By Lauren MacDonald

It has been about 3 months since I started my placement with the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law. The research project I have been working on during my placement focuses on the impacts of the pandemic on the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically the environmental SDGs.

In my last blog, I talked about some of the more practical challenges of working from home, such as coordinating across time zones, communicating virtually with supervisors, and separating work from rest without a physical change of scenery. I feel like I have definitely gotten better at navigating these practical work-from-home challenges over the past three months, but I am still learning to cope with the mental demand of doing research on the effects of the pandemic while cases continue to rise.

The importance of mental health in social impact work is something I think we do not talk about enough. Living through a pandemic is mentally exhausting on its own, but when added to other stress factors such as climate anxiety and professional burnout it can become too much to handle.

I am still learning to set firm work-life boundaries and prioritize my own mental well-being. For me, this can look like turning off my cellphone, taking a break from my computer or getting outside. Talking to friends and co-workers who feel the same has also been helpful for me and of course knowing when to reach out to a mental health professional is important. It can be easy to internalize the pain and disappointments of the world, but it is important to remember that we need to take care of ourselves before we can help others. As social impact professionals, our mental wellness has a direct impact on the wellness of our communities.

On a brighter note, while it can be discouraging to study the devastating effects the pandemic has had on people around the world, I recognize that this research is important and the current state of the world presents opportunities for positive impact on the SDGs and ambitious green recovery plans. For example, through our research we have found that pandemic responses have significantly advanced ambition on SDG 6- Clean Water and Sanitation. In the same sense, the pandemic has really clarified the importance of mental well-being and there is an opportunity for a reset in how we think about mental health supports going forward.

We don’t know what our global or local communities will look like in the near or distant future, but what we can do is be kind to ourselves and each other as we continue to work in a global pandemic, as well as celebrating the successes and embracing the creative solutions that are working.