Life Wellbeing Beyond the grind: Finding the silver linings in coronavirus lockdown

Beyond the grind: Finding the silver linings in coronavirus lockdown

Watch: How to take care of your mental health in coronavirus lockdown.
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Each of us has our one and only life to lead. Governed as it is by the ticking of the clock, it’s pointless to think that we can ever put it on hold.

That’s probably a good place to start if you’re pondering how to get through yet another lockdown – or realising that the lockdown you’re in might last for months.

Make the time at home count – and use the resources you’ve got to make life better.

This seems to be the main message from people who have reported positive benefits from the colossal disruption of the pandemic.

Social scientists have had a great time with COVID-19 – so many studies and surveys asking how people are coping, how they are suffering and how they are thriving.

The crackup we’re having

A July survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that one in five Australians is reporting high or very high levels of psychological distress linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

People with long-standing mental health problems are under added stress. And they’re in need of resources that are lacking. Disabled people are struggling harder than ever.

People have lost their jobs and their businesses. Being old appears to be less fun than ever, certainly more lonely.

We’ve all fretted over aged and lonely parents. Plenty of us weren’t able to be there when parents in aged care have died. There is good reason to feel sad.

So go ahead and feel sad for your losses.

Then ask yourself: is there anything good in this, the big change?

What the surveys found

In May 2020, psychologists from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow – not a part of the world we tend to think of as cheery – surveyed 3000 people.

More than half reported positive changes in their lives since COVID-19 took hold.

  • 83 per cent were more appreciative of things usually taken for granted
  • 67 per cent were having more time to do enjoyable things
  • 65 per cent were spending more time in nature or outdoors
  • 62 per cent were paying more attention to personal health
  • 54 per cent were doing more physical activity.

In a follow-up study, the researchers found that these changes in behaviour were still in train, post-lockdown, for half of the participants who’d been positively affected.

A December 2020 study from the University of Sydney, in a survey of 1000 people, found that 70 per cent of participants reported having experienced at least one positive effect of the pandemic.

The top three positive effects were having the opportunity to spend more time with family; having greater flexibility in working arrangements; and appreciating having a less busy life.

In a Conversation article, Dr Lynn Williams, who led the Glasgow study wrote:

“The important role of time was highlighted across both studies. Lockdown has removed many of life’s routines and demands – and for some people this has afforded them more time to spend on activities they enjoyed and valued.”

By simply waking up to the fact “that how we spend time has changed – and thinking about what we can do with any additional time that we have – may be an important first step in making positive changes to our lives during lockdown”.

Of course many people with children will say, ‘Are you kidding me?”

Are you kidding me?

There’s a concept called post-traumatic growth – it’s the formal name for a phenomenon where people undergo a transformation after suffering adversity. Sometimes the transformation involves a burst of creativity.

Many people say they have found meaning in their lives – or at least have begin to ponder more deeply about these big questions that are answered more by feeling, thank thinking.

Dr Lynn Williams and team found that, for many people, the slower pace of lockdown had enabled them “to step back and reflect on their lives, their futures and what is important to them in a way that they would not otherwise have the opportunity to do, without the demands of daily commutes or social commitments.”

Mothers with children

Perhaps the most encouraging study comes from the University of Bath and the University of Lisbon.

The participants were mothers with one or two children, from the UK and Portugal – many of them working at home on reduced wages. Of the children being cared for, 93 per cent were learning from home via remote learning.

Nearly 90 per cent of the women found that the hardships caused by the pandemic had provided valuable opportunities. More time with the family, rediscovering small pleasures – but also time to think about their one and only life, and its meaning

And with life slowed down, the clock on the wall ticking loudly, 22 per cent of the women said they had been given the opportunity to reassess their personal values and “reconsider what’s really important”.

A report in the Medical News Today said the study suggested that “we may emerge from the pandemic strengthened by the experience”.

It’s something to think about.

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