Time to take the penguins for a walk

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By Joanne Lockwood

 

For many, lockdown number three is proving to be the hardest yet.

It is cold and dark outside, schools are closed, and job security is an issue for many. Financial pressures are mounting, and we will have been living with Covid-19 in our lives for an entire year as of next month.

Are we looking after ourselves, are we focusing on our own individual needs and ensuring our own mental health is being looked after?

I am reminded of a visit I made to a San Diego Zoo back in the mid-1990s, standing next to the polar bear enclosure and peering through the portal into the world of this magnificent creature.

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I am not a fan of zoos, and I was concerned that this magnificent animal was out of place, in a climate it wasn’t best suited for. As I was watching I was surprised that this animal seemed to be enjoying its surroundings, the water pool, the objects such as rocks and trees, plus the space it had.

However, after spending 15 minutes there, I realised that this polar bear was repeating the same 60-second cycle time and time again – even down to the same foot pushing off from the bottom of the pool in the same spot. It had no life, just this repetitive routine it had carved out for itself.

I don’t know about you, but I am conscious that I am going through the motions some days in my “work from home” life: wake, shower, dress, eat breakfast, work, eat lunch, work, binge on a boxset, eat again, sleep, repeat.

The only variety is often the people looking back at me through my Zoom portal. I’m becoming that polar bear!

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I recently heard a story of a couple of zoos that have recognised that their animals are lacking stimulation and variety with no visitors and are now allowing their penguins to wander around the zoo, especially inside the fish tunnel so they can marvel at new surroundings.

Take the time to focus on your own mental health, create a break your own mundane cycle, or just take a rest from the pressures of juggling work requirements with those of educating the children at home.

There is no quick exit from this world that is dominated by Covid, and we may need to dig in for several more months to come. Take stock of your routine and become aware of your own needs as a person and an individual – reach out to your friends and colleagues and make sure to ask: “Are you really OK?”.

I have realised that I need to focus on my own mental health by breaking the cycle of performative happiness that I first saw on display by that polar bear – it’s time to take my penguins out for a walk instead.

Joanne Lockwood is an inclusion and belonging specialist with SEE Change Happen

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