The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented changes in our lives, affecting the way we work, play and spend our time. Mental health is one of the major issues that has impacted so many people during this period and yet it is often not emphasised enough how important this topic is for the well-being of each person and the society as a whole. In this post we share a very insightful personal story from Jacques Foul, creative campaigns expert working in the Brussels EU bubble.
In the last years, I have been quite comfortable being all by myself, alone at home. But the lockdown measures have affected me more than I could have imagined. In the end, I was not only alone. I was feeling very lonely.
Many of us know the feeling: spending hours at home working, thinking, cleaning, reading and communicating with our loved ones through screens. Our homes have become sanctuaries where we sit and think about what our lives used to be like, when going to restaurants and bars were part of our routine and when hugging friends was a natural gesture. I miss hugging my friends.
For me the opposite of happiness isn’t sadness – it’s boredom. And I have been quite bored on weekends where instead of traveling, discovering new places or going out, I found myself making no plans and just staying at home.
As much as I want to hide my boredom and frustration in a corner of my head, it is only after long months of isolation that I realised that the lack of social interaction and physical connection was affecting my mental health. I was feeling extremely tired and confused.
Is mental health a growing challenge for all of us?
Unsurprisingly, I found out that the percentage of people experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety has surged since COVID-19 restrictions were implemented. Mental health issues are spreading rapidly as we are all forced to stay at home and follow social distancing measures. It makes sense, we are social animals in the end. Fear and isolation have taken a toll on our health.
How are we coping? The most active people I know have started meditating, took up yoga or hiking. Exercise has been proven not only to improve our mood but also reduce the severity of potential symptoms. Some have even moved to another country to escape the city and enjoy warmer temperatures and I don’t blame them. All these stories have inspired me to stay resilient and understand that there are still many things that we can control in our daily lives.
For me personally, relationships have been the best remedy when I was feeling down, frustrated and bored. Also recognising that it’s fine to feel overwhelmed by the whole situation has helped. I’m also just a human trying to navigate this temporary storm of emotions.
Is mental health a taboo at work?
My impression is that mental health remains a sensitive topic for many people, especially in the workplace. There seems to be a stigma for people who are confronted with mental illness, they can be perceived as weak and unreliable. That is highly problematic for both employee and employer. Studies suggest that failing to acknowledge it can lead to decreased productivity and weakened professional relationships.
I believe that we should use this opportunity to talk more about mental health inside and outside the workplace. We are currently all in this together and while catch-up calls and virtual drinks with colleagues allow us to vent our frustrations and share what’s on our mind, I’m convinced that a lot more can be done by promoting internal programs to better support employees.
In the past weeks and months, I have taught myself that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed by your negative emotions. I am happy to share a few tips that have helped me stay sane during tough times and please feel free to share your solutions below, we might all benefit from them! Here some of the things that have helped me:
- Frequently call friends and family
- Take more breaks during the day to think, clear your head, stretch and go for walks outside
- Have more fun with board games and learn how to make fancy drinks or cook new recipes (here’s my new favorite Instagram account)
Thanks for reading! If you’re looking for new songs to listen to while you write, work or chill, check out my updated writing playlist here – I’m sure you’ll find some gold in sound waves form.