Mental wellness during Covid by Wilma Bouwmeester

When the country went into lockdown and working from home became part of life for many, I paid little attention to the advice on ‘how to work from home’. As an independent collection care consultant, I’d worked from home for many years and advice on the ‘working-from-home-dress-code’ puzzled me. But as the weeks became months, the effect of Covid on those around me also started to affect me, and my brain too went into a Covid-fog. Creative initiatives came to very little despite feeling enthused by Grayson Perry’s Art Club, and a jacket I’d started to sew in the first weeks still sits on the mannequin unfinished.

Prior to Covid, I had started to think of redirecting my attention and personal development away from objects and towards people. As a consultant I visit many different workplaces, where my role is usually task-focussed and technical (whether installing or calibrating monitoring equipment, or designing and discussing a sustainable environmental control system). Often however there comes a moment when the conversation turns to the strains of working conditions, the challenges of reduced budgets or the threat of redundancy. People are visibly relieved when able to voice the stresses and strains of the daily grind. Putting such feelings into words can help to process them and give them a place.

I had made the first moves in a new direction when Covid hit, and as a result found myself embarking on a Counselling Skills course via Zoom! For eight weekends, spread over 12 weeks, I was glued to my laptop, staring at some twenty-five stamp sized faces, and spending time in ‘triads’ observing, listening and talking to strangers. I felt thoroughly outside my comfort zone, and it was like learning a new language, the language of silence, of listening, of emotions, of acknowledging and letting people be heard. It is hard to overestimate the power of being listened to without judgement, without well-meant but unasked-for advice, and be heard with empathy, genuine interest, and acceptance, from one fallible human being to another. 

Covid-19 is showing its impact in many different ways. For some, it’s an opportunity to be creative, expressive and make the most of some free time. For others it may bring stress, anxiety, depression  or despair.  Whereas we readily share the state of our physical health, our newest diet or latest fitbit-results with those around us, our mental wellbeing remains largely hidden for fear of being judged and deemed a failure. Feelings of shame about appearing to ‘not cope’ can paralyse and stop us from moving on.

Mental wellbeing is important, now more than ever, and if you are struggling with what life throws at you, chances are others are too, for one reason or another, and might also welcome a chat that goes a little deeper. If you feel affected by the changes of Covid, lockdown or other life events, pick up the phone to a friend, sign up for the DialUp app, or ring me on 07739 988087 and ask to be listened to. Chances are you’ll feel a lot better for it!

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