This is a society under collective stress. Stress about the disease, stress about not being able to see loved ones and friends, stress about work, stress about not being able to find work, stress about financial consequences, and so on.
It has been unrelieved. Whereas once you could have taken a break and relaxed with a holiday, or made a trip to the pub, cinema, or theatre, or football match, the restrictions have had their effect on all those things.
It’s all worry and not much play. And over time that’s going to have an impact, although how long-lasting and far-reaching that is will not be apparent for a while.
Experts are at the moment studying what the pandemic means for mental health. A survey by the Mental Health Foundation has found that 82 per cent of adults reported having experienced stress as a result of Covid-19. If that’s surprising, it’s perhaps only because the percentage isn’t even higher.
There are things that individuals can do to reduce the risk of them catching the virus. We should all have got the various messages by now. Unfortunately one of those things, keeping personal space, reduces the opportunities for others to give the kind of support – like a reassuring hug, for instance – that might cheer up those finding the going tough.
There are, at least, various ways people have found to relieve the psychological burden of the pandemic. According to the same survey nearly six out of 10 people have said walking has helped them cope, with half saying visiting green spaces has been beneficial. Chatting to friends and family either online or on the phone isn’t the same as meeting them face-to-face, but keeping in touch has proven a stress reliever for almost half of those in the survey. Hobbies also play their part.
In so many ways Covid-19 has put us on a voyage of discovery. We have stopped doing some things in the way we once did. We may never do some things the same.
There’s that quote about the past being a foreign country. With Covid that past is only a little over six months ago.