Article by Dr MD Rakumakoe is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Queerwell
2020 was a very challenging year for many of us. Around March our country and the world was hit by a pandemic of Covid 19. Associated with that there were lockdowns across the country which meant many people had to isolate and quarantine with their families or alone, not interact with one another. Many people lost jobs and sources of income. Many people were exposed to the infection either directly or indirectly, leading to some people even losing family members to the illness with the added pain of not being allowed to bury them as they would.
There were therefore many instances of isolation, loss, fear, panic,, pain many of which affected our mental health quite immensely. For us as a newly launched organisation, which addresses mental health issues of queer people we found ourselves bombarded with calls from our people with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, suicidality etc. Some people were forced to be with families that are triggers for some of the mental health conditions they have, some were isolated and not coping with that, some people could not access their usual therapists because of the lockdown restrictions or not having enough money to do so because of the loss of income they suffered.
We did a lot of reaching out and teaching, using Zoom as a safe space for our people to get together and engage. We conducted telephonic and video one on one consultations for people who needed individual care, we even hosted online group meditation sessions. Below are some of the valuable lessons we learnt that I wish to share with you.
- Be kind to yourself
Try not to be so tough on yourself, you are doing great with the tools you have. Celebrate the little wins. It does great for your self-esteem and general well being.
- Talk to someone
Sometimes those moments of connection and empathy is what we really need. If something is disturbing you, choose someone you trust to talk it out with.
- Do the things you love and enjoy
Schedule time for the things you enjoy doing and actually do them. It can be playing a sport, taking a walk in the park, going for a jog. Sign up with a local team if you have to.
Meditation helps to reduce stress and is a powerful tool in managing anxiety. Learn how calm your thoughts and focus on breathing. Try the guided meditations that you can find online and do them for practice until you can get it right.
Laughter has been proven to reduce stress and release endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in our bodies.
- Take time out
Fully disconnect from work and take a holiday. Switch off all gadgets and spend time with your loved ones. Take time off social media.
Regular exercise helps to alleviate stress and is a massive mood booster. Any exercise that works for you and increases your heart rate is great. It can be running, swimming, yoga, hiking, weight lifting, or anything. Join an exercise group or your local gym for motivation
Sleep is great for our bodies and minds alike: a good rest helps foster mental and emotional resilience whereas poor sleep habits put you at risk of anxiety and depression. If your thoughts are racing and you find it hard to fall asleep, give meditation a try.
- Read and Write
Read on topics that interest you. Read on your favourite hobby. Read on things you have always wanted to know about. Expand your knowledge. Some people say they have made sense of their emotions by putting them on paper.
- Destigmatise mental illness
Mental illness is real. Seek professional help if you are not coping. It is not a sign of weakness. Invite us to your community if it needs teaching and sensitisation.
Dr MD Rakumakoe is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Queerwell