Despite staying at home and having more flexibility with our schedules, for many of us, this period of a slowdown has been more draining than replenishing on our energy levels and overall mental health. Whether it’s working longer hours, having more errands to do around the house, dealing with new responsibilities, or even simply having nothing to do all day, there is a strong sense that these activities have become more and more exhausting as each day goes by.
While at first, it may seem that we are becoming lazier, there is, in fact, a biological explanation for this trend of exhaustion. Depending on the environment in which we find ourselves, and the mental stimulants within that environment, we experience different levels of alertness and energy. At home, the number of stimulants we experience significantly decreases as we usually see the same people, the same rooms, and the same visuals on a daily basis. Together, the lack of new stimulants and the stagnation of our surroundings in our daily lives actually make us feel more lethargic.
Even worse, the virtual stimulants—be it phone, laptop, or television— that have now taken up much of our time is, in fact, having a negative effective on our overall mental health. Given the global pandemic and turmoil, social media and the news are actually negative stimulants that create worry and anxiety, which in turn creates further drain on our mental health and energy levels.
These effects are even before we consider the effects of working from home. Forbes notes that—in the workplace—autonomy, self-expression, and a sense of control are fundamental elements of good mental health. Working from home creates a work environment where we no longer have choice or flexibility on any of these elements. This lack of choice can create a deep sense of frustration and even disorientation.
One of the principal elements that we are all missing in our daily lives is the connections that we have with people. Even without considering family and friends, the connections that we have with our co-workers, our local coffee baristas, and others outside our immediate circle, play a vital role in invigorating ourselves on a daily basis. After all, work is necessarily social and is a valuable aspect of life especially for those who are more introverted since the human connection is an important part of the working experience. Whether it’s simply being able to smile at a stranger or to see faces of people you recognise but don’t actually know on a daily basis, these moments subconsciously improve our mental health on a fundamental level.
There will soon be a time where it will be allowed for us to reconnect and revive ourselves through those connections. Whether it’s purely bonding with loved ones or reinforcing team bonds, we will all need a place to share these moments together with one another.
The bush, with its natural social distancing from its vast open spaces and low density of people, has always been emblematic of a meeting place—a place to connect not only with each other but with the environment around us. It is the idyllic setting to get our lives back together. Away from the distractions of daily city life, away from virtual stimulants that are always on our faces, and away from the surroundings that we have now memorised like the back of our hands.
We, too, cannot wait to be a part of that reconnection.
The Mluwati Concession Team