|Important words with many facets to them. Many of you are essential workers still working with clients/patients or managing services, but others will be in isolation, as are millions of others over the UK and further afield.
Virtually all aspects of our occupational lives are affected by having to isolate, stay at home, practice social distancing, work from home or indeed the loss of jobs.
Building self-awareness about our social and occupational needs right now is crucial – we all have different needs around socialising and going out. We all have different responses to be “told” what to do by the government – some people dig their heels in and don’t conform, some people follow it to the letter and many things in between.
Modern living has thrived on choice, immediacy and socialising. In the last 20 years concerts, social gatherings, festivals, exercise classes and groups of all kinds have flourished. We are social beings – there is not doubt about that. As an OT, I am worried about the long-term impact on our mental and physical wellbeing. And yes the internet is great – Zoom and Skype parties etc, but what about the closeness and sensory side of all this? The importance of hugging and touch in general. Will we see an increase in depression and suicide? Quite possibly, especially if you add in the financial problems, lack of work for many and general fears/anxiety about COVID.
“Staying in”, “working from home”, “care for your elderly” – these all have impact way beyond what we initially think. They change our entire occupational systems don’t they? You can’t change one thing in a system without it changing the whole system. Every day I am questioning why and how I do things (this list of questions is deliberately diverse – from the serious to the ridiculous).
- If so many people can suddenly work from home, saving petrol and office space etc, why didn’t this happen before?
- If we are suddenly OK with not wearing a bra, why did it bother us so much before
- If we suddenly can manage without using A&E services so much, why weren’t we doing it before? (trust me, I have seen miracles in falling A&E attendance of late in preparation for COVID)
- Why is it now OK to cut your own hair/family hair again, rather than paying out huge sums of money every month of so?
- Why am I now able and willing to have a zero food wastage policy in our house, when before we struggled? Even my youngest who only eats yellow and white food tried Kale last night FFS
- Why am I suddenly gardening gleefully, when I hated it for years (ok, gleefully might be an overstatement, but my kids are so, so keen to garden! Teenage girls in the garden – WTAF)
- Why toilet roll?
- If we can suddenly empty hospital beds furiously (we emptied our entire assessment unit of 28 beds, in less than a week) why can’t we always do it?
- If we can suddenly remove some of the ridiculous red-tape that cripples helpful OT practice, why the F haven’t we been brave enough to question it and remove it before?
- Why are we suddenly able to find enjoyment in home-based activities, which reduce CO2 in all sorts of ways..?
I think many of you have answers to these rather weird but important questions.
Yes, I am a bit frustrated but my overriding feeling right now is one of hope and positivity. Hope that the human spirit has come alive and is able to adapt and respond. Positivity, that as a result of this crisis, we will make much needed changes to how society functions and that occupational therapy will realise it’s true potential in the new world paradigm.