Mental Health Awareness Week 2020

By Georgia Cadoret|

Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, and this particular year is something of an anomaly. Whilst certain introverts far and wide may have found this period of social isolation to be something of a blessing, others may find it has harrowed their mental health more than ever.

Tend to yourself first | Andy Smith/hifructose

I’ve listened to maybe three podcasts in the last week that have talked about productivity during lockdown, either discussing how to be more productive, or bemoaning how difficult it is to be so. I find it interesting that, although most of us have nowhere to be, with no social commitments and no events to plan, we are still trying to be better. Still striving for “exceptional”. In light of the fact that the Mental Health Foundation has given this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week the theme of kindness, and in a time when we are seeing a lot of kindness being shared, I invite you to first and foremost be kind to yourself.

Permission to be unproductive

I’m sure countless people have considered using this time to write a novel, build a polytunnel, get abs, redecorate and reinvent themselves. I know I have. During lockdown, we have experienced the death of FOMO – no one else is doing anything better than anyone else, and we are all in the same unusual boat. In its place came the birth of a new breed of anxiety, and it is the same anxiety that perpetuated the cult-like sourdough baking frenzy on social. Suddenly everybody wants to be the next Paul Hollywood.

Perhaps you are one such individual perfecting your baking skills or religiously following PE with Joe Wicks. I truly admire anyone who is using this newfound time to better themselves, but I am acutely aware that many may be feeling this “who’s doing better at lockdown” game to be unhelpful in this already anxiety-inducing situation.

Mental Health Foundation announced this year’s theme as kindness | Twitter

I’m here to tell you that if you’re not trying to learn a new skill or grow a vegetable patch, that’s okay! You don’t know how many times someone broke down in tears/threw dough at the wall before they got the perfect rise. We’ve all likely accepted that, at this time, limiting our news intake is good for our mental health, and with that I would argue that so is limiting our consumption of social media – possibly now more than ever.

Social media | Taryn Oshiro-Wachi/Dribble

This is not a normal time, and it follows that many of us are probably experiencing abnormal feelings. Some days we might feel quite productive and manage to get things done, but other days it is likely that we’ll feel vulnerable, confused, anxious, lost, scared or all of the above. Maybe we’ll have no motivation at all and spend six hours in bed watching moody Irish teenagers on catch-up TV. This is allowed. Permission to be unproductive.

Acceptance is something that the whole world has had to face over the last few months in one way or another, and some acceptances have been harder than others. People have had to accept the loss of their jobs and the loss of loved ones. We have had to accept the loss of freedom we were so used to, and the absence of friends, family and partners. Our resilience has shone, and the world is doing so incredibly well to accept all that it has had no option but to face.

Along with all of these big changes, I invite you to also accept wherever you’re at right now. If you’d rather order a pizza than make your own dough from scratch, that’s fantastic. If you don’t want to Zoom call all of your friends and get drunk but would rather curl up with a book or a box set, then don’t feel like you are in some way lacking or wrong for doing what you need to do. Just because you have more time does not mean you are obliged to do more.

Social pressure has followed us into lockdown via the miracle of social media, but in reality, we are all experiencing nuanced ups and downs on a daily (even hourly) basis, and we mustn’t push ourselves to be “more” than what we are right now. We must accept where we are and do what we need to do for ourselves to feel our best. So, honour your mental health, and consider putting social media down for a while to avoid feeling guilty about whatever your current best is, be it sourdough or sliced half-and-half.