As Western Australia begins to ease its Covid-19 restrictions, some young people are anxious about a return to normality, while others are eager to get back to their routines.
A break for a busy generation
Social researcher Claire Madden, who’s based in Sydney, says isolation has allowed many young people to slow down and escape incessant ‘FOMO’ or fear of missing out.
“It’s shown us that there is this different way of living and that there’s a simpler life that isn’t a constant rat race, and also that FOMO-fed lifestyle where we’re running from one thing to another and not slowing down long enough to realise what we’ve got,” she says.
Ms Madden says she can understand young people might feel anxious about returning to the stressful lives they led before isolation, and she is hopeful this will be a chance for young people to reevaluate the way they live.
“I’m optimistic that this season will cause us to reflect on what really matters in life … and hopefully younger generations will carry this on from this season,” Ms Madden says.
University student Ellecha Thorp says isolation has allowed her to take a welcome break from her busy lifestyle, and she wants to continue to live at a slower pace after restrictions are lifted.
She says she is very lucky to be isolating in safety at her family home, where she can complete her university course at her own pace, go for walks on the beach, write letters to friends, and spend quality time with family.
“Normally I’d be volunteering at different schools, going to the gym, just being out for most of the day. Now some of that volunteering can be done online and I’m not out as much, I’m spending much more time at home which is really nice.”
Ms Thorp says she looks forward to some restrictions being lifted—she is excited to go the gym again, for example—but she will miss the extra time for reflection and self care that isolation offers her.
“[When restrictions are lifted] I would definitely like to be more mindful and conscious of time spent at home, instead of rushing about from one place to another all the time,” she says.
CEO of the not-for-profit mindfulness program Smiling Mind, Dr Addie Wootten, says while isolation is definitely a stressful time for many, it does provide opportunities to build mindful practices which can continue after isolation is over.
“[In isolation] there’s a little bit more time, potentially, and also an inclination to look after ourselves and build up practices and routines that are supportive of well being.”
However for some young people, particularly those with mental illness, isolation is stressful, and the lifting of restrictions will mean a return to important routines and coping mechanisms.
Lifting restrictions to accessibility
Curtin University Guild Accessibility Officer Dylan Botica lives with ADHD, and he says isolation has been disastrous for him and many students.
“Personally it’s been pretty poor … I guess part of me was like ‘oh this might be a good opportunity just to focus’, but pretty much I’ve been doing less work because I’ve lost my routine.”
Mr Botica says many students will benefit when restrictions are lifted because they can go back to healthy socialising and other important routines.
He also says this period is teaching us important lessons about accessibility, as we adopt more flexible practices for students.
“Do we really need all labs to be compulsory? Do all these in-class things have to be compulsory … because not everyone can go to those things,” Mr Botica says.
Student Ally Liddle has anxiety and depression, and she feels uncertain about a return to normality because isolation has had both pros and cons for her mental health.
She says it is tough to adjust to such rapid change but there are some elements of her life which have become a little easier in isolation like being able to see her psychologist online.
“Some days I can’t get out of bed to see my psychologist, so being able to do that from my study is great, but also I can’t do that all the time because I’ve got room-mates around.”
Ms Liddle says the push for people to take care of themselves in isolation isn’t necessarily helpful for people with mental illnesses.
“People telling me I’m allowed to slow down doesn’t help me, because my brain is wired this way,” she says.
However, Ms Liddle says the newfound accessibility of socialising and working online is a good thing, and she hopes it continues after restrictions are lifted.