• Dr Natalie Kemp, Founder in2gr8mentalhealth

Love in the time of Covid19

Finally, out of the house! As much as Alf's company is great, humans are needed and my local is perfect. This was just four days home alone with sinusitis, and nothing like longer time spans that might be needed for covid19, and certainly without the same sense of worry that this new health threat might bring. However, what it has taught me, is what we know but is crystalising fast now: sustaining connections with our families and friends is an essential part of how we maintain our wellbeing. It's not the 'soft stuff' that can be easily dismissed in the face of work pressures, where we spend so much of our lives. It is hardwired into our nature to be social animals and an integral part of our attachment needs to be loved and cared for and to reciprocate, especially if we're feeling poorly! Another important connection, which becomes clearer when you spend time alone, is that we have with ourselves.

Connections are important. It's not just from studying and reading and working that we learn how to do life, we learn it through our relationships, from those formed in our earliest moments, to those we form around us throughout our lives. Where those have been good enough, we learn to feel safe and explore and connections are easier, where they have been more difficult, we learn to be brave about exploring and good connections become precious ones. Throughout all of these connections, we learn about what we need and about love.

Hearts are central to connections. Too often our hearts are dismissed and forgotten, sometimes we want to forget we have them because we've been hurt, sometimes we're just too busy to remember we have them, and sometimes we're unfortunately influenced by a world that doesn't seem to prize them as much as money and achievements. Either way, as limits are put around our connections because of covid19, from the simple frustration of not being able to greet through touch, or the possibility of quarantine, it puts the state of our connections, and therefore our hearts, into sharp relief. This challenging time will provide a valuable moment to check in on what is important to each of us. Connections will look different for everybody and our hearts are the bridge.

As we continue further into the unknown with covid19, plan away about how you might flex your daily work, household stocks and childcare schedules as we hear more from Government, but make sure to add the connections you need to your inventory. Take gentle care of what you learn about yourself and take care of those who mean something to you. This is a period of transition, where the schedules we like to have in our lives, which make us feel safer with normal daily uncertainty, are going to be tested. That will bring anxiety, but you won't be alone in experiencing it and we will do better by sharing the experience together. Love, or connection for those who are less into love, is an antidote to fear. What transitions also bring, even those that include suffering and feelings of chaos, will be shifts to a positive reprioritising, opportunity, and increased personal and collective wisdom.

What do those of us at in2gr8mentalhealth have to say? We are both mental health professionals and those who have had, or are currently living with, experiences of mental health difficulties. We understand challenge, uncertainty, transition, chaos and the gifts that come from experiencing this, which will mean you'll have so much to offer others. We understand the importance and nourishment of reciprocal community support and the importance of being gentle and taking care of yourself. If anything is possible, we know it is the ability all of us have to keep moving through challenge. We have learnt through raising awareness of our stigmatised voice, that although you might feel alone, no one ever really is. If you feel like you don't have a tribe or connections, they're out there, you just haven't found them yet. If you are blessed with connections, please keep an eye out for those who may seem to have fewer, this is a time to gather round.

Whilst I was writing this in the coffee shop just now, feeling starved for connection after being poorly home alone, I met someone who not only helped me connect to some online platforms for ways to do my work remotely, but also in time shared his love for photography which I also love. As we chatted, and I mentioned the talks and the workshops I do on mental health stigma within the professions, we discovered we had both had personal experience of mental health difficulties. The sharing was connecting and made us want to hug each other to wish each other well and friendship, but of course we couldn't! That's a difficult one when you're a natural hugger like me. Despite this, I felt our wellbeing dials crank up to 'good'. I shall go home with a warmth in my heart that will keep me toasty for the rest of the day from being around others.

With love and best wishes to you all out there and in particular to those caring on the physical or mental health frontline. Go well and together 🧡

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