When lockdown was first announced, most people panicked and began to bulk buy household items such as toilet roll and bread – essentially emptying stores nationwide. On the other hand, a great deal of people took this quarantine as a form of holiday and began planning all the activities they could do with this new break. After all, most people believed that this pandemic would only last a few weeks, perhaps a few months at the most. However, things quickly took a turn with high rises in Covid-19 cases, unfortunately leaving the UK in a lockdown for the majority of a year.
It can be concluded that many people have suffered as a result of the pandemic, those who have lost their lives, jobs and have faced financial issues which may leave damage for years to come. One group of people who felt some of the worst repercussions of the pandemic were the children of lower income families. Last year a campaign was put forward by footballer Marcus Rashford after he heard about the government’s plans to remove free school meals for children after 322 Conservatives voted against the funding. Thankfully, with public favour and reasoning, he was able to appeal this and 1.3 million children were promised free school meals during the summer.
However, despite this promise, the food bundles they provided to replace the money vouchers were far less than adequate.
[A food parcel received by one parent during lockdown (Twitter/Roadside Mum)]
Above shows the food parcels which were handed out to families instead of the £30 voucher allocated to families, a rather poor amount which averages around £5.22; just shy of £25 less than they were promised. It has been speculated that that the private company that was hired by the Conservatives in order to hand out these food hampers may have been pocketing the profit, quite literally taking food directly from a child’s mouth.
Growing up, I was able to benefit from free school meals during my whole education, even through my A-levels, which is why I felt even more personally hurt by this stunt pulled by the Conservative party. It really put into perspective how little the government care for the lower and working class, however, while this news is not exactly new to me or other people from working class backgrounds, it felt more shocking to see innocent children being directly targeted and ignored.
People suffered a great deal while remaining at home during the pandemic, especially in terms of mental health, although, there were also some positive impacts that I personally experienced which brought a new perspective to my life.
Returning home during the pandemic was an experience which I hold mixed feelings for. As the youngest of my family, my household was quick to treat me like a child again which felt rather demeaning as an adult who had already moved out and started work. However, I also see that experience as somewhat positive. I found myself quickly delving back into the interests I so deeply loved when I was young, such as anime and plushies, which I had turned away from when I first came to university as society make me believe that these interests were somewhat childish and ‘cringey’. The pandemic truly had a positive impact on my mindset and reminded me that I shouldn’t care what people think if they don’t agree with my interests, as long as they make me happy in the moment, that is essentially all that matters; especially during such a depressing and isolating period of the pandemic.
With all the new extra time that I had on my hands, I was finally able to take a break from my work and university studies. This allowed me creative freedom and time and I was able to draw again for the first time in over a year, something that I used to enjoy considerably but had mostly given up after high school due to its time-consuming nature. I was also able to pick up new hobbies that I had been wanting to try for a long time, such as needle felting and sculpting clay. I will admit, both were quickly dropped once the work piled up again, however, I am still immeasurably glad that I was able to at least practise and use mediums which I had been dying to try for years. It also taught me to use my time well in order to keep my hobbies alive, and perhaps practise more this summer even after the pandemic has lifted most of its restrictions.
Doing my university work from home was a far greater challenge than I could have ever predicted. With unstable Wi-Fi, family interrupting my lectures and barely having the motivation to attend at all constantly disturbing my education. Combined with the overbearing reminder that I was paying £9k for an online education also didn’t sit right with me, and I felt my work negatively impacted by the lack of in-person lessons. I also felt my anxiety rising horribly with every online lesson I had to attend, with the lack of social interaction outside, I quickly became uncomfortable turning my camera on during lectures. This was an experience that not only impacted me, but also affected most of the population as it has been reported that since the beginning of the lockdown, 49.6% of people reported higher anxiety, averaging at 5.2 out of 10, a large increase from the 3.0 before Covid-19.
[The Secret World of Arrietty 2010]
It would be fair to admit that while my mental health has never been the best to start with, the pandemic definitely took a rather damaging blow to my depression. Without the constant distraction of going out to work or meeting up with friends, my mind was quick to turn to alarming places. On those days when I was unable to take care of my basic needs, I resorted to nostalgic movies by Studio Ghibli in order to distract myself mentally, allowing time for me to calm my thoughts enough to do as little as moving out of bed or brushing my hair for the first time in weeks. Unfortunately, due to my negligence of my hair, it became so knotted and matted that I had no choice but to cut a large majority of it off; a very difficult choice for me considering that for many years, my long hair had acted as a safety blanket of some sorts.
Keeping in contact with my friends was something I also struggled with due to my depleting mental health, however, through the power of the internet, I was able to keep my sanity and spend my nights on video calls with them. Sometimes even just mindlessly sending random pictures to each other as we had nothing to say but still needed the company. Some of my fondest memories that I made while at home during the pandemic were playing games with my friends, in particular Stardew Valley. However, on days when we felt unmotivated to even play a game as simple and wholesome as Stardew Valley, we opted to watching childhood comforts like Adventure Time together on Teleparty, a site where we could comment and react on the scenes together. It was almost as if we were watching and talking about it in person like we used to pre-pandemic.
As an activity, I would like to encourage everyone to experience any online museum from their homes, one in particular that I love was created by Studio Ghibli, the same company that made the nostalgic movies which helped my mental health during my time at home during the pandemic.
Below is a link to their YouTube channel where you can find a virtual tour of their museum.