On Lockdown, Being Social and Mental Health ...

 

The other day was my sons 8th birthday.  In these days of COVID and lockdown, social distancing, masks and general uncertainty, many of the activities that usually interest groups of little boys were not really an option.  Also, group sizes, personal "bubbles" and other virus spread control strategies, meant that our options were limited.

In order to celebrate his birthday properly we needed to take a new approach.  A COVID driven birthday strategy.  Essentially all of the various activities were spread out over a week - dinner with family and in-laws, play-dates with his friends and one small group outing (to glow-in-the-dark mini-golf, as you can see in the picture).  Each event had a focused group, and time was spent to discuss the comfort levels of the invitees (and in some cases, their parents) to ensure that everyone's COVID risk management and risk tolerance was properly considered.

What I failed to consider was my own COVID related, isolation driven mental health issues.  Having spent the bulk of the past 6 months in my basement "office" or in a lawn chair at the cottage trying to work and "be normal" had impacted me more that I had thought.  I thought I was doing ok.  Turns out that isolation had impacted me more than I thought.  I knew that I was struggling with my ability to focus, but I was attributing that to lack of proper office equipment and working on a tablet-size screen.

As an introvert I just assumed that not seeing other people would be ok.  It turns out that, while I didn't have a need to expand my social circle, participating in activities in a public place is really beneficial to my soul.  The presence of other people, even though they were strangers to me, gave me a sense that there are other people living lives, same as me.  Even social distanced and masked, the muffled chit chat and laughter of the other groups was a connection to the world that I hadn't realised I was missing.  Even the slight impatience of the groups of golfers behind us (children don't play through very fast) reminded me we are all in this together.  That society has rules and a structure that I had forgot about.  That observing the world around us and being considerate is part of being a member of the community.  That structure is important to day-to-day life.

My other observation is that some people have forgotten some of the basic skills of life - especially driving.  While I have read reports of record numbers of tickets and accidents, it was very clear once I was on the road, that many people are way out of practice.  I saw a number of drivers crossing lane lines, crossing multiple lanes to make turns without signal or regards for other drivers - many people having to suddenly brake as they were cut off in their path.  It's the "Sunday driver" phenomenon - except now it's all the time!

What is clear to me is that while we all have a role to play in staying safe and healthy, it is critical that we get out and practice those practical skills (like driving) and that we spend time in the presence of other people to keep up our general social skills and connection to our community.  The world will emerge from this pandemic and, while it will not be the same as it used to be, it would be great if we didn't have to relearn how to act and interact with the rest of our community.

Comments

  1. Exactly! I feel like I could have written this myself, especially this part.....

    “ As an introvert I just assumed that not seeing other people would be ok. It turns out that, while I didn't have a need to expand my social circle, participating in activities in a public place is really beneficial to my soul. The presence of other people, even though they were strangers to me, gave me a sense that there are other people living lives, same as me.”

    We’ve been able to go out for a couple of months now in Dubai, it has been therapeutic just to have a coffee and do a little writing at a cafe. Even though I’m not actually talking to anyone, it still feels like a social connection.

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    Replies
    1. Exactly... just being a part of the movement of people, even without interactions, is therapeutic.

      I fear a long cold Canadian winter when going outside, patios and parks, is more difficult.

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