It’s mental health awareness week and this year’s theme is kindness, which I don’t think there could be a better theme with what we are all going through at this time. This is a hard time for everyone, each and every one of us living a different experience through lockdown and the changes that are coming our way. Covid-19 has turned many people’s lives upside down and we will all be picking the pieces up for many years to come.
There is a lot of discussion and plans being put into place about schools going back for some children on 1st June. Let us remember that schools have not shut their doors during the pandemic and for key worker children it has been their safe haven, with trusted adults, to help them feel safe while their parents have ultimately been risking their lives for the sake of others. School staff also need to be remembered in this key worker category and many will go above and beyond the call of duty because they really do care about the children they work with.
There will always be two sides to every discussion, or argument, and there isn’t always a clear side to declare right or wrong. To try and see both sides of the story, allowing everyone to feel listened to is one way of being kind. For example, some parents will welcome the opportunity for their children to be back in school and others will not. Some parents want the children back in school, but at the same time do not believe that the social distancing measures being put into place are appropriate for children and for that reason would rather keep their children at home. Schools’ have to balance the risk and I think all school staff are aware that social distancing is not going to fully work, but they have to try. Some parents will need to send their children back to school because they are expected to be back at work, even though they feel deeply guilty about it. My point is, even if you do not agree with some people’s choices, try to think kind thoughts as these people may really need some support. Apportioning blame is easy to do, taking out our own frustrations on others while we forget that many people are simply doing their jobs and they are not being personal - it is simply how the system works – even if the system seems broken.
At the moment lots of people are relying on their basic brain functions to keep them going – survival mode. Lots of people have had their lives thrown into chaos: secure job – lost; financial security – lost; support network – momentarily paused in person, but hopefully there virtually; mental health – all over the place; physical health – possibly weakened for many reasons. Just at Covid 19 has highlighted the key worker roles, it has also highlighted what is key for personal survival.
The above diagram shows you Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which was created in 1943 by Maslow. The idea is that the needs at the bottom of the triangle need to be met first before then building up the higher up needs on top. Further research since that time has shown that the triangle is more fluid, for example, by sharing a meal with extended family, or with others, can meet your belonging and esteem needs as well as your physiological needs at the same time. I believe this diagram simply puts into perspective what we are all doing at the moment, we are doing everything we can to ensure our physiological needs are met alongside our safety needs at the bottom of the triangle. However, we are now longing for more belonging and love needs after being separated from our family and friends for so long. Our brains have evolved from caveman time when keep fed, warm and safe from predators was the main function of life. We are also social beings, realising that there was safety in numbers in prehistoric times, which is why Covid 19 has been especially hard for some people who are isolating alone. As long as our basic needs are met we can survive, but we do also need to take into consideration people’s psychological and self-fulfilling needs as without meeting these needs it can be hard to be happy.
So, to those of you that are reading this take a moment to think not only about your feelings but those of others around you. We need to live in harmony together and that involves making compromises and sometimes having to step out of our comfort zone. Take a moment and breathe, be kind to yourself and others. The world is still here, albeit a different place at the moment. If you need to take little steps to adjust to the new risks we have in life, then take your time. If you are ready to take a few big leaps and are more of a risk taker, do what you can to help those who are more fearful around you by being thoughtful too.