• Rachel Roussell

The year we lost and mental health

Is your mental health suffering because of the restrictions of the pandemic?

We have faced some major challenges and changes over the last year and it’s no wonder people are struggling to cope.

We’ve washed our hands more than ever before, gone to testing centres and had things pushed up our nose. We’ve tried to avoid the spread of the virus and now we wait to attend our vaccine appointments in the hope that we don’t face another lockdown.

The lost year...

Illness, uncertainty, fear, anxiety and depression have plagued the human race. The Coronavirus hit humanity like a high-speed train and the world wasn’t ready for it. It’s been a year like no other and the word ‘lockdown’ has filled us with frustration and disappointment. The younger generation has paid less of a mortal price due to the pandemic but for all age groups it has felt like a ‘lost year’. We have had to learn to think and act differently, to adapt our lives so we could save lives.

We are experiencing a viral tsunami...

At the beginning of January 2020, we had no idea what was coming our way. From Wuhan came the viral tsunami that has sadly taken the lives of over 2.6 million people so far. We are still fighting the virus, an invisible enemy that has taken away so much from us. When the Coronavirus travels into the body from the eyes, nose or mouth it’s prepared to damage our cells and vital organs like a weapon of mass destruction. We wear masks, face shields and do social distancing all in the hope that we can prevent other people from contracting the virus.

It’s been like living in a blockbuster movie...

Medical experts have dropped everything to deal with the deadly, invisible and complex virus. A respiratory and vascular virus where sufferers have had symptoms such as a cough, temperature, headache and loss of taste. Some continue to suffer after the virus has left their bodies, diagnosed with long covid or being ill due to the damage the virus has done to other parts of their bodies. Doctors, nurses, ambulance crew and care workers have worked tirelessly putting their lives at risk to save people and hospital treatment rooms have been overflowing. We have been part of a moment in history that will be made into a blockbuster movie one day.

It’s been a lost year that will go down in history books...

People’s physical and mental health has been pushed to its limits at times whilst living a groundhog day existence. Some have lost a lot over the last year, a year that will go down in history where people’s mental state has been truly tested. World leaders and royalty have made broadcasts trying to guide, console, advise people and clarify situations. We’ve been told to stay at home to save lives and that has created isolation, boredom and sadly an increase in suicides. Some non-believers create conspiracy theories about the virus, they’ve marched in the streets, spat at police officers and refused to wear masks.

We can compare our predicament with world wars...

During world wars, people’s lives were disrupted and torn apart but they were able to mix with other people. They could touch, stroke and hold each other and share the simple joy of being with each other. In those worrying times, grandparents could proudly hold their grandchildren or sit drawing pictures or baking cakes together. Parents cared for their children or went to work, they had the opportunity to do something different and stimulating away from their homes. During this pandemic, we have been physically and mentally at war with the deadly virus that has prevented us from experiencing things that we took for granted in the past.

The simple joy or frustrations of being with people...

Over the last year, we have missed the simple joy of just being with people, especially family and friends. Most human beings need social interaction in different ways with different people. In a lot of cases, one night stands, love affairs and young lovers have been put on hold. Those who are married, cohabiting or parenting have been faced with new challenges being forced to be together for intense periods which has put a strain on some relationships. There have been understandable frustrations and for some, escape hasn’t been an option. Their normal coping strategies like exercise or being part of a club has been taken away from them.

Humanity worldwide has suffered...

Governments worldwide have dealt with the pandemic in different ways, making questionable decisions about travel and border control. Some, implementing ‘lockdown’ too late with deadly consequences and introducing restrictions, tier systems, tests, track and tracing in a patchwork manner. Medical staff have struggled with the lack of PPE supplies and the strain on health workers is evident. We have watched world leaders, scientists and politicians doing their news briefings, showing us charts, statistics and explaining about the R number, circuit breakers and bubbles. We have watched humanity suffer worldwide on the TV, through social media platforms such as TikTok and read about it in the newspapers.

The economy has gone backwards...

We’ve been through a period of political unrest, the world economy has had a massive shock, unemployment has risen and some people have been driven to poverty. Some governments have tried to help with grants, business loans, furlough support and spending schemes but for some people, it is just too late. There are serious concerns for the housing market and the cost of track and trace used in some countries. The fourteen-day isolation period for those who have come in contact with the virus has prevented a lot of people from earning money.

We have missed interactions, special celebrations and funerals...

Offices have sat empty, driveways are full where people are working from home and work banter isn’t quite the same on platforms such as Zoom. Some workers haven’t had that healthy workplace interaction where different experiences make us more interesting and we have more to talk about. Outside of the home, the joyous and social occasions of weddings and birthday celebrations have stopped or been limited and the funerals for lost loved ones have been traumatic with limited attendees not being able to console each other. Quarantine weight gain has been a problem for some as has a drop in sex drive. Internet dating isn’t like it used to be, hanging out in clubs and bars isn’t possible in some countries.

Who would have thought?

Who would have thought that toilet roll, food rations, hand sanitiser and face masks would have played so heavy on our minds? Did we ever think that we would appreciate our hairdressers, dentists and doctors so much? Never did we think we would stand outside our homes every week and clap for medical staff and carers. Or that we would have to zig-zag as we walked down a road avoiding other people. Who would have thought that we wouldn’t be able to visit elderly family and friends in care homes and hospitals? Or witness a 100-year-old man walk up and down his garden and raise millions of pounds for the NHS? (Thank you, Captain Tom)

What about the children?

Babies have been born into this world surrounded by adults wearing masks, children have shown great resilience but sadly their education has suffered. They’ve drawn rainbows and walked with their families in parks unable to hug their friends. The closure of schools has affected their GCSE and A’Level results and university students have been trapped in their halls of residence or sent home. We have to ask ourselves will there be permanent scarring for children from a year that will be remembered as a lost year in their education.

We will get through this...

Scientists have made a heroic breakthrough with all the vaccines that are now available. Whilst the vaccines don’t give total protection from the virus, it will save lives and reduce the severity for those that catch it. We will learn to live with the Coronavirus as we do with other contagious illnesses such as the flu. We will get through this pandemic and will have learnt a lot from it. The majority of us will carry our vaccine cards eagerly waiting for pubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and shops to open. It’s unclear if we will be required to show proof of having the vaccine to be able to access buildings or go abroad on holiday, only time will tell.

The pandemic has affected different countries and people in different ways and we have all been through a lot. When you see it written down it makes you realise that people have had good reason to feel anxious or depressed. Are you struggling with your mental health? Do you suffer from depression or low moods?

Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and it doesn’t need to be vigorous exercise. It can be a walk, a slow jog, a yoga session or using a cross-trainer for example. However, if self-help isn’t enough you should speak to your doctor or a therapist and find a coping mechanism.

The summer months are just around the corner and soon we can hug our loved ones once more.

Stay safe. xx

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Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom - 07800887857 rachel.roussell@gmail.com

Copyright Rachel Roussell 2021