Not Everyday Life

Since lockdown began we’ve been taking part in Not Everyday Life, a global crowdsourced initiative to understand life in a pandemic world. Over the course of three 30-minute interviews with strangers, we’ve explored changes to routine and work, sources of news and trust, the losses and silver linings, as well as hopes and fears for the future. The aim is to understand not only how people have been impacted day-to-day, but identify the attitudes and behaviours that are likely to endure.

What we’ve been struck by is how different everyone’s experience of the pandemic and lockdown has been, depending on family situation, age, where you live and who you live with. In light of it being Mental Health Awareness Week and this year's theme being Kindness, we wanted to share some of the challenges people we spoke to have been experiencing, as well as the acts of kindness that have been lifting them.

The idea that people have had more time and life has slowed down during lockdown is only true for some. A number of the people we spoke to have been finding their new routine (or lack of routine) overwhelming and exhausting…

“Mentally I’m finding it hard. I’m constantly tired – I’m shattered just going to the shops or going for a walk. And I’ve no concentration or focus. I can’t even get to the end of a TV show…I know it’s because I’ve lost all the structure to my day now that I’m not working. I just don’t understand where the time goes now.” Female, 27, Liverpool

“I would have expected to have been to have been in a routine with work etc by now, but I think it’s got worse. I haven’t really settled into it. Partly because I don’t have the right tech at home, and neither the students I’m trying to teach, but also there’s no delineation between work and home anymore, you don’t have those different spaces. It’s quite claustrophobic” Female, 60s, London

And for some people coronavirus is only exacerbating what were already difficult situations. It can feel like the world, wrapped up in this new problem, has forgotten about you a bit…

“I’m on the 1.5 million list, I had leukaemia 2 years ago and finished my main treatment so am clear, but still have preventative chemo once every 3 months, and am also on immune suppressants, so I’m supposed to stay in totally… and the family too. The government haven’t really given advice, the advice is they have to do social distancing and then I have distance from them, which isn’t really possible. So we’re just trying for none of us to go out, relying on online deliveries and friends and family. But we’ve relaxed it a bit so they can do bike rides occasionally. I am worried if schools do reopen what we will do, I don’t want to stop the kids going to school” Female, 40s, London

“My mother died early in lockdown, it wasn’t Covid related but it’s been tough, not being able to hug anyone, not having the ritual of a funeral, no closure… it’s hard to deal with the emotional side of death at the moment, there’s nowhere for all the feeling to go. And no one has been asking me about my mother’s death, but also you don’t really know what’s going on in other people’s lives, people are going through other things and illnesses, it’s not just all coronavirus” Female, 60s, London

It’s not only adults that are feeling affected, both the physical restriction and lack of structure is impacting young people’s mental health:

“My son is in year 12 and is a really social kid. Lockdown has impacted him the most in my household. He hasn’t been given much school work. And he won’t leave his room, even getting him to go for a walk is a struggle, and he doesn’t have anything to talk about. I know he’s a teenager and all but I’ve noticed a real change in him these past few weeks. He’s playing his X Box a lot more because he’s bored, but I don’t want to limit it – it’s his only way of interacting with his friends. The screen time in our house is now up by 97% but what else can I do?” Female, 49, Bedfordshire

“I’ve been sending messages to the kids and parents at my school. Just little pictures of what I’ve been up to. It’s a nice way to stay connected. And it’s made me realise that it’s not just about education but about mental health too. These kids are only 6 or 7 and I know this must be really hard for them.” Female, 27, Liverpool

But what has surprised people is making new connections, with unexpected people…

“Yesterday I was gardening and someone who I don’t know walked past and asked if I was ok for shopping. People are becoming better neighbours… I’ve had so many conversations at the front gate! It’s strange, but a bit of release” Female, 84, Nottinghamshire

“I’ve been finding support in unexpected places, mostly through people at work, that I didn’t even consider to be particularly good friends before, but we’ve been on the phone every day which each other, checking in on each other. It makes such a difference to my day.” Female, 27, Liverpool

As well as unexpected activities – people have been finding new ways to spend time together that feel social as well as creative and productive:

“The good sides are that we’ve had more time with the boys and we’ve done some really sweet things together. They’ve done camping outside, toasted marshmallows, collecting tadpoles, science experiments, crafts. And their grandparents have been helping them with their schoolwork on FaceTime, which is a really nice way for them to stay connected” Female, 40s, London

“We’ve started doing virtual dinner parties with the neighbours, doing a take- away one with them this weekend, we all meet in the street to start with, have a drink at a distance over the fence. Then went in and had the iPad on, passed 3 hours chatting over dinner. Another neighbour wants to join so now we’re up to 10! We are the oldest – when they say check in on the oldies, that’s us!” Male, 60s, Yorkshire

And it was great to hear so many of our interviewees saying that even taking part in the project had acted as a new and welcome outlet. A reminder to keep talking.

NEL moves into phase 2 now – to access the reports and findings, become a contributor here.

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