If anybody asked in 2015, ‘where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’, I doubt anyone would have predicted covid-19 and how this year has unfolded! It has been an extraordinary year on so many levels and on such a global scale, so much so we have all been affected in one way or another.
It has been a massive roller coaster for us all, from the uncertainty and fear at the beginning to the lockdown which was a truly unprecedented once in a lifetime event.
Now we are slowly getting back to the ‘new normal’, ask yourself what have I learned over the past six months? Have you had any ‘oh my God!’ revelations or have you changed the way you see things as a result of covid-19?
As I was shielding for four months this year, I was unable to leave my house from 18th March to Mid-June and from then to 31st July I was allowed outside to walk, but that was it. It was extremely tough, mentally, not being able to work, losing my sense of purpose and feeling anxious and fearful about getting covid-19 due to the fact that I am in the highest risk category due to a kidney transplant. There were some really dark days, but there were so many great moments too, and so many ‘a-ha’ moments of clarity where I learned some valuable life lessons.
I am going to be going through 10 things I have learned over the last six months and would love to hear about what you have learned too.
1. We are all fearful and we all react differently to fear and this is OK
How did you react at the start of the pandemic? Did you panic buy toilet rolls? Did you cry a lot? Did you judge other people about how they reacted? Did you spend sleepless nights worrying about catching covid- 19 or family members dying of covid-19? Did you rant about the government decisions?
The truth is that we were all fearful, the pandemic was a once in a lifetime occurrence, bringing about massive changes to how we live our lives as well as uncertainty regarding the future. Ultimately, we all respond to fear differently. I for one judged so many people for so many things at the start of lockdown and I feel bad about this now. I have slowly come to realise that everyone is fearful and responding to the situation in a way which may not be how we would act, but they are doing what they think is best for them, given the situation. The ‘be kind’ saying has never been more important and it’s something we all need to remember.
2. We must never take things for granted again – Be grateful always!
Going out for a coffee, being able to pop to the shop to get a few bits, going for a walk, visiting family, hugging loved ones, going to the gym, going out for lunch……All things I did without any acknowledgement prior to covid-19. Not being able to do these basic things for a long period of time has really made me more grateful for all of them. I am so much more grateful now for the smaller things in life and I imagine that most other people are too.
3. The importance of connection
Connection is so important! I would have been lost without all the zoom calls with friends and family from the past few months. Speaking face to face online rather than via messenger was one of the highlights of lockdown for me. Having weekly chats with my three oldest girlfriends form school, and regular quizzes with friends and family as well really helped to get me through it.
Whilst we have not seen loved ones face to face during this time, staying connected has been a godsend. I will definitely cherish family time and meeting friends so much more now in the future because of this time apart.
4. The power of community
I am so grateful to Barns Green Cobra for their help and support over the past few months whilst shielding. The Barns Green community really stepped up and I never realised before how much community matters as we do tend to keep ourselves to ourselves overall. We were swapping jigsaws with neighbours, we were helping neighbours out by adding some shopping to our delivery slot for them, I was messaging lots of people to check they were OK and also I received a lot of messages from kind friends and neighbours asking if we needed anything as we were shielding.
It makes my heart sing to see how we all came together and I am extremely grateful to those who reached out over the time.
5. Resilience is a superpower! The importance of mindset and ‘bouncebackability’
I appreciate that this isn’t the case for everyone, especially if you have diagnosed depression, but, after a period of feeling low, anxious and pretty stressed about everything I was able to pick myself up and ‘put on my positive pants’ through shifting my mindset and being more aware of my thought patterns. I found myself catastrophising a lot and for me it was a case of recognising and reframing the thought.
I used positive mantras, read books about resilience and did a lot of oracle card work to get my head in a better place than it was before. One big thing was to get rid of things that triggered me, so I unfollowed unhelpful social media accounts, I switched off all my notifications on Facebook and I stopped watching the news religiously.
You can change your thoughts! You can bounce back if you are feeling low and you can and you will get through this! I do feel that the phrase ‘keep positive’ can be unhelpful as it can be very hard to think positive when we are surrounded with so much negativity but a positive mindset really can help to create a more positive life.
