AB Thinks  →  21st May 2020

The power of kindness

I have always been a worrier. I remember just after my GCSE drama performance, my teacher at the time telling me, “I’ve never met someone who worries so much”. I’ve always found it tough to keep level-headed, to not let my mind wander and this led to an anxious and tumultuous early adulthood.

Life’s had its ups and downs – one of those big downs resulted in taking two weeks off work in 2017 and moving back to my parents’ house. The big ups being the recovery I’ve made since then. It’s not an easy thing to talk about but it’s something I feel there should be more awareness of.

As a self-confessed ‘worrier’, the situation we now find ourselves in isn’t easy. Not knowing what the next month, week, or even day will bring is understandably unsettling and it’s clear I’m not alone with that sense of unease.

Half of the British population felt anxious about the Covid-19 lockdown according to research and there is increasing concern for people’s mental health as we move into the ‘new normal’ phase or ‘post-lockdown anxiety’.

It’s not hard to see why. Fear of being out of control and unable to tolerate uncertainty are common characteristics of many anxiety disorders, so it’s little wonder we’re all feeling lost and frightened.

When I realised this week was Mental Health Awareness Week, I felt compelled to do something about it. I’ve been one of the lucky ones over the past 2 months who has managed to keep sane and well using the tools I’ve had in place for years – exercise, meditation and getting enough sleep being three things that are part of my weekly routine. But believe me, it’s not been easy and some days are worse than others.

I was also inspired by this year’s theme of ‘kindness’. It’s an underrated quality and one that, in the pre-COVID-19 world, was often pushed aside. Smiling at someone on the Tube, having a conversation with the assistant at your Sainsbury’s Local, talking to your neighbour – all things I wouldn’t have considered doing as I rushed around London. Things that now mean so much.

My favourite part of the week is Thursday night at 8pm, the Clap for our Key Workers. I remember the overwhelming sense of pride that first week, walking out to the pavement and hearing the hundreds of people doing the same. The simple act of clapping your hands has become a symbol of appreciation and pride in our NHS and the key workers who are getting us through these dark times.

And what I’ve loved most is how it has brought people together. How it’s unified us in one act of utter appreciation and ‘kindness’.

I’ve also noticed more acts of kindness daily; I now actively ask how the day’s been for the assistant behind the cash till and thank them for being there. And the best bit? I’ve seen other people do the same.

So, this week, think about those random acts of kindness. A socially distanced chat with an elderly neighbour, a thank you, a smile. Times are tough, anxiety is high, people are afraid, but we can get through this and, quite simply, kindness is the easiest way to do it.