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Coming Out of the World's Longest COVID Lockdown

The Ontario Lockdown – the End of an Era?

Ontarians reflect on life after a 14-month lockdown

Ontarians are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as the province unveiled its reopening plan to start this month. This has got many people starting to remember what their lives were like pre-pandemic, and in many cases wondering if they ever will be able to go back to things how they used to. But as it doesn’t seem that there will be a hard reset back to February 2020, it looks like they won’t have to!

Parts of Ontario have been under one of the world’s longest lockdowns, becoming a joke of sorts on multiple social media platforms. And after over a year of social and physical restrictions, many are taking stock of the last year, how things have changed for them and what changes they expect to make once they are set loose in the “real world” (vs the “reel world” of zoom meetings).

Ontarians reflect on life after a 14-month COVID lockdown, an editorial by Brilliant-Online
Ontarians reflect on life after a 14-month COVID lockdown

The impact of the pandemic has been different on women and men, as a study by the Cleveland Clinic shows. According to the research, 77 percent of men report their stress level has increased as a result of COVID-19, 59% of men have felt isolated during the pandemic and nearly half (45%) of men say their emotional/mental health has worsened during the pandemic. Three-in-five men (59%) feel COVID-19 has had a greater negative impact on their mental health than the 2008 recession.

Brilliant-Online spoke to two men in Ontario and asked them for a self-assessment of the impact COVID-19 has had on their mental health, the changes they’re planning to keep and the ones to ditch once the province opens up again.

Darren Bardsley, Senior Graphic Designer

Darren Bardsley, Senior Graphic Designer featured on Brilliant-Online
Darren Bardsley, Senior Graphic Designer

When the stay-at-home order was issued, Darren had to juggle work, housework, AND the online schooling of his two young children alone for a large part of the day, while his partner, an essential worker, had to go into work. And you guessed it, “Yes, most definitely, my stress levels have increased significantly. I feel more tired physically and mentally, and less motivated. Despite this, I have not started drinking, smoking or doing drugs to manage my stress which I am happy about.”

“A source of much frustration is having to work from home because the schools have been shut. All other activities are relatively unaffected.” But what were the counter measures he took (it has after all, as stated earlier, been 14 months!). “I am trying to go to bed earlier, to get better sleep and I take high doses of vitamins B12 and vitamin C and D. I have also made sure to make time for my hobbies, such as reading and playing the guitar, as they help with stress relief.”

And there are positives to take away from this ordeal. “I think I have become more aware of my stress levels and how to manage that stress in a healthy way. I also find myself being more comfortable talking to friends and family about how I'm feeling. I think it is really important to communicate.”

Arsalan Rashid, AVP, Capital Markets Operations

Arsalan Rashid, AVP, Capital Markets Operations featured on Brilliant-Online
Arsalan Rashid, AVP, Capital Markets Operations

Having just made a major career move in March 2020, the shift to work from home two weeks into a new job was yet another significant change for Arsalan. “The biggest change has been a by-product of working from home,” he reflects. “I was spending 2 hours a day on commute which I do not have to now, and that has brought a lot more flexibility to my morning and evenings.”

The lockdown lifestyle has been a mixed bag of emotions for Arsalan. “On one hand I am spending a lot more time with my kids, family and completing the long pending house projects. On the other hand, working remotely has some inherent downsides like the inability to build social capital through casual encounters, not being able to crowd around a computer to solve an issue and most importantly not having a mental separation between work and personal time. All of this adds to the daily anxiety.”

“Physically, the detrimental impact from the lack of passive movement that came from going to the office and the additional time spent sitting in front of the computer was quite immediate to notice. I have made it a point to add a workout routine during my lunch hour. This is giving me a built-in break from the “office” chair physically and helps me recharge for the rest of the day. I also schedule an activity at the end of the workday to help mentally transition into “home mode”.

So, what are the plans for when he starts going back into the office? “The additional time at home has done wonders in putting into perspective what is truly important to me, and what is not (some of my house projects were not nearly as dear to me as I had imagined them to be during the long working hours pre-COVID). I have loved being heavily involved in my children’s life over the last year and I aim to maintain this level of engagement. I have also noted the importance mid-day workout break in staying healthy and maintaining a high level of focus through out the day, this is also something I hope to make into a lifelong habit.”

With 71% of the participants in the Cleveland Clinic study still optimistic about the future as the world continues to battle COVID-19, it looks like Darren and Arsalan are in good company as they join their peers in the outside world.

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