We have spent the last six weeks in a kind of hibernation. Cocooned from the wider world. Our days have slowed right down. Time has begun to mean something different. Instead of rushing through our morning routines, doing school drop offs, spending eight hours in an office and squeezing in gym sessions or evening catch ups before making our way home for the night, we have been confined to our houses. Leisurely smoothie breakfasts before Zoom calls, hanging out the washing between checking in with colleagues online, brushing up on TikTok dance routines and laughing at the latest work-from-home memes – our lives have slowed right down. Check ins with friends via Facetime has never felt more natural while makeup, clean hair and shoes have never felt more irrelevant.
We have had time to breathe. To get outside (backyards count!). To discover, and rediscover, the joy in the small things. Things we would have overlooked prior to this pandemic. In a lot of ways this period has been a reality check. It’s forced us to stop taking our lives and our daily freedoms, for granted.
But what now? What happens as we start to have the Covid restrictions lifted?
If you’re anything like me, while you’ve enjoyed the slower pace of lockdown, you’ve also been looking forward to some of the barriers being raised. Looking forward to seeing family and friends again, to eating at your favourite restaurants and the kids heading back to school. So, why then, has the softening of the lockdown rules left me with a growing feeling of unease? Why am I suddenly experiencing a sense of trepidation when thinking about returning to ‘normal life’?
Well, that’s just it - the idea of our ‘normal life’: its changed.
The life we knew and were used to living prior to Covid 19, is no longer our ‘normal’. We have adjusted, adapted, and settled into this new, slower, more insular way of living. We have even come to accept the uncertainty of our day to day, because we’ve felt the support of our more structured and restricted lifestyle. And the idea of giving this up now is scary – especially when we don’t know what the future is going to look like. We don’t yet know the extent of how the knock-on effects of this pandemic will affect each of us. Some of it has been obvious – trips cancelled, deadlines being missed, study put on hold or extended – but what about the daily changes to how we will work, socialise and go about our business? Coming out of lockdown means having to make new adjustments and accept even more change - despite having only just acclimatised to the current situation.
Returning to the office and a 9-to-5 workday, attending exercise classes…heck, just being surrounded by people again – it’s daunting. We’ve spent the last two months intentionally distancing ourselves from others, and it feels somewhat wrong to go back on this. For those of us who’ve spent day-in-and-day-out with our kids, partners, parents or flat mates – you may even experience forms of separation anxiety. How will you get through the day without your trusty sidekick? No more impromptu lunchtime Masterchef challenges with your other half? Impossible.
These shifts, however small (and silly) they may seem, have an impact. In my last post I emphasized the importance of self-compassion and self-love during this pandemic, and I’m going to do so again. As humans we shy away from change. It’s part of our make up to experience stress and anxiety when faced with life shifts. So, when thinking about what the next few weeks will hold for yourself and your family, if your breath becomes shallow, your chest feels tight, your thoughts start racing and sleep completely eludes you – know that you’re not alone. Sit with these feelings of unease. Acknowledge them. Meet them with love and kindness. Breathe.
Just as we have adapted to our lives in lockdown, so too will we re-adjust to being back out in the world. It will take some time, and it won’t always be easy or feel fair, but we will get there.
It will be ‘normal’ again soon.