I talk a lot about mental health, particularly my own as I think bringing it down to a personal level makes it more honest and more relatable. If you know what I’m going through then you might trust how you feel about what you are going through.
At this moment I am unsure. I am either having a bout of Covid blues or I am standing on the edge of the pit. I’m fairly sure it is the former. Covid blues is a common name for a thing called situational depression. Situational depression is a response to a situation like the lockdowns we have lived through due to Covid. It is that sense of being worn down by a finite experience, an experience that will pass but makes you feel sluggish and unmotivated and sad while it is there. I think that’s a feeling many of us can relate to at this point. Many of us have been locked in our homes pretty much for the best part of 10 months at this point. We are missing the freedoms we take for granted, right now I would like to drive to my nearest large woodland and lose myself for three or four hours but rules say that’s not possible, we miss human interaction, nodding at the woman overseeing the self-checkouts at Sainsbury’s doesn’t count. So that could be what I’m feeling right now.
In normal times my role in the church involves meeting people, talking with people, encouraging people, it involves getting out and about and looking at ways to do mission and share the Gospel. In the current circumstances that is impossible and, in those brief interludes between lockdowns when it could be possible, we are all too worried, nervous and tired to do anything in that area.
My purpose, day to day, has been taken from me by circumstance beyond my control. So for many months now I have read and tried different things to work missionally and evangelistically remotely. I’ve made videos and podcasts, I’ve written things for my blog and for social media, I did an on-line Elemental Tent in an effort to promote the idea of the tent, I helped with The Wandering Wise Men to promote the Nativity story and the Gospel, I have and continue to throw things at the wall in the hope that they stick. I have not been idle but because what I have been doing sits outside or at the edges of my given role I have ended up feeling like the cartoon above.
That could still be the situational depression of Covid blues though. I felt at the time that the things I was engaged in were good but now I’m looking at them from a position of feeling worn down and I feel like I am failing.
This is not a cry for people to feel sorry for me or anything. I am expecting that many people are feeling like this now in response to their own life situations and if you are one of those who are not, this might give you an insight into what is going on with those around you.
So far 2021 is looking like 2020 Part Deux. we are in lockdown, Covid cases are rising dramatically, vaccination role out isn’t happening as fast as any of us would like, some of us are unhappy with government responses to the situation and, off course Brexit is making itself felt and there are constant daily reminders of the negatives to that.
Covid blues, Lockdown situational depression, is probably taking a toll on most of us who are working from home, shielding or looking after kids who are accessing school from home at the moment. And if you are one of those whose job is classed as essential you are probably knackered! Frazzled! Worn out!
So what do we do? If you recognised yourself in anything I’ve described then self-care is essential. Self-care is, in essence, a self administered pick me up that says “Hey! You are worthwhile. Be kind to yourself,” What does it look like?
Self-care can take many forms but it is basically doing something for no other reason than it makes you feel good. It might be a long bath with candles and a book (wine is optional), it might be baking or gardening, it could be talking with friends, maybe watching a favourite film or curling up on an armchair with a hot chocolate and reading your favourite book or listening to music. It could be having a nice dinner, a board game with the kids, journaling, knitting or painting. It can be so many things but the important thing is not to have an agenda, to do it or the joy of doing it. Many people balk at the idea because it’s not productive, it is like slacking off. Others feel it is selfish to do something just for fun, especially right now. The thing to remember is if you run yourself into the ground you cannot help anybody. In fact, if you run yourself into the ground you end up being one of the people who needs help.
Self-care enables you to carry on doing what you are doing, whether it is work at home or work as a critical worker, whether it is supporting family and friends, home-schooling your children or riding herd on your children as they access school from home. It is a hard thing to get to do sometimes but we all have a duty of care to ourselves so we can care for others.
If you have a history with depression or this feeling predates Covid and has just been getting worse, do seek medical support immediately. There is nothing wrong with needing medication to help you get back on track. Been there, done that and it helps.