Of course, we have all been thinking about the year just gone, and how we have been coping with the lockdowns and the terrible changes and losses we have had to face over the past 12 months.
It is hard not to think about all the negatives, but I think we need to consider some of the positives that have come out of all that has happened, and to hope that we can take some of these forward into a kinder, more thoughtful and caring future.
Communities have worked really well to support older people, vulnerable families, and to keep in touch, much more so, perhaps, than they have done in more “normal” times. I think some people have begun to understand just how debilitating being lonely and isolated can be – and there were many, mainly older people, who were in that position before Coronavirus arrived.
When hArt was set up in 2014, part of its mission was to try to reduce loneliness and isolation, especially in rural communities. We live in a wonderful part of the world here in the New Forest, but it is hard to get out and about if you don’t have a car, and even if you can get groceries delivered, your contact with the delivery person is just fleeting, and now, carefully distanced or just a wave through a window. Loneliness isn’t new, but these days we may understand the effect it has on mental and physical health more readily.
Perhaps one of the most important things we can take from this time is that we should all just be more aware of the people around us. Taking time to chat over the garden gate, checking whether someone needs a bit of shopping collected, being alert to the fact that someone who is on their own appreciates time more than anything. We shall soon be able to enjoy more of each other’s company, which may make us less inclined to remember those people who don’t have the family and friends some of us are fortunate enough to enjoy.
We should remember that we are all in need of connection – that what we do as individuals affects those around us, whether they are people we know well, or simply by sight, or we just walk past them in the street. We should remember now, when we have had to become so very aware of how we might, completely unknowingly, be transmitting an unseen virus to someone, that whatever we do can have consequences.
The virus, like mental health issues, does not conveniently stamp itself across our foreheads, marking us out so that people can instantly see what we might be carrying around with us. That applies to loneliness too – so many of us, if asked how we are, will just say “Fine” because we don’t want to worry anyone, or we feel embarrassed or weak admitting to anything else.
Can we start to make a change now? If you ask someone how they are, give them time to really consider their answer, and maybe even ask again – I was recently asked how I was, and I said I was “Fine” when I was actually very tired, feeling low and just wanted to curl up and go to sleep. The friend who asked then asked me again how I was really feeling, and I opened up – and it did me a lot of good! Sometimes, just admitting that you are not doing so well can allow for an honest conversation which helps to clear the mind, share the load and to move forward.
The hArt blog is taking a break now until after the Easter weekend. Looking forward to the clocks going forward this weekend and hopefully sunnier days ahead.
Stay safe and well,