This lockdown extension is tough. We didn’t intend to talk about lockdown on this week’s episode, but with the way it’s affecting everyone in Melbourne, including the two of us, we couldn’t avoid it. Jeff is definitely feeling flat at the moment. It’s not just ‘socialising’ that we’re missing out on, it’s starting to feel like we’re losing the connection. Going to the pub will be great, going to a gig or a sporting match will be great but it’s spending time with the people we’re close to that we’re feeling the most at the moment. We’re lucky enough to get together for a Zoom chat most weeks, as part of the recording process, but we all know by now that that isn’t the same.
While Jeff is feeling flat Lee’s feeling pretty good. It’s often a contrast that happens. There’s ups and downs in life generally, they’re just stronger at the moment. Lee’s excited that his Bulldogs are in the AFL Grand Final but that’s also brought a pang of disappointment and made him realise one of the things that’s made this lockdown harder for a lot of people.
The hope we had earlier in the year has been quickly and decisively taken away from us. When the Bulldogs were playing so well, sitting on the top of the AFL ladder, Lee and his group of friends upgraded their membership to ensure themselves a Grand Final ticket. At that time it looked like we were out, we were clear and life was going to go back to normal. This week is a reminder of the fact that that is far from being the case. A lot of people are feeling their own version of that at the moment.
The repeated extension of lockdown is also starting to have an affect on Jeff’s work, which had previously been one of the things that was keeping things in a relative state of normalcy for him. Even though his company is in an ‘essential’ industry the numbers are dropping.
It’s becoming obvious, and Lee’s talked about it a lot, that the longer the lockdown goes on the longer the recovery will be. And that seems exponential. Another month of lockdown now is looking like it adds more than just a month to the recovery.
We’ve talked before about social anxiety. It’s something Lee and Jeff struggle with, and Jeff’s wife Trish as well. It’s obvious to us that extended isolation is increasing the sense of anxiety we’re feeling around other people. We usually keep ourselves toughened against the issues of social situations by doing little bits here and there, when we’re feeling up to it. That’s been taken away. For over 18 months now and so what would normally be an acceptable number of people is now daunting. The thought of a crowd is unbearable. There’s always a level of aversion to crowds but after being told for so long that contact with other people is a bad thing it’s going to be very tough for people to get back into those situations confidently. That’s something to keep in mind as we head out of lockdown, slowly. Keep it in mind for yourself but also for other people. To put a positive spin on it this could be a good time to set some new social boundaries. Are there people you don’t necessarily want to spend too much time with? Lee knows now the people that he wants to connect with when he gets out of lockdown and those that he might not want to spend too much more time with. But it’s also allowed him the time and space to realise some of the connections that he was trying to foster, might not have been the ones that are so valuable or important.
The long-term effects of the pandemic and the restrictions imposed because of it are still so unknown at this stage. We’re not going to know those effects for a long time. This is something that is adding yet another layer to the challenging makeup of the current situation. It’s a long way out of this and while we can see that the government is adding funding to mental health programs it’s a sector that is already grossly underfunded and we just hold out hope that as needs arise there’s the capacity to address those needs for people.
It’s interesting to think about all that extra funding for mental health services and how it could be used. If No Pants was given a chunk of money, we’re not even sure how we’d use it. We’d probably start by quitting our day jobs so we could give more energy to the podcast and not start every episode by discussing how tired we are. There are so many areas that need addressing that if we put the call out to our listeners we’d probably get 20 different responses. At this stage we’re not quite there, while we love what we’re doing we haven’t quite hit the funding level yet. But if you want to help us cover our costs you can always hit up our BuyMeACoffee page.
This lockdown, and the goals for ending it, are very different from this time last year. We had a stronger sense of hope as we watched the case numbers come down and knew that was our way out. With the end of this current lockdown linked to vaccination rates, we’re faced with trying to convince a portion of the population to do something that they don’t want to do. Ordinarily, you wouldn’t know these details about people. You wouldn’t know their views on a lot of this stuff. But the combination of social media and the hype around everything at the moment is putting it out there. While we don’t want to get too deep into the reasons for and against the vaccine this is adding yet another division between people in our already divided society.
The increasing mandate around vaccination and the path out being clearer and quicker for vaccinated people is another layer to the complexity of the current situation. It’s adding pressure on a lot of people who, for their own reasons, may not want to get the vaccine. It’s adding pressure on the relationships those people have, the work they do and the activities they want to participate in.
Now we don’t want to get into a big debate about whether or not people should get the vaccine, we’re not experts and we encourage you to do your own research and make up your own mind. Just so long as that research isn’t done through ‘memes’ and Instagram posts.
We all know people, somewhere in our extended circle, who are against the Covid vaccine. Lee knows a few intelligent, well-educated people who are either against the Covid vaccine, against the mandate, or against vaccines in general. While you may not agree with them it’s important to acknowledge their opinion but also acknowledge the distinction between those three things. Just because someone is hesitant around the Covid vaccine doesn’t label them an overall ‘anti-vaxxer’. We don’t need any more division at this time.
