While this topic is not eyewear specific, it’s important to keep talking about it as it honestly effects EVERYONE. The ongoing lockdowns in Australia are playing havoc with our mental health. It’s important that we keep checking in with ourselves, and each other. So lets take a quick look at where we are now.
It’s September 2021, and large parts of Australia are still in lockdown. Sydney and Melbourne seem to be the worst right now, however Queensland looks to be heading that way now too. It’s a story that changes by the hour. I live in Regional Victoria, over 4 hours from Melbourne, and while there hasn’t been an active case down this way in well over a year (even then it was only 1), we have been in and out of lockdowns for 18 months. Its exhausting. Businesses are exhausted. Families are exhausted. Everyone is exhausted and we just want to know what ‘the new normal’ is.
Optometry in Australia
For those Optical practices who have been or are in lockdown, the stress of opening and closing constantly is a cause of huge stress. This is the case with all small businesses across the country. For us, once lockdowns are announced, we usually have the space of a few hours to review all patients with our Optometrists. We evaluate each appointment to check whether each falls into the category of us being able to still see them or not.
Optometry is classed as health care, and an ‘essential service’ however what exactly that entails has been a bit out of focus, pardon the pun. I won’t go into the details here, but I’ve seen many practices doing their best to follow the guidelines, but are still all operating quite differently to one another. It doesn’t help that the rules tend to change with every lockdown. But we are all doing our best.
Then we have a long list of patients that we have to call to cancel, reschedule or confirm their appointments. Most of the time this is greeted with an understanding, but not always. The more we have to cancel, the more abuse we are receiving on the phones from customers that think we are the ones choosing to close. Nothing could be further from the truth. We try to communicate that we want to be open, we want to be able to help and we want to stay as consistent as we possibly can. Although consistency is one thing the world seems to be missing lately.
As employees, we get home mentally exhausted each day not knowing ‘how that day happened’. Each morning we all wake up wondering what will have changed by the afternoon, and we almost never guess correctly. We get up, go to work and do the absolute best we can with what we are given, thankful to be working at all.
But as humans, like everyone else, we wake up worried about the future. When we will get to see family again? What does the future hold? It’s exhausting. But we put on a brave, strong face because we are in our industry to help people. They don’t need to hear what’s worrying us. Although, we do tend to end up being an ear for our customers, especially the ones that live alone. Listening is one way to help, but we also have to be aware of how much we are taking on.
So from a worker, a small business owner, a daughter, a wife and most importantly an Australian, here is a gentle reminder.
Showing up is enough. Taking a chance is enough. Changing your mind, deciding to walk away from a place, a job, or relationship is brave. Even getting out of bed some days is a major win. Be kind to yourself, and be kind to others. It’s true, you don’t know what they’re going through and no one else can walk in your shoes. Remember, respect and learn. In Covid times or not, this is all true.
It’s important to normalise ( as much as we can anyway) the mental effects of Covid. This is especially true with the long lockdowns a lot of us across Australia have been, and still are facing. I, like so many others, struggle daily with thoughts like
‘Others have it so much worse’,
‘I’m lucky overall’ and
‘I should be thankful for what I have’.
While these thoughts are in most cases true and valid, it doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to feel down, deflated, stressed, depressed or anything else as well. Whatever you’re feeling is VALID.
Your feelings are valid
I’m also finding that little things that I usually wouldn’t even notice about my life or myself are effecting me on a whole new and much larger level now. It’s definitely a day to day process and everyone is handling life differently. And that’s perfectly ok. There are no rules for how you should be feeling, we’ve never been through this before. Whatever your feeling, IS VALID, try not to feel guilty for doing whatever it is YOU need to to get through your day. And as always, reach out and talk to someone. Message, call, email- whatever you’re comfortable with, but always remember you’re not alone. Ever.
Kindness is a trait we all have inside of us, which goes a long way, especially in times like this. Whether your an essential worker, a business owner, a parent, retiree – anyone – Kindness is something we can all give which costs nothing but can absolutely make or break someone else’s day. Little gestures matter. That can be done by being courteous on the phone, taking time to help someone in the supermarket, checking on friends, putting the neighbors bins out etc. Little things have a big impact right now and we can all do with a little help.
So, stay safe, stay kind and as always ask for help when you need it. There are numerous helplines available for a range of reasons through the Australian Government website. Otherwise, stay in touch with friends and family, and do whatever it is you need to do to get through each day.