Construction, Coronavirus and mental health – By Natasha Stone

I’m sure many of us have typed in our emails and communications over the past few months, something along the lines of “In these unusual times; these unexpected times; these challenging times”. And this is true in every sense of these carefully worded descriptions of the current Pandemic that the world faces. There’s an acknowledgement, but also an un-voiced realisation of quite how serious all of this is.

At first, it seemed like an issue that was far removed from us all, media reports of far flung places unnerved us, but we reassured ourselves that it wouldn’t spread any further. Like so many other outbreaks before, it wouldn’t reach us here, or affect anyone we knew, or in our general circles. But as things changed, anecdotal evidence of people who knew people catching it, some worse than others – but oh, they recovered, it was just a bit like bad ‘flu, but we all started to feel just that bit more uneasy. This thing was on our doorstep.

Watching other countries go into lockdown before us, meant that we knew what was coming – or did we fight against that thought in that *it would never happen to us*. Even now, there are those who think this is all a conspiracy and overblown because ‘I don’t know anyone who’s had it’. This is a naïve thing to think. Wouldn’t you rather be happy that you don’t know anyone who’s had it? In any case – what does this have to do with the Construction sector, you might ask.

I know of colleagues and friends who have had this disease. I know of those who have not survived. I know of colleagues and friends who have been furloughed. I know of those taking pay cuts. I know of those who are scared to go to work, but still have to go to building sites and places of work, and try and socially distance – amongst others who don’t care, or don’t believe it’s true. I know those who are at risk, but not *at risk enough* to be protected, still going out there to work, named as key workers, but scoffed at by others as ‘not being important enough key workers’. We can’t do much in these strange times, but for the sake of all that is a possibility, surely, we can think sensibly, and be as careful as we can when we leave our homes – to be sensitive to those who might be incredibly scared. To those with high levels of anxiety, and to those, who might seem to be having an off day, but actually are suffering acutely.

Mental health is as much as a serious issue during this Pandemic as might be perceived the physical health effects, and the reason I wrote the build up to this, is because actually, we’ve all been feeling the mental effects of the Pandemic for much longer than the time we’ve been cautious or locked down. This continued strain, will have taken it’s toll on many already – and even those who seem to have it all together might not be as ‘together’ as you might think.

This is all ok. It is ok, as I’m sure you’ve seen me write before…, to not be ok. It’s ok to be completely overwhelmed by all of this. It’s ok to be scared. It’s ok to feel as though you can’t do anything.

But there are things you can do to feel better. And I don’t mean, the things you might already have seen as self-help across social media and well meaning websites and friends etc

  • It’s ok to ignore the noise on TV, social media, other people.
  • It’s ok to say no.
  • It’s ok to be grateful for what you have.
  • It’s ok to not exercise.
  • It’s ok to be scared of what the future holds.
  • It’s ok to say no.
  • You don’t have to work additional hours because you’re grateful to still have a job.
  • It’s ok not to have learned a new language.
  • It’s ok to not have started a new side hustle.
  • It’s ok to not have finished that DIY around the house.
  • It’s ok to say no.
  • It’s ok to eat what you want.
  • It’s ok to feel frustrated.
  • It’s ok to sit alone and take time to yourself.
  • It’s ok to say no.

The biggest take away from this, as you can probably tell, is ‘it’s ok to say no’. There is much pressure on ‘keeping teams together, making sure no one is left alone, and to keep in contact’. This is very much needed, and should be encouraged. But what isn’t re-iterated is, that sometimes, that fourth ‘get together’ of the day is simply too much. If you need that time to breathe, take it. Pretending to be strong for others is admirable, but unless you are strong for yourself, you’ll never be able to truly be there when someone needs it.

Take time for you. Protect yourself. Quite simply, if you do this, then you’ll be protecting others in the best way you can.

Should you need advice during this tough time, don’t suffer alone. You can seek help at many wonderful support organisations:-

Lionheart

Samaritans

Refuge

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