Loadshedding & Mental Health

Loadshedding is so much more than just an irritation. For many of us, it is something that we have to live with every day. It has become a burden that can have severe negative impacts on our mental health and wellbeing

South Africans have been through a lot over the past few years and the continued loadshedding is making it worse. We have lived with crime and corruption that is completely out of control, a pandemic that wreaked havoc as an invisible threat, an economy that is being brought to its knees and loadshedding that is getting worse and worse. 

All of these have adverse effects on our well-being and mental health but loadshedding is a bigger culprit than we would like to admit. It creates a state of hopelessness and we have no control over it. Feeling hopeless can be one of the most debilitating emotions to deal with.

For some people, there are options to have constant electricity but unfortunately, they are just not affordable or realistic for the vast majority of South Africans. 

If you have a generator, that is at least an option… but petrol isn’t affordable. 

South Africa is one of the best places globally to generate solar power… but it would cost you well in excess of R100,000 just to get started. 

It just feels like all control has been ripped out of your hands. The constantly changing schedules make it completely impossible to plan for work, prepare meals, relax and enjoy a bit of light entertainment. All this uncertainty creates havoc with our mental health.

Although we want to stay strong, want to fight and not let it get to us, it does. 

We want to shed some light on the many ways it affects us all and let you know that you are not alone.

Feeling Defeated

Loadshedding creates a defeatist mindset in a lot of South Africans. This happens when you for example had to cancel an important meeting for the third time now, or when you once again cannot study because there is no power.

You can’t control when it will strike or at what stage level. You just know that it will happen. 

You know that it is constantly lurking, just ready to strike and completely crush all of your plans. 

Not being in control of something this basic, weighs heavily on all of us.


When loadshedding hits it causes instability in your life and daily routine. This is true even if you know when it will hit. 

The speed at which the stages and the schedules change just increases the instability. 

For most people routine helps to encourage stability and creates a feeling of safety and security. A good routine limits the number of “unknowns” in a day, which makes it so much easier to navigate everyday life. 

Loadshedding shatters all of this. The instability breaks routines, resulting in uncertainty and unpredictability. This greatly increases anxiety and depression levels.  

Inconsistent Sleeping Patterns

As your routine is disrupted, you try and adapt on a continuous basis. 

You try to get work done … but because of loadshedding, it sometimes needs to happen in the evenings or early morning hours.

You try to plan cooking times and eat healthy meals … but then everyone has to eat cold food that was made earlier in the day or eat later than usual. 

You try to get in some downtime to just relax a bit … but then you sit in the dark for two or four hours waiting for the electricity to come back on.

This disrupts your sleeping patterns and without regular sleep, there is a whole host of problems that can pop up. It affects both your physical health and your mental health. 

One also impacts the other. If you are more tired, your mental state is worse. If your mental state is worse, your body struggles to cope. 

Safety Concerns

The impact of physical safety concerns that come with loadshedding is often overlooked. Electrical fences and gates stop working. Alarms stop working and it is dark everywhere. 

The combination of these physical crime deterrents being gone along with our crime levels in South Africa leads to a constant sense of dread, uncertainty and fear. 

This greatly increases anxiety levels and your mental health can start to spiral out of control.

Financial Implications

The financial implications are felt both by business owners and workers. 

Business owners lose in a number of ways: 

  • Loss of productivity – machines and workers aren’t able to work and just sit around idly. Workers are still getting paid but very little or no work gets done.
  • Loss of income – they are not able to run their businesses and generate income.

The expenses don’t stop, but the income does.

Workers also suffer in a number of ways: 

  • Hourly wages – workers paid by the hour lose a part of their income.
  • Longer travel time – with traffic lights not working and trains not running, they have to opt for more expensive options and these run slower.

Both businesses and workers suffer further losses as a result of: 

  • Appliances that break with the constant power surges.
  • Food that goes off as it can’t be refrigerated.

Forming Bad Habits

It is already challenging in our frantic lives to form good habits and to maintain them. 

When control is ripped away from us, then it makes it so much more difficult to constantly maintain good habits. 

It becomes more difficult to consistently eat healthily and physically stay fit. The combination of these two leaves us feeling a lot of despair and just hopelessness in general.

When the power is out it might also mean that some of your coping mechanisms get taken away, which can cause your mental health to decline.

Complex Trauma

Complex trauma comes about as a result of being constantly bombarded with traumatic events. This compounds the severity of the trauma and wreaks havoc on so many parts of our daily lives. 

Loadshedding and all of the issues it causes can result in complex trauma

You get beaten up by loadshedding physically, mentally, emotionally and financially… with no end in sight.

Not knowing when and if it will ever end, makes it exceptionally difficult to deal with. 

In Summary: Why Does It Impact Us So Badly? 

We know there are many things that are challenging in life and we make plans to deal with it as best we can. 

There are however some things that we feel we should be able to rely on: 

  • Tomorrow the sun will come up again
  • If I open a tap, there will be water
  • If I flick a light switch, the light will come on

But the constant loadshedding might leave us feeling like we are being let down by the highest authority in our country: the government, or that the utter hopelessness of this is just sometimes too much to bear. We might even feel like it takes away our humanity. It might create panic and cause us to spiral. You might even be thinking that if we can’t even rely on having electricity to run our businesses or live our lives, then what can we rely on?

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