“Everyone has their own struggle. This is mine”.
The Covid-19 pandemic swept across the world in 2020 and created a considerable amount of fear and worry amongst the whole population. Almost one in five adults were likely to be experiencing some form of depression in June 2020; this had almost doubled from around 1 in 10 before the pandemic (July 2019 to March 2020). https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/coronavirusanddepressioninadultsgreatbritain/june2020. Many of us have struggled with the huge changes to our way of life which have been difficult to get used to and have affected our mental health in some way or another.
My main triggers of stress and anxiety during lockdown was the huge shift in my life, from going out and having the freedom to being stuck at home on Zoom calls and not being able to connect with people face to face like I was used to. I volunteer for telephone counselling for stroke survivors weekly. During lockdown especially I would speak to many people who were stressed and worried about the changes. I would tell them to keep positive, try and highlight the good things in life but these conversations affected me and made me reflect on the times we are living in. I really enjoy speaking to others and helping them, but I have realised that I am not good at speaking about my own feelings. This is something I am trying to develop – to open up to my close friends and share more about how I am feeling.
There were also some positive aspects to lockdown: I spent quality time with my family and captured lots of fond memories to look back on with a smile. I spent time cooking and also did lots of self-care. Before lockdown I would try and go out as much as I could and meet everyone. I would make time for people even if I felt they hadn’t made time for me. To some extent I just wanted to make people happy even if that meant not doing what I wanted. Lockdown has made me realise that I need to look after myself, as no one else is going to do it for me. I have started making decisions based on me and how I am feeling rather than doing something because someone else tells me to. This has empowered me to make my own decisions and has made me realise how I want to be spending my time and with whom.
Since January I have felt more positive. I feel like I am in a better place than I was before. However, I still overthink and worry about the future; I need reassurance that what I’m doing is right and that things will turn out OK. I am quite harsh on myself and I always question if I’m making sense when I’m speaking. I have so many words in my mind at a time and I don’t know if I’m saying the right one. My friends and family are very supportive, but I never hear the positive things they say, I only hear the challenges I have had to face which drowns the positive aspects out. I seem like I am very strong and positive, but I keep my worries inside; I don’t tell people how I’m feeling, that I’m anxious for the future and I want every single thing to be perfect. I know that I must believe in myself and learn to slow down and take one step at a time.
This month is Mental Health Awareness month. I want to tell everyone who may be struggling to speak out and tell your story, don’t be ashamed to get the help you need – whether that’s talking to a friend or professionally. Speaking out will help raise awareness for this serious and widespread issue and will normalise talking about it, so that no one is afraid to ask for help.
My friends and family have reminded me of some important things to remember when you aren’t feeling your best:
- Be kind to yourself and take time to process how you are feeling and what may have triggered it.
- Be kind to others – kindness is a very small action that can mean the world to someone else.
- Believe in yourself.
- Slow down and make time for things you enjoy doing.
- Remember to keep working on yourself by trying new things and taking advantage of opportunities.
- Clear your mind from overwhelming thoughts by spending time in nature, exercising, being creative or anything else that helps you. This video on mental health and nature may be helpful: https://youtu.be/TdDioDtjkis