When I conceived the initial idea of a wellbeing and mental health webinar around two months ago, the vaccine programme in Belgium was beginning to finally spring to life and I did wonder whether the concept would actually strike a chord. But in speaking to the CHS (Community Help Service) and AmCham who helped us organise the event, it became clear that the topic of emotional wellbeing was just as relevant now as it has been throughout the darker phases of the pandemic. When we look back to May 2020, the majority of us were getting by on the hope that life would be back to normal in the summer… then by our return to school… then perhaps by Christmas.. or Chinese New Year? So now, even with the vaccine programme rolling out and gaining traction in Belgium, we are still not sure whether life will ever go back to the way it was. Even the most resilient among us are feeling a bit wobbly. For adults, parents, children – for all of us – these are difficult, complex times and our emotional wellbeing is suffering.

Our ‘Staying Sane in the Protracted Pandemic’ event resonated widely and we quickly exceeded and had to extend our original zoom quota of attendees. Natasha Devon’s keynote speech reflected her expertise in teenage mental health. For teenagers, Natasha saw the opportunity to reframe the pandemic – to stop asking “what have we lost?” and ask “what have we gained?”. An interesting perspective for our pioneers of remote learning who will always be the first students to have dealt with such a sudden and dramatic change in their learning environment, learning style, home life and social life. She also reminded the parents among us of the imperative to prioritise our own equilibrium – creating time to relax, switch off from our devices; to exercise – and to sleep. I am sure that everyone took away their own nugget of truth from the evening. For me, it was certainly the message to be more “in the moment” – to be present for my family and to spend less time tuned in to a device. As a start, I am writing this by hand in the garden – devices left indoors – the transfer to the e-version can wait! After supper, we shall head out for a walk. Some time to bring the weekend to a close and start the week refreshed. I wish you all a happy and healthy week – live those moments!

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