Like many have said, no one could have predicted a pandemic when putting together their new year resolutions/goals/vision boards. A day or two before the Solent University Library closed I went and got several books to keep me company, without a slightest idea of what was about to happen.
Borders closed, lockdowns imposed. All of a sudden, there were and are hundreds of things we can no longer do (if you do, you put your life and the life of others at risk) which never happened before in our lifetimes. We were literally ordered to stay at home and it still feels indefinite.
Cutting off work, all social activities – whether informal or formal impacted us all, no matter the age group. I imagine, (I’m not a mother yet), but thinking of how toddlers no longer had play dates, teens no longer being able to meet their friends in any shape or form, students had to remain in their dorms or go home (which is what I did, eventually, in July 2020), lastly – many adults were facing furlough or unemployment.
Whilst I can’t wrap my mind around how deeply others were hurting, I know my own experience. I was already having depression and anxiety before the pandemic due to not being able to pay the rent for the university residence I was staying at. Everywhere I went, I was turned down. I felt alienated, not good enough for this new world I entered and It didn’t seem to improve at all, no matter how hard I tried.
The impact of the pandemic on our mental health can’t really be expressed nor quantified by numbers and its effects will be surely long lasting, even after the pandemic is over. The Strategy Unit estimates that the demand for primary mental health will increase by 22% in 2020/21, as shown in their ‘’Estimating the impact of covid-19 on mental health services in England – summary of results and methods’’ report published in November 2020, mentioning that ‘’The next 18 months could be particularly demanding on services’’.
True, if we look at stats from surveys carried out on 2,011 youngsters with a history of mental health was organized by Young Minds Org in 2020, and the results are heartbreaking: ‘’Among more than 1,000 respondents who were accessing mental health support in the three months leading up the crisis (including from the NHS, school and university counsellors, private providers, charities and helplines), 31% said they were no longer able to access support but still needed it’’ whilst ‘’87% of respondents agreed that they had felt lonely or isolated during the lockdown period, even though 71% had been able to stay in touch with friends’’. I am very happy to see 11% who were able to improve despite the on-going crisis, stating ‘’they felt it was beneficial to be away from the pressures of their normal life (e.g. bullying or academic pressure at school).
MENTAL HEALTH HYGIENE
We all can work on our mental health hygiene. It’s very important to talk about what you think and feel, even if you don’t have a significant other, whatever the age, even if you don’t have any friends (which I know how it feels like). You can still form a support bubble with another household, like a neighbor you enjoy talking to, back when there was ‘’normalcy’’.
Managing stress won’t be getting any easier, but we can get tougher. Stressors like taking care of someone who is ill, or experiencing loss of any kind can take its toll on you, so reaching out to family members or a service is still important. WELLTEQ recommends cutting off screen time before bed, (phones, tv’s, laptops). You can try to put those away in another room so that you aren’t tempted to check any emails in your bedroom, at least an hour before bed time.
Start journaling as a way of releasing the steam from your emotion factory, and try to go to bed earlier than later. If you are staying up, you’re either a student with 3 days to a deadline, or binge-watching ‘’Bridgerton’’ on Netflix – then you have my blessing to stay up, the rest of you lot go to bed!
MEDITATION – BENEFITS ON OUR PSYCHE
The benefits of meditation can’t be denied, as it was proven to improve self-worth, memory and concentration, increase creativity, (Upwell Health, n.d.), you’d even score higher on assignments or speed in which you solve puzzles, and it can bring you inner peace – if you get yourself to do it.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to spend money on it, it is readily available on YouTube. Start with guided meditation videos. At first, you may have issues concentrating on being still, because it is hard to master your own mind, telling your mind to quiet down won’t work from first try but keep at it. I’ve researched mental health apps in Year 1 for an assignment, and found an article from MS-UK featuring the 11 best apps for mental health which may help you, link here: https://www.ms-uk.org/blog-11-best-mental-health-apps
MUSIC AND GETTING CREATIVE
Other than meditating, music and getting creative is very important – to get those skills you have in motion. We all have more time than usual, so use it creatively. There are so many podcasts on Spotify, all my follows are on entrepreneurs and Law of Attraction, because the film The Secret got me into it. It is the perfect time to consider and start an online business, as more and more people grow tired of depending on being paid by someone else.
Music helps us tremendously, it lowers stress, it stimulates the brain, releases endorphins when listening to our favorite bands, in a 2019 study by Healthline, people were found to be more motivated to learn when they expected to listen to a song as their reward.
What helped me recover was wanting to recover and working on assignments as it gave me purpose. Another, was being ‘’forced’’ to get creative as I’m the social media coordinator of a fan site for actor turned activist for Human Rights and sustainability in fashion, Emma Watson. I had to create graphics every month, and it felt good too.
So much that I want for 2021 to go back to painting in Adobe Photoshop and write my novel ideas, no matter how much time it consumes. It could be that you own a watercolor palette you never used before, so just go buy the brushes if you don’t have them already. Create your own daily routine to include something funny, something stimulating like music, something calming, like meditating or prayer, and something soothing, like a book (Audible or Waterstones, or both), fitness – like dancing or exercising (both can be found on YouTube).
STILL BORED? THE SOLUTION
Artfund is a charity that connects us with museums, and offers a Student Art Pass for only £5, so all students should get it for the multitude of experiences you get from using it. Think of all the inspiration you’ll get from seeing ancient artefacts, immersing in Virtual Reality, to artwork maybe you didn’t know anything about before. Doing this you’ll help a gallery or museum stay open, because #AllMuseumsMatter.