Realitea: how lockdown pressures took their toll on my wellbeing

Lockdown has been a well-needed rest for us all who are not key workers, hasn’t it? I mean, we’ve taken up twenty-five extra hobbies, adopted a rigorous fitness routine and reconnected with our spiritual selves, right? If you haven’t done this, then what have you been wasting your time on?

There it is – the exact type of attitude that is making many of us cower away in shame, guilt and frustration.

Lockdown was an awful time, with Covid-19 taking the lives of so many. So, why has social media and the internet turned it around to present it as something of a gift, something that has allowed us to press pause on our chaotic lives and attempt to improve ourselves? Too many times I have seen how this pandemic was sent to free us all from our lives in the capitalist system where we do not have enough time to do what we enjoy. But instead of finding this empowering, I feel that it has led us to put even more unnecessary pressure on ourselves than normal.

Before I explain this more, let me tell you a bit about where I am at at the moment, my story being just one of many who are feeling this way. I am an English Literature student at Newcastle, about to enter my final year. Lockdown, for me, meant that all of my summer jobs were cancelled. I went from having three jobs over summer (which I thoroughly enjoy), to having none. My summers are normally packed with six days of work, squeezing in a run, going to the gym, or seeing my friends at nights, and of course seeing my family on the Sunday. I was a busy woman, and that was how I loved it.

“My second year assignments had all been handed in and I began to feel this sense of being lost. With no jobs to go back to, I was overwhelmed with this huge amount of free time that I had on my hands.”

Sophie Wilson

Fast forward to May this year. My second year assignments had all been handed in and I began to feel this sense of being lost. With no jobs to go back to, I was overwhelmed with this huge amount of free time that I had on my hands. If I’m being honest, calling it ‘free’ time is a little optimistic. Firstly, the gyms were not open – meaning one of my main hobbies was cancelled. Secondly, there are limited activities you can do with family and friends when you have to social distance (as I am sure so many of you have found out). So, what was left for me to do? All that was left for me to do was worry.

“As the world went into a state of panic because of this virus, I went into a personal state of panic along with it.”

Sophie Wilson

When your list diminishes from having about fifty things to do in a day to about five, the world starts to slow down. As the world went into a state of panic because of this virus, I went into a personal state of panic along with it. All of my energy started to be focused on why I was not ‘bettering’ myself. While everyone was learning to knit, sew or make jumpers to sell on Etsy, I was doing none of that. I was stumbling my way through the weeks, wanting my life to go back to normal. As many were taking to losing weight or starting a fitness schedule, my motivation to exercise seemed to vanish. It seemed that the less I had to do, the less I wanted to do any of it.

I feel that it is only fair to say that I was surrounded by amazing friends and family during this time, ones that got me through. I have now got one of my jobs back, and I am focusing on going back to university in September. But what I want to say is something about this pressure that was put on so many of us in a time of distress.

It is okay not to have become a better version of yourself during lockdown ( I use better hesitantly, as what does that even mean?!). When social media was one of the only escapes during a daunting time, the anxiety that came with it was enormous. I cannot speak for every woman here, but I feel that I cannot be alone in this. Social media teaches us that we are not good enough, that our passions are not valid and that we need to be constantly changing to fit other people’s perspectives of us. It is like we are being judged by all these virtual little people who are always there in our hands as we look down at our phone screen, or in our handbags when we try to distance ourselves from them. But the main judgement which is detrimental is how we internalise this to scrutinise ourselves.

As social media becomes more dominant in all of our lives, we internalise the anxiety about what other people think of us. What would my followers think of my actions here? Why do I not look like the fitness models who used lockdown to lose weight? Why can I not sew when my friends are making hundreds of pounds from masks to sell on Esty? It is this judgement from ourselves which is a destructive path to go down.

Lockdown was hard for us, and for many it only increased this scrutiny of ourselves. When we had so much time to think, pause and reflect on our lives, I really do not think that it was a healthy time to start pushing new routines. Social media was bursting with these apparently ‘motivational fixes’ for our lives, whilst literally playing on our increasing anxiety!

So, what can a girl who spends too much time on these social media channels really say right now? All I can truly say here is that we need to stop the internet ruling our lives. It is time we take back the confidence that we once had in ourselves before the internet tried to tear us down. We are beautiful and we are valued and, whether or not social media approves of it, our passions are important. Let’s stop pretending lockdown was an opportunity to create a better us, and let us start appreciating who we really are instead.

Featured image: Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

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