Covid is a deadly virus. What we’ve around the world has proven the health effects of this pandemic. As we move further along in opening up, it will be those that are unvaccinated that are going to suffer from the virus more strongly. So once we open up and the cases rise that is going to be a huge drain on the public health system. That’s what lockdown has been trying to avoid all along. And it’s done that for the most part. Opening up is going to increase the case numbers and those that require the treatment will more likely be those that are unvaccinated. There’s an argument that those without the jab shouldn’t have access to that care. But we live in a society that is based on access to quality health care. Our society and our health system don’t turn people away. And that’s what makes our health care system one of the best in the world. That’s a fundamental part of our society. It’s a tough decision and a tough call to change that view.
These are just a few of the factors contributing to the challenges of this lockdown and the longer it goes on the tougher it gets.
Lee’s first bit of advice around dealing with it is to do with control and acceptance and the balance between the two. We’ve talked about it a lot on the podcast and Lee openly admits now that he’s a bit of a control freak. It used to present difficulties but now it’s something he’s using to aid in his mental health progress. There’s a time to try and control a situation and a time to just accept what is. A lot of what’s going on at the moment is out of our control. You can’t control whether your coworker gets vaccinated. You can’t control if the govt decides to mandate service for vax people, You can only control your own bubble and at the moment you just have to do what you can to make sure that your bubble is as safe as it can be. While that’s a fallback into self-preservation, in times such as these just surviving is OK.
We’ve all been stuck in our bubble in various ways. Up until now, there hasn’t been a huge effect on Jeff’s lifestyle or his work. But now the numbers for his company are falling. He’s losing hours and so the effect is increasing. People are nervous to go into a classroom with other people at the moment. They’re conscious of where to sit, what to touch, and how often to clean things.
People are being affected in such a huge variety of ways by all of this and those effects are manifesting in so many different ways. There are people in situations in which they have no experience. Social isolation, or spending time at home, alone, is something that’s foreign to so many people. In a way, people like us are lucky because we’re well-practiced at staying home, we’re very good at ‘me time’ which is what’s needed at the moment. There are people who are used to a huge social life, filled with activities. Lockdown, being at home, alone is a foreign practice for them. There are people used to running their business, steadily busy for years, unaffected by seasons, and not at all affected by sweeping government mandates.
It’s a new experience for these people and something that we have to adjust to as it goes along. Accepting that a lot of what’s happening at the moment is beyond your control is tricky, but it’s going to relieve a lot of the pressure. You have to work within the confines of the current situation but make sure you don’t let the whole thing beat you down. At the risk of a cliche, we can stay strong through this and get through.
Another thing to accept is that this is temporary. Even though it doesn’t feel like it. Even though it feels long and there’s no end in sight. There will be an end to this. Lean into that knowledge while also accepting the fact that that isn’t now and may not be for some time. So you’ve got time. As much as that sounds trite, accepting that you’ve got the time to relax and focus on yourself might help. You kind of have to at the moment. For many people, time is such a rare gift that they’re using it well. Lee is using it to get ahead on writing these blog articles, batch recording Two Drink Cinema episodes, and doing more business planning. This could be your time to have a think about your career, your social situation, or your hobbies. That’s what Lee’s done in the last 18 months.
Jeff discussed with someone recently the idea floating around that if you don’t come out of lockdown with the gym body that you’ve always wanted, or the skills to play the guitar after all these years, then time wasn’t the problem. Jeff’s sat down with his guitar quite a few times over the last 18 months and thinks about how much he’d like to do it, how much he’d like to learn how to play but then he realises how bad he is at it and decides to do it another day.
That’s a learning experience there. Clearly for Jeff, learning the guitar isn’t a priority. If you’ve had all of this ‘free time’ and haven’t achieved the goals you had for yourself, maybe that’s because those goals aren’t really that important to you. Now might be the time to readdress those things.
But, that being said, it’s totally OK to use the time to relax and recharge. Jeff is sleeping, a lot, and spending a bit of time settling his health a bit. It’s a tough world we’re living in at the moment with no really clear way out. You might need to focus your time on just surviving and that’s perfectly fine. A lot of people have never been in the situation where there’s a constant stress hanging over them and that can be exhausting, especially if it’s new to you. So it’s perfectly ok to just settle on ‘surviving’ and getting through with the basics.
There’s certainly not a ‘requirement’ to use the time for self-development in any direction. When you’re exhausted and in survival mode finding the motivation to break that pattern is tough and when we eventually get out of lockdown that is one thing that’s going to be tough for a lot of people. Things are going to seem new again. Things we haven’t done for 18 months are going to be things that create anxiety for people.
We have to acknowledge that as we make our way out that other people in our lives might be working through things. Take it easy. You don’t know where their head is at.
It is a tough time for everyone and obviously listeners will now know the toll it’s taking on us. We think it’s important to share that with our audience. To not put on a front in order to record the podcast. People aren’t going to listen and wonder ‘damn, these guys are pretty happy considering what’s going on’. If you listen to the podcast episode this week you’ll be able to tell that Jeff is a bit flat, but Lee is up and about. That isn’t always the case. We all go through our ups and downs in day-to-day life and at the moment those levels are being taken to the extreme. Just know that there’s going to be an end to all this. We’re going to get through it. But if you’re feeling flat at the moment our inboxes are open, hit us up on socials or use one of the many mental health support services available. Our full discussion of the current lockdown situation is available in our most recent podcast episode.