Adapting to level 4 regulations and watching out for our mental health

Each morning, the streets are packed with joggers and cyclists taking advantage of the exercise window. 13 May 2020. (Photo: Sandisiwe Shoba)

South Africa went into a 21-day lockdown on Friday 27 March in the hope of blocking the spread of Covid-19. The lockdown was extended for two weeks, then Level 4 kicked in a week ago. These reflections are part of a series by Young Maverick writers monitoring stay-at-home life in various neighbourhoods.

See  Pre-Lockdown Reflections here; Day 1 here; Day 7;  Day 14; Day 21 and Day 28 here, day 35 here, and day 42 here.

Running with a mask is less than desirable

Rondebosch, Cape Town: The streets are packed each morning with joggers and cyclists taking advantage of the exercise window from 6-9am. I’ve decided to walk instead, as the idea of running with a mask hampering my breathing is less than desirable. But, it’s quite comical watching people fiddle angrily with their buffs while trying to track their Discovery points. 

A few people sneak out in their pyjamas to grab a barista-made coffee from the nearby Vida E cafe at the Shell petrol station. It’s normally groups of teenagers from the neighbourhood. Elderly couples hobble down the pavement, greeting every Tom, Dick and Sipho they pass (yes, Sipho too), while yummy mummies and daddies push strollers or walk their pedigree pets. 

Some of the informal traders have returned. Across the road from a neighbourhood park, a fruit and vegetable stand attracts quite a few customers. They’re normally set-up by around 8am and curious joggers stop to see or purchase what’s on offer. A nearby intersection used to be where a group of Zimbabwean men sold beaded art. I haven’t seen them since the lockdown began and can only hope that they are okay. 

It’s interesting to see how local businesses have adapted to the regulations. A local cafe has transformed into a small grocery shop, selling essential items and, of course, coffee. Meanwhile, hairdressers and most corner shops are deserted. It’s a visual representation of a family losing income and a business owner who has poured blood, sweat and tears into their enterprise, losing it all in an instant.  

As many have pointed out before, there are far too many people out and about during the exercise window. It’s almost impossible to maintain physical distancing, even when walking down side streets. There is, of course, the added risk of getting mugged as opportunists try their luck. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday, 13 May that there would soon be reduced restrictions on exercise. Hopefully, this means a longer period, or more time slots. – By Sandisiwe Shoba


I hope politicians put as much effort into SA post-Covid-19 

Watching a fatigued and out of breath Cyril Ramaphosa address the nation last night, I couldn’t help but empathise with the task with which he is faced as the president of the country during this unprecedented period. (Photo: Yanga Sibembe)

Johannesburg South, Gauteng: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

It was this quote from Harper Lee’s acclaimed novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, that taught me the power of empathy versus sympathy. I try to apply it wherever I can, although, for the sake of subjectivity in this job – I usually have to detach myself from a situation and be neutral.

However, last night, while listening to Ramaphosa speak, I couldn’t help but empathise with him. As he spoke, in his attempts to be animated, you could see that he was severely fatigued, physically and mentally. 

In fact, almost every time I’ve watched these lockdown briefings, I’ve noted how the enthusiasm of ministers has deteriorated (bar the evergreen Fikile Mbalula). Week by week they become more and more zombified. And at times, I can’t help putting myself in their skins and walking around in them. 

Of course, we know the old adage of not praising a fish for swimming, or indeed a postman for delivering letters. It is their job to do this, they were elected and they accepted the responsibility. Not forgetting that they get handsomely rewarded for it, financially and otherwise. Some might even argue that some of our leaders are finally earning their keep.

They are still human though, and not machines. Ramaphosa did point this out during his address on Wednesday night, saying that at times the ministers had communicated the regulations poorly and unclearly – resulting in confusion. 

Indeed, they have made some mistakes. Including implementing some regulations which have boggled the mind in their rationality. But then again, they are human, just like you and I, in these unprecedented times. And if we cut them with a blade, they will bleed just like you and I. Although, granted, they may seek medical help in Russia or Switzerland for their cuts.

The fact remains that during this crisis, they have tried their best – even if they have been carried away at times. My only hope is that post this Covid-19 era, they will put as much effort into the continued growth of the country as they have during this lockdown. 

But then again, I put myself in their skin and realise that is a distant dream. A proper dose of wishful thinking on my part. – By Yanga Sibembe


Friends replied with sad face and sleeping emojis

“I never thought I would see the day that I would get annoyed with Social Media.” (Photo: Chanel Retief)

West Rand, Gauteng: I attended a webinar last week on business and the mind, and how this global pandemic can and will have an impact on mental health

It has dawned on me that some points that were made at the webinar have taken real effect, especially this week. 

Dr Colinda Linde, a clinical psychologist, pointed out how journalists need to be mindful of their mental health, especially during this global pandemic.  The exact words she used were: “There is this non-stop trauma that journalists are exposed to first-hand and this is leading to secondary trauma and then it becomes compassion fatigue.” Dr Linde has said: “With compassion fatigue, there is exhaustion and then there’s a cynical attitude that comes and then just a numbness. You then end up questioning am I doing the right thing, these are factors in compassion fatigue.”

I became emotional when she said this, and I couldn’t tell you why because at the time, I think I was just fixated on getting the story published. I ruled out my feelings as exhaustion.  

But then, this week, I spoke to some of my closest friends who work at other publications and media houses to find out how they were coping with being a “remote journalist”. They replied with sad face emojis, angry face emojis and sleeping emojis. 

Then longer responses followed afterwards where they described feeling tired, anxious and stressed out most of the time. They added that this was such an unconventional time that they didn’t know if they were “doing journalism correctly”.  

It also brought up the topic around how personal expectations are getting the best of us in comparison to what your business could expect from you. 

For instance, no one has said to me that I have to work harder and longer hours during this lockdown, but for some reason, I have allowed myself to think that this is expected of me.

This can sometimes just lead to you feeling like you are losing your mind. 

It also doesn’t help that when you open any form of social media these days, all that pops up is Covid-19 content, and to me, it sits there like a constant reminder that this is news and you need to be on top of your game right now. 

Furthermore, what came up with my friends is that you could work a whole day and sometimes, it feels like you did absolutely nothing. This doesn’t make anyone feel better at all. 

But then sometimes in a day of working from home, I don’t take regular breaks and just work right through to the point where my mom had to instil a “take a break every 2-3 hours in between work” at home.

However, with that being said, it was a week after that webinar and speaking to my friends, and even my mom that I realised that before the pandemic, I didn’t take my mental health seriously. Now that there is a pandemic and I am forced to work from home (my safe space), I need to find a way to centre my thoughts so that work does not get the better of me and my mind. 

The best advice I have gotten thus far is to be “kind to myself” and I think that even though it feels like work has piled on, this is the best time for me to practice kindness. I should probably start with following my mom’s “take a break in between work” rule. — By Chanel Retief

I miss being in church for praise and worship

“I miss being in a room with other people during praise and worship”. (Photo: Karabo Mafolo)

Mowbray, Cape Town: It’s been almost two months since I went to church and surprisingly, I miss being in church. I don’t often go to church, but when I do it’s mostly for the music. I miss being in a room with other people during praise and worship – it’s a small ritual I looked forward to. 

Last Friday, I attended a Zoom church service at my friend’s church. It felt strange having church this way. 

It’s difficult to replicate the feeling of being in the presence of other people during church, seeing familiar faces after church and discussing the sermon, passing the offering basket or hearing other people pray during the praise and worship.

I guess I’ll just have to get used to having church without these small things I took for granted. – By Karabo Mafolo


"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted