If you don’t come out of this quarantine with either:
1.) a new skill
2.) starting what you’ve been putting off like a new business
3.) more knowledge
You didn’t ever lack the time, you lacked the discipline
— Jeremy Haynes (@TheJeremyHaynes) April 2, 2020
By EVANGELINE BRYCE
The world, it seems, has never been fuller of questionably qualified life coaches dishing out unsolicited judgements on what a successful isolation period should look like.
To them, if the people of the world don’t come out of this quarantine speaking five new languages, having an intimate knowledge of the Mesopotamian trading system, or preparing for a 2021 MasterChef bid, then the entire time will have been wasted. But is this mindset doing more harm to our already vulnerable mental health?
Lifeline reported it had seen a 25 per cent increase in calls during March 2020, and the organisation expects this number to continue to rise. Of the almost 90,000 crisis calls received, roughly one call every 30 seconds, more than 50 percent of callers wanted to talk about the COVID-19 crisis.
Man you think this is a vacation? You think we’re all on some kind of fancy sabbatical here? The global pandemic killing hundreds of thousands of people and plunging countless others into poverty is a fun long weekend to you? That’s honestly how you experience this?
— Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) April 4, 2020
With several mental health organisations also experiencing a rapid rise in demand for their services, it’s time to move away from the fantasy that these next few months will be the adult equivalent of school summer holidays.
For many of those now at home, time-scarcity has increased as they scramble to fill the roles of carers and teachers, on top of their existing work commitments. For many more, economic stress now swallows huge chunks of their time as they grapple with newfound joblessness in a sea of others. Compared to the first week of March, an estimated 1.6 million people are no longer in paid work according to ABS statistics.
And for 12 per cent of the Australian workforce, work hours have increased due to COVID-19.
I am caring for three kids, one autistic, and a disabled husband who has just been taken to hospital after a fall. I have been furloughed but work for a charity so don't know if I have a job at the end of it. You want me to learn Russian on top of that? Arse.
— OhBondageUpYours 🤐 (@JaneQuaife) April 4, 2020
To the probable dismay of those touting their capitalism-inspired quests for lockdown productivity, now is not the time to be adding on extra pressure. Instead, many leading mental health organisations are pointing towards the tenets of self-compassion as the answer.
Like Lifeline, organisations such as Phoenix Australia, Headspace, and Beyond Blue all highlight the importance of taking regular rest periods during the day. Engaging in calming and enjoyable activities and keeping a regular achievable routine are also crucial in tackling mental health challenges.
The WHO, too, encourages those in isolation to “pay attention to your own needs and feelings” during this time of unprecedented stress.
If you come out of this quarantine mentally and physically healthy, it will be enough of an achievement. Making sure you and your family survive is enough of a skill.
Don't apply yourself extra pressure with BS like this. https://t.co/Ae2JqW4KgW
— Çetin Cem Yılmaz (@cetincem) April 23, 2020
So, while mastering a new language, starting up a business or picking up a valuable skill is admirable at a time like this, it might be necessary to rein in those expectations.
Coming out of this period with a relative sense of emotional stability might be all that some achieve. And, at the end of the day, it’s all that’s really necessary.
A comprehensive list of online COVID-19 mental health resources can be found on Life in Mind’s webpage.
If you or anyone you know needs support:
Lifeline call 13 11 14 or text 0477 13 11 14
Kids Helpline call 1800 55 1800