In this issue we explore the meaning of well-being, have a brief look at dinosaurs, and think about what’s important to take forward into this next stage of life in the context of Covid-19.

By Caf Fean

“There is no universally accepted “definition” of mental well-being. This is probably because mental well-being may have different connotations for different individuals, groups and cultures. For some, it may be the notion of happiness or contentment. For others it may be the absence of disease. For some it may be economic prosperity. It could be based on the goals sought to be achieved and the challenges placed on an individual or a culture.” World Health Organisation 

The areas we have so far explored during lockdown include some of these basic elements: yoga, for mind and body; bread and baking for the soul and stomach; de-cluttering activities and ways to stay sane with toddlers in tow. We also looked at mark-making and drawing, exploring mindless mindfulness, as a way of giving yourself some time out, and giving that whirring mind a much-needed rest. The answer then, to what is good for your health and wellbeing will be different for each person reading this article, and it is up to you to pick and choose from the ideas presented. 


Here are three tips for the foreseeable future 

Avoid too much news
Wise people have been steering clear of too much news: joining the COVID-19 symptom study, covid.joinzoe.com is a good way to get updates on what is happening locally based on reliable data. If you are predisposed to anxiety, this is better than constantly exposing yourself to lots of different reports and theories. 

Maintain boundaries
Experts advise maintaining boundaries: “Emotions can be ‘infective’ and if those around us aren’t able to keep calm and cope well, we could end up getting stressed, fed up, irritable or low ourselves,” says Dr Natasha Bijlani, consultant psychiatrist at The Priory Hospital, Roehampton. 

There is hope!
As things change, it is important to stay hopeful: “Hope is incredibly important. For many in this time it will be frightening. Knowing this will pass – and it will! – gives us a sense that there is a future beyond this.” – Psychotherapist, Mark Bailey. 

As lockdown easing has been announced, anxiety has been seen to be on the rise as we navigate a new set of rules and regulations to live our lives by. Anxiety UK tell us reassuringly that “the human species… is known for its ability to adapt, acclimatise and habituate to different circumstances – doing this ensures our survival”. 

And survive we shall, but how do we go about it? In our household, we have been watching all of the Jurassic Park films. I’m not saying that everyone might do this and feel better, but it certainly helped us suspend some elements of reality for a couple of hours and if you watch them all in a row you could easily lose a day or more, though it has to be said that the films reduce in quality as their number increases. Some friends have been reading books about pandemics, or watching ‘Outbreak’ or similar as part of their cultural consumption during this time. I couldn’t fathom doing this, it’s far too close to the bone, but it did make me think, what does it mean to be watching a film about giant lizards eating humans and wreaking havoc on our otherwise tranquil existence, whilst ‘out there’ there is a real invisible killer? The irony is palpable.

This collective experience provides us with an opportunity to rethink what we truly value in our lives

I have been thinking about how literature and the arts influence our thinking and are an echo of our times, and this led me to look at the Spanish Flu of 1918, and stumbled upon an article by Amanda McGowan about scholar Elizabeth Outka, author of “Viral Modernism: The Influenza Pandemic and Interwar Literature”. 

“[Outka] argues that the enormous death toll of the war and the pandemic – which required mass graves, delayed funerals, or insecure burials – deprived families of the traditional mourning process. There was also a fear of unwittingly infecting loved ones with a hidden, contagious disease. From these anxieties sprung proto-zombie figures in the works of horror author H.P. Lovecraft, as well as in the 1919 silent film “J’accuse,” by French director Abel Gance. […] ‘It was a way, I think … of visualizing a monster that was invisible, in the case of the flu,’ Outka said.” 

So perhaps our Dinosaur watching is a way of embodying a threat, and seeing it overcome by Hollywood heroes helps, at least for a fleeting moment, to imagine that this will indeed come to an end.

Hastings is full of artists, political activists and creative folk. The work we produce during this time and in future years will no doubt be coloured by this experience and ongoing debates around the pandemic. During lockdown it was easy to feel warm and fuzzy about our sense of community, the lending of needed items, the circulation of sourdough starter, community gardening efforts and celebrating Fridays with a frock. Concurrent with these positive narratives were deeper, sadder and ultimately more troubling ones: the food banks put into overdrive, Seaview, i-Rock, Allsorts, Age UK and a whole host of local charities working doubly hard to keep their service users safe and well. 

We have plenty to think about and plenty to act upon, to make our future world a safe and secure place for us all. This collective experience provides us with an opportunity to rethink what we truly value in our lives: from it we may see new and cannier businesses, ways of including and honouring the most vulnerable in our communities. Therein, lies hope.


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