Last May, experts at the United Nations warned that a mental health crisis could be looming due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The research, published in Economics & Human Biology, suggested that stay-at-home orders issued to slow the spread of the virus do negatively impact our mental health, resulting in post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion, and anger.
Indeed, as the hours lose their edges and the days start to blend together, we may find ourselves looking for new ways to pass the time during quarantine. And although there is more than plenty on Netflix to watch in an attempt to pass the time, sometimes you find yourself looking for a break from the screens.
However, for some women, the question of what to do with the extra time wasn’t hard, as they decided that staying in was the perfect opportunity to take control of their homes. Salma El-Baroudy is one example. The 35-year-old lawyer has been fascinated with DIYs (do it yourself) projects and handcrafts since she was four. But it wasn’t until April 2020 that she decided to do something more with her hobby.
“I posted pictures of a project I did during the lockdown, [which was] renovating an old closet,” El-Baroudy explained. “And within 24 hours, my inbox was overflowing with messages and questions on how to do it.” She added. Her post was flooded with 339 comments and nearly 2000 likes, all complimenting her on her DIY project.
After being inundated with all those comments and messages, and with her best friend and partner in crime Dina Akl nagging her to do something about it, the two women created the group ‘Suki fel workshop’ or Suki in the workshop, Suki is El-Baroudy’s nickname.
Shaking up a male-dominated industry, the group teaches women how to practically do everything concerning home maintenance and renovations, from up-cycling an old piece of furniture and revamping the kitchen cabinets, to how to repaint your walls and even floors.
“I was pleasantly surprised, and still am, with the huge number of women who wanted to learn how to do and repair things around the house on their own. We all know how secretive handymen are, each in their own trades. So, we provided a solution,” El-Baroudy said.
Renovating and furnishing your dream home is likely to be an expansive affair, but El-Baroudy shows women how to do it all themselves. “When you have been living in the same house for years, it is easy to get bored of the wall colors and tired furniture,” said Yasmine El-Sherif, an HR manger in a private company. But rather than investing in some new pieces of furniture, El-Sherif decided to take matters into her own hands with the help of the instructions and information the group provided.
“Never in a million years would I have thought that one day I will be able to say I repainted my son’s room’s walls and furniture myself,” she explained.
“I am extremely proud of all those women who have the will to do all these beautiful projects on their own. I am also always amazed with every project I see on the group no matter how small it is,” El-Baroudy added.
El-Baroudy opted to keep the group for women only “because, unlike women, it’s easier for men in our community to get the information they need on certain house projects from handymen or workshops,” she said.
Moreover, “usually, when a woman asks a question related to home repairs or DIY projects in a mixed group, the responses from men [usually include] either bullying or harassment,” She said. “And that was a big motive for us women to help each other for nothing in return but love,” she added.
“Working with your hands is good for your brain, it is not just your physical body that gets a boost when you work with your hands. Woodworking, painting, beading, polishing, anything that involves putting your own two hands to work will, most certainly, benefit your mental health,” explained therapist Sherine Abdel-Khalik.
Manual labour reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and many other health conditions. “But most importantly, it releases endorphins, which helps us feel better. An extra shot of endorphins feels like a natural high. Therefore, it’s crucial to incorporate a balanced amount of manual labour in your life,” she added.
Another example of women spending their time differently during the pandemic is Dina El-Shorbagy, creator of the group ‘Dorganize’. When El-Shorbagy had to relocate from a big house to a smaller one, she was faced with a lot of challenges, like how to create small storage places to fit all her family’s stuff and how to keep everything neat and organised. El-Shorbagy, who was obsessed with organisation since she was a young girl, was successful and she decided to share her experience and solutions with other women in need of help
So, she created the group Dorganize, which is now the biggest women only group dedicated to organisation, cleaning, and renovating tips and how-tos. And to her own surprise, the group grow to have over 211,000 women.
“I had no idea so many women were interested in organisation like me, but I was pleasantly surprised,” she said. But as the group grew, El-Shorbagy’s responsibilities did as well. “So, I started researching, reading, and taking courses to expand my knowledge so that I would be able to help all those women more and more,” she explained.
The group, which grew bigger and bigger during quarantine, was able to spread hope and positivity among many women. “Having to stay at home for long periods of time can build up anxiety and restlessness, which in turn leads to irritability and getting upset over seemingly minor things,” said Abdel-Khalik.
However, “if you spend your time doing something with your own hands, you won’t have that problem,” she added. “Whenever I was tired, upset or stressed, I would empty my dresser’s drawer or shelves and reorganise them. Seeing the small transformation would immediately lift up my spirits and give me the energy I was lacking,” explained El-Shorbagy.
“I thought it was only me who felt this was about organisation, but as I studied and researched, I discovered that organisation and having everything in its place is closely related to our mental well being and positivity,” she added. And indeed, that is true. “We all have different personalities and traits and would react differently to the same situation,” said El-Shorbagy.
However, when it comes to living in a clean and well-organised space, the effect is the same on all of us: happiness, mental stability, and positivity.