Is lockdown damaging your mental health?

A couple of things have made me reflect on my mental health this week. I read an excellent blog from someone managing depression. I won’t share it here because it is personal but it reflected on how difficult it is to balance taking ownership for solving mental health issues yourself, with the need to ask for help. The author is in the final year of university, with the stress of coursework and exams reinforced by demoralising rejections for job applications. That would be the same in any year, but layer on a lockdown when the opportunity to get out, get away and get support is more difficult, and depression looms all too easily.

The second thing is much more positive for me. For some reason this week I have had quite a few friends reaching out to check in. It is amazing how much difference it makes to receive a message asking how you are. I have certainly found this lockdown the hardest. I am not sure if that is because now I am retired, I do not have work to distract me; or if it is because vaccines make the end seem so close and so far at the same time. But the small contacts with friends have certainly helped. A lesson for me that I should make more effort to stay in touch. Not a strength for me!

My wife and I have been talking about what we do with our plans for this year. We were meant to be staying on Orkney for six weeks and then travelling the English canals in our narrowboat. Realistically the Scottish government seems to be saying it will be summer before we are allowed to travel. Perhaps we should see more of Scotland and postpone moving the boat. Or move it at the end of the season. We are just looking forward to the time we can make decisions without restrictions.

Has the lockdown affected your mental health too? If so, how are you managing it? I’d love a comment to hear from you.

What were you doing 12 months ago?

12 months ago I was in India . It seems a lifetime ago. When I was working I used to visit India two or three times a year and much of it became routine for me. But I never lost the sense of privilege and I would have an adventure to see a new place each time. A year ago it was Jaipur, the famed Pink City. It was very hot but also very beautiful.

Twelve months on, and I am no longer working, and certainly no longer hot. I still feel privileged, because near where I live in Scotland we have beautiful countryside and the snow has made it even more energising. But I do often wake up and think of a new adventure to go on, only to realise that the pandemic rules still get in the way.

I feel as if in the past year everything has changed and yet nothing has changed. We have all been through restrictions that I never thought would happen. We have all seen a level of illness and death that feel more like a war than a virus. But in other ways it feels as if someone has just pressed pause on our lives, and as soon as vaccines allow, we will all burst from our cocoons more eager than ever before to seek out new adventures and live the life that has been denied to us these past 12 months.

I guess in reality international travel is unlikely until the world has been vaccinated but even to travel in the UK would mean so much. I want to meet friends and family. I want to meet strangers. I want a hug. I want to be jostled in a busy pub. I want noise. I want to be able to get in my car or my boat and travel without a destination.

What were you doing 12 months ago? Will it be something that has changed your life, or a year to forget as soon as you can?

Being selfish

When the lockdown came down in Scotland this week, I was on my narrowboat. So rather than rushing back, I have spent the week in quiet isolation here, doing just what I have wanted. No dogs, no wife, no son. Just me, Netflix, several books and my euphonium.

It has been very cold. In the daytime and evenings I can heat the boat well with diesel central heating . But overnight I have tucked up under a thick duvet and woken to ice coating the windows. As I climb out of my cocoon I can hear the canal ice cracking around the boat.

It has been a wonderful selfish time. I have done what I wanted, when I wanted, and had such peace. To start with I felt guilty. I felt I should be at the house doing jobs and helping out. But I have realised that the break has been as good for my wife and son as it has for me. For many years I have worked a lot away from home, and in recent months we have been together 24 hours a day. Too much of a shock for all of us. They don’t need me organising their lives, and I am allowed to want time for me.

I return today, and with lockdown will not be back for some time. But I think I have learned an important lesson this week. Sometimes it is OK to be selfish.

What do you think? Do you give enough time to yourself?

I need a short term hobby for the New Year

A week of good news and bad news. I really do think the Oxford / Astra Zeneca vaccine will be a game changer. Everyone in the UK will be able to be vaccinated this year, and one jab gives decent immunity which means it can be rolled out more quickly before a second jab is administered three months later, And because it can be stored at fridge temperature, distribution will be much easier. So there really is light at the end of the tunnel. We will get back to normal this year.

At the same time the new strain of Covid-19 is spreading very rapidly and causing more people in hospital and more deaths, Inevitably this has resulted in an ongoing tight lockdown. Mandy & I were meant to be travelling to Orkney for six weeks from next Friday, but that has been cancelled by lockdown, and realistically I can’t see that improving till the vaccine has extensive rollout, maybe end March.

If I were still working, work would have given me identity and frankly filled my hours. So I need something else to focus on that I can do at home. Some goals for the first quarter of 2021. A hobby perhaps.

Any ideas what I should do? I could do with getting fitter. Long walks with the dogs are still allowed so long as I stay away from crowds. I could also do some more strenuous exercise. I could do with losing some weight, so maybe cutting out the bad food and drink for a month or two. But I also want some fun. I think I will get my old euphonium out of the loft and learn to play that again. It will probably annoy my family and the neighbours but one day it would be good to rejoin a band.

What ideas do you have of things I could achieve in the next three months while staying at home? Let me know.