For the last two weeks of January, the editor’s office transitioned to a basement room that included an old futon, a tiny, artificial Christmas tree and a visiting cat that wanted my attention only when I was conducting an interview.
Due to several cases of COVID-19 confirmed at my son’s school, my family spent those weeks working and learning from home. For me, that meant creating a make-shift office downstairs.
My co-workers spent a couple of months in 2020 working from home due to the pandemic. Finally, it was my turn. I found the days went by OK, lunches were all homemade and the drive home was, well, non-existent.
Working in self-isolation did make me appreciate telephone interviews even more – despite the odd and slightly embarrassing meows in the background. But it also highlighted the importance of social interaction, of being able to share conversations, ideas and laughter in person with co-workers. Sure, communication was possible over Zoom or Slack or any other internet-based app, but you know as well as I do that it just isn’t the same.
We have so many ways to connect with one another now via various social media platforms and other technological offerings, it seems as though it should near impossible to feel lonely – to be deprived of the sustenance of social interaction. But I would argue people have become more lonely, more disconnected, especially during this time of lockdowns and restrictions designed to protect our physical health.
Mental health, however, has been another matter.
The pandemic and related restrictions continue to perpetuate worry and anxiety among people world over. And while much of that has to do with concerns specific to human health, the spin-offs have included job losses and/or reductions, school closures and a spike in break-ups and divorces. Parts of the country also experienced spikes in opioid-related deaths.
Now that we are supposedly into the second wave of the pandemic, the Canadian Mental Health Association and UBC have found “feelings of stress and anxiety, causing alarming levels of despair, suicidal thoughts and hopelessness” have intensified among Canadians.
None of this is healthy for us individually or collectively. But in order to get out of this dismal state of physical disconnection, our individual and collective actions remain as important as ever.
We have learned that restrictions around gatherings in B.C. will continue through February. And with the slowdown on vaccine distribution, all of those simple, daily precautions – hand sanitization, distancing and mask use – must continue. And hopefully, by the end of summer, we’ll be at that point when we can safely re-connect, in person with family and friends, whose company we have had to do without for far too long.