Rainbow Wellington Board Member Craig Watson says “realising that you can still have quality connection without physically being present,” is the most positive lesson lockdown has taught him.
Tell us about your Level 4 Lockdown – where are you? Who’s in your bubble? And what are you doing to keep your mental health in check?
Level 4 Lockdown – what a strange time! Who would have thought a six weeks ago after celebrating Pride and going out with friends, that I would be confined to my house and neighbourhood? I live in Wellington and with two flatmates and we all work from home.
I am lucky to be able to continue with my job from home, however, work has changed significantly. The projects I manage have all been put on pause and the direction is now uncertain.
I remember day 2 of lockdown, I noticed my legs were cramping up and I was starting to become very anxious about work and family. I realised that the most physical activity I had done, was to move from the bedroom to the lounge.
Mental health is a super important focus of my daily life. Having dealt with my own roller-coaster of emotions in the past, physical activity has been super important to keeping a healthy mind.
In this time of isolation, the motivation to walk, run or whatever, has been fairly low. The media and officials have made it clear that self-distancing and isolation is key to stop the spread. This fear of contracting the COVID-19 virus has meant that I was almost afraid to go outside.
But I remember going for my first bike ride last week and that feeling of fresh air in my lungs was incredible. It cleared my head, it gave me a sense of achievement and proved to me that the world wasn’t going to end if I left the house. The addiction for physical activity was back.
Another thing this isolation has taught us is how important connecting with each other is. The rapid spread of the virus-like Houseparty app, gave us a quick and easy way to connect with friends and play games with them. Zoom has allowed bigger groups to practice Yoga in our lounges with family and friends all over New Zealand. I am into an app called Trickster 500, where a group of us addicted to the card game 500 can compete against each other every lunchtime, all while chatting like we would in the office.
This time has also brought our flatmates together. We are cooking together, vege-ing out to Netflix and doing our various workout routines in the evening. We might all hate each other at the end of this lockdown, but for now, its forcing three independent people to live communally.
What are your top tips for express readers who are struggling with self-isolation?
- Continue to meet with your groups, via Zoom – don’t let the isolation put your social groups on hold. If you are apart of any group, make sure you still make regular contact. The agenda might look different and it might be harder to make conversation, but it is so rewarding for everyone.
- Get out – start each morning with a simple walk. Get out of the house and reconnect with the world around you. If you can, increase your heart rate and get a bit breathless. This is proven to help your mind.
- Listen to the world – something I have really noticed is how loud nature is right now. The birds, the air and the trees. We have silenced the buses, cars and man-made noises and now the sounds of nature can penetrate through. Tui birds are my favourite. I could listen to them all day.
- Reach out – In our community, we have a lot of single or older people who might be feeling even more isolated and vulnerable at this time. Some people might live in homes where being LGBTQ+ is not so easy. Making a special effort to reach out to them, can really increase their spirits. Offer to go to the supermarket for them. Include them in your Houseparty and Zoom sessions. Call them. Don’t make it complicated.
What is the most positive aspect of self-isolation you’ve experienced so far?
Being forced to connect with friends and whānau in new ways, and realising that you can still have quality connection without physically being present.
What plans do you have between now and day 28 of lockdown?
Work will take up most of my days, but I also have a number of books I plan to read.
I also want to explore the streets around my neighbourhood.
What are you missing most about ‘normal life’?
Coffee – I am making my own filter coffee, but god I miss a long black!
What will be the first thing that you can’t wait to do when regular life resumes?
I really want to organise a big public dance party in a park in Wellington, where everyone can get close to each other and be safe while having fun.
Moving forward is there anything you think you will change about your life following self-isolation?
Staying connected to the important friends in my life and I would like to try and continue to support those who may feel lonely and isolated in normal times.
Is there a closing message you would like to share with our gorgeous LGBTI+ community?
The buildings were big
And people would smile
Travel they would
Mile by mile
But sick they become
And numbers, it grew
Things stop for a bit
The world slowed its roll
The virus had certainly taken its toll
But what they then saw
From slowing things down
They now had less reason to frown
Families now gathered
‘What games shall we play?’
‘Pass my the blue crayon’
‘Give mummy the grey.’
‘Daddy is home guys! He’ll read us a book.’
Then all of us together
We might just cook
The lungs of the planet
Caught a small break
Less travel meant less pollution to make
People did realise that it will be okay
They don’t need so much to get through the day
Maybe this virus that caused so much stress
Showed the whole world that more can mean less.