6. We are all doing the best we can and it’s OK not to have all the answers
I read the book ‘Rising Strong’ by Brene Brown and from this I had the epiphany that we are all doing the best we can at the current time, giving the current circumstances.
Whether we turned to gin (hands up if this is you- this was definitely me at first!). Or were you baking lots of cakes and eating said cakes, or were you panic buying in bulk, or did you end up ranting on Facebook out of sheer frustration or were you really feeling negative and having a pity party for yourself and wallowing in the doom and gloom of the situation… ? It is all valid, as I said we were all doing our best during these unprecedented times, so we really need to treat ourselves and others with kindness and to stop any judgement.
I feel that I maybe wasn’t as empathic as I could have been early down in lockdown which I was really surprised about, but again, this was just a fear-based response. We are all different, we all had our own individual struggles and responses to these struggles during the time and we need to acknowledge this.
7. You don’t have to be productive all the time!
I said I would learn Italian over the duration of lockdown and I got as far as the numbers and that was it! And yes, I felt very guilty about this! I also lost all motivation for my business and didn’t paint the doors like I had planned to do! So many things not done but now I do not feel guilty about being unproductive during this time. ‘Busyness’ is often seen as a badge of honour and it really shouldn’t be. It’s OK not to be productive all the time.
What did you say you would do but didn’t get around to doing? Whatever it is let it go! It doesn’t matter, move forward!
8. The importance of physical health
Seeing the devastating impact covid-19 has had on people’s lives, it has been impossible not to worry about the physical impacts that catching covid-19 can cause and it has really made me take a step back and review my current health, especially being in the ‘extremely vulnerable‘ category having had a kidney transplant.
I have taken the time to learn a lot more about nutrition and to ensure that I am eating a nourishing balanced diet to optimise my health. This is an ongoing process and I am aiming for an 80%-20% approach and just being more mindful about health choices. Also ,I have always been active, but I have done over 125 HIIT, strength and yoga classes during lockdown to ensure that my cardiovascular health is as good as it can be for the future.
I believe that we all need to take responsibility now for our physical future health and to focus on nourishing your body and to treat it with kindness and the respect that it deserves.
9. The importance of mental Health and to raise awareness about mental health issues
So many of us experienced mental health issues of some kind or other during lockdown. Every single person I have spoken to has struggled in some way or another. There is so much stigma attached to having a mental health issue and this is dangerous as it means that people are reluctant to talk and discuss their issues. As the charity Mind have said, we are now in a mental health emergency as a nation and this needs to be acted on.
We really need to talk more about mental health issues. The waiting lists for mental health services in the NHS is getting longer and longer so I really feel that we need to check on each other and help each other where we can. We need to be there for each other and treat mental health issues with compassion and kindness.
So, I want you to know that if you need to chat, I want you to be able to feel that you can reach out to me. I am not a trained counsellor, but I have a good listening ear. Please message me if you need to talk about anything or you could contact Mind or speak to your GP. We are in this together and we will get through this.
10. The importance of self-care
I know I keep talking about self-care in my blogs but these past few months have made me realise even more how important it is to focus on this! At the start of lockdown even though I had all the time in the world I spent hardly any time at all doing things I really enjoy doing and found myself to be ‘stuck in a rut’.
See my previous blog on self-care for ideas on what self-care activities you can engage in and why it is so important. The take-home for me form living through this pandemic is the importance of taking time out to do ‘whatever makes your heart sing’. For me that was reading, bullet journaling, putting on a face mask, watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race (which is my guilty secret I love to watch it!- Can I get an A-men?) and listening to music.
Self-care is more important than ever and it is up to us to take action on this. It is our individual responsibility to create time to do things that we enjoy.
So, that was my list! We all have had our own individual experiences during the covid-19 pandemic so we will all have had learned different things about ourselves given our own personal situations. I would love hear about what you have learned over the past six months!
No matter what the future holds, we’ve got this, and we will come out of this pandemic stronger, wiser and hopefully more compassionate as well.
Sending virtual hugs to you all.
See you next month, take care x