That is all I ask of you. Take some time out for yourself. In the midst of worrying about your parents and grandparents, your children, oxygen tanks, ventilators, hospital beds, and vaccines, take time out to breathe. This uncertainty won’t go away in a day, so slow down and look out through the window.
We slipped and stumbled through last year, hoping we could just see this through somehow and get on with our lives. That is not the case, and we cannot afford to continue neglecting our mental health. In conversations with psychologists and psychiatrists last week, I have seen how distressed they are themselves. These are people who have been trying to keep children engaged outside school, organise support for parents, care for young doctors in Covid-19 wards, find hospital beds, and provide therapy. A day at a time, a few hours at a time.
Covid-19 is increasingly common in our families this year. All of us know people who have contracted it and are displaying symptoms at varying degrees of intensity. Many of us have lost family and/or friends to it. Our own government is indifferent and Western countries are back at what they do best — protecting their own interests while preaching to developing countries that they benefit from. There is pain, frustration, and disbelief everywhere.
But in the midst of the anger and the stress, please remember to take care of yourselves. Make time for it. Write, talk, sing, paint, create something. Laugh. Meditate. Look at the trees and enjoy the flowers. I speak from experience. This time last year, my uncle was diagnosed with cancer and began chemotherapy. My aunt, their children, my parents, and other uncles and aunts rallied to protect his compromised immune system from Covid-19. The year went by in a fog of anxiety. With all physical interaction and social activity cut off, we simply existed. In the meantime, G. and I were grateful that we still had our jobs, and were at companies where working from home was encouraged. However, we neglected our physical and mental health. We stopped exercising, surrendered to online media for entertainment, and forgot to think. Then 2021 came along, bringing its callous political decisions, unmasked people thronging weddings, and general apathy.
I will not list all that our families have gone through this year, but I just want to tell you that coming back to some kind of routine — sunny morning walks, writing, meditation, music, art — whatever takes your fancy, is of enormous help. Don’t assume that you are alright if you aren’t feeling anything now. Don’t let numbness make you think you are immune to the grief you are hearing of. Don’t let the pain take you away from yourself. It is important to do something that you want to and feel good about it. And if you don’t feel like doing it, push yourself to — it helps.
In the past few months, my colleagues and I have become peer supporters for one another. At work, we hear of stress, burnout, anxiety, loss of motivation, lack of appetite, fatigue, etc. We talk about it, and knowing that there are others feeling the way we do eases the burden. It is no secret that mental health has deteriorated over the past year. This year, to put it very mildly, is not helping either. Seek help if you need it; insurance now covers mental health. Encourage your employer to view positive mental health as a normal requirement. Talk to your colleagues about it and let the conversations flow. Tell your friends. We will pull through again, but the trauma is worse this year than it was last time, so do look after yourself.