how simple it is to do without so many modern conveniences. Now that getting our hair done, shopping at the mall, or popping into the grocery store for a single ingredient has become impossible, we’ve realized that we’re surviving just fine.
6. We are stronger when we act together
As communities around the globe manage the crisis, one thing we’ve all learned is that cooperation matters. Only through group effort can we do wonders to make a difference in a global threat’s trajectory.
Suffering through this pandemic has shown us that there is still much that needs rectification. Not everyone has health care or good health, and many people live at the edge of poverty.
Some individuals have been compelled to go to work despite the dangers, and others are dying at higher rates than the general population because of a long history of discrimination.
This needs changing and is unacceptable. If the crisis has opened new eyes to these inequalities, then perhaps they’ll be more likely to become part of that change.
[Also Read: Mental Health Challenges we’ll Face Post-COVID-19]
There is power in keeping in mind the sense of interconnection and our shared humanity. Suppose we also remember the importance of our relationships, gratitude, resilience, and doing with less.
In that case, we can move forward into our un-sheltered lives again with a renewed sense of purpose and tackle some of our most challenging problems. It could be that compassionate, collective action will be the key to creating a better future for us all.