Posted Friday, March 20, 2020
By Jennifer Holmes
Every single person in the UK is being affected in some way, whether you’re a lone worker from home, a parent with children off school, a son or daughter looking after an elderly family member, a carer or business owner struggling to keep momentum – we are all individuals trying to cope.
As a mother of professionals in the front-line treating Coronavirus patients and another stranded studying abroad; the daughter of an elderly parent in the high-risk category and a neighbor to another elderly lady now unable to get out, I understand the impact this virus is having on everyone. Listening to my mother telling me stories about rationing and food shortages during the war, of having to find ways to help others more in need than yourself, echoes of today’s situation. The difference is, however, that we all need to pull together more!
Currently, isolation is being enforced by the government, meaning everyone will have to come to terms with a new way of life until the Coronavirus outbreak can be controlled. What life will look like in a few months’ time no-one can really tell, but we do know that some face not having a job to go back to because the company they worked for was unable to sustain the business. Some may have to adapt to a different type of job as companies evolve in order to endure the financial strain. There may be some who find it difficult to adapt and others that embrace it, but overall, we know that from now on we will have to develop mental and physical strengths and adopt methods of dealing with the threat of these viruses reoccurring.
So, let’s take a look at what’s happening right now to people all over the UK:
Those individuals living on their own and who can work from home will initially relish the opportunity to be in the comfort of their own environment, however for many not used to this situation loneliness from the lack of contact with colleagues can quickly lead to depression or anxiety. The best way to deal with this is to approach each working day as an office day, by keeping to a routine, and maintaining contact with teams and taking the same regular breaks it will not seem as daunting. If you can get out – do! Taking a lunchtime walk in an outdoor space that allows for social distancing is extremely beneficial. If your company (like ours) has a fully functioning Wellbeing department or team, make the most of it, that’s what they are there for. Pick up the phone and have a chat or air concerns before they get on top of you.
An awful lot of parents will now be attempting to work from home surrounded by their family. This brings its own issues – not enough privacy or peace and quiet mean concentration levels will drop. It’s important to set boundaries, especially with younger children who won’t understand why mum or dad is now at home but not available for play. It’s important to keep performance levels to the same standard as when in work for both employee and employer, and with some lenders now allowing a break from mortgage payments, there’s some relief for those struggling the most, or who lose their jobs.
Children of all ages across the UK will now be off school indefinitely and this enforced experiment of families living together continuously may cause anxiety through a lack of understanding why their life has suddenly changed and why they are not able to socialise with their friends, go to nursery or clubs and organised events. Young school children will be missing the interactions and socially engaging activities that the school provides. Keeping them stimulated in a way that is also educational can be tricky for parents, not least those trying to fulfill a day’s work, but most schools have already implemented online learning facilities. It will be important to maintain their physical health as well, with active games or fitness activities included in their new daily regime at home. How young people will cope with having to maintain a 2-meter distance from grandparents only time will tell, but its important to keep contact as a family, and with platforms such as skype or Zoom this should be possible. It’s never too late to get a tablet device to facetime loved ones.
For students due to sit crucial exams, these are very concerning times. Some will have mapped out their further education or career based on the results of exams that now won’t be taking place. Some university students studying abroad are now unable to return home, with the uncertainty of when they may next see their family or friends from home. Those here now face not being able to take examinations that will guide their future, but the government will be addressing this situation, and it is wise to stress that to them.
For all children and young adults, life will be very different. With their normal social activities being curbed or eliminated parents should be aware of any changes in their wellbeing or mental attitude. Teenagers will have more time to be online, and with that comes more exposure to what’s in the news. They could become obsessed with the negativity, scams and scaremongering that is out there, and parents should be vigilant of changes in behaviour such as longer periods of inactivity or time spent locked away in their room. Now is the time for increased family interactions, not less. Those old enough to digest the current situation should be acknowledged of their fears whilst providing grounded guidance that this won’t last forever.
People in the health care sector are having to be extra vigilant in social distancing to ensure they can provide continuation of care for elderly parents, or those in need of either physical or psychological care. I spoke to a carer about how the situation is affecting his job, and by the very nature of their profession he was deeply sad that some of his patients were now isolating and he was not able to make the routine visits or take them on community outings – the one thing they all looked forward to.
Neighbours and friends
With the over 70s we will undoubtedly see an escalation of loneliness, with those not able to do their daily trip to the shop, some may be able to do online ordering but if they don’t have a laptop, they will be completely cut off. We all have a duty to check up on our neighbours, give them a call, see if they need anything, and if you see them in the garden – pop out for a chat. Little distractions in the day will go a long way.
A friend of mine is currently stranded on a cruise ship unable to get home, fearful of getting ill and not seeing friends and family for an indefinite amount of time. I was told it’s the not knowing that is difficult to deal with. They created a facebook group of 56 friends and family who have all been very supportive, providing snippets of news, good and bad, sending jokes and memes to keep their morale up.
So, what can we do?
The one thing we can all do is keep communication channels open; pick up the phone, speak to neighbours over the garden fence, get onto skype or other video chat platforms, create facebook groups. If you’re not self-isolating, please be mindful of others who are and may not be able to get their rubbish bins out or refuse sacks to the bin store. Offering to shop for those whose supplies are running low, and online shopping is not an option provides a vital lifeline.
Above all, simple acts of kindness are what’s required, such as the young boy who, with his own pocket money bought a pack of toilet rolls and handed them out to elderly people in the street!
Covid Mutual Aid UK is a group of volunteers supporting local community groups organising mutual aid throughout the Covid-19 outbreak in the UK. They focus on providing resources and connecting people to their nearest local groups, willing volunteers and those in need.
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