Life after lockdown – no going back

 

We have all now been in lockdown for over eight weeks. You would be forgiven for thinking that it was eight months or eight years, but a week can feel like a year right now. Along the way we have had to accept many negative adjustments to our lives. However, although you might not believe it, as every minute passes our lives are also actually improving (yes improving!) in many ways. Even better: once we are all out of this crisis, these improvements to our lives cannot be reversed. 

 

Just someone to talk to 

One of our biggest worries as we all entered lockdown on 23rd March was how we were going to keep in touch with family and friends. Yet the phrase ‘keeping in touch’ has it seems over the last month entered our collective vocabulary more than ever. Yes, the oft-quoted digital platforms (Zoom et al) have given us the logistical ways of keeping in touch; but wouldn’t we say that something has also fundamentally changed on a personal level about how we view our communication with others? 

Perhaps for many of us the conversations we are having now with friends and relatives – albeit mainly online – are imbued with a greater depth of feeling. We are learning how precious these relationships are to us, just appreciating having that person there on the other side of the screen. Just someone to talk to without the necessity of having the inside of a nice pub or restaurant as a backdrop. And when we finally get back to those nice pubs and restaurants, we will never forget these heart-felt conversations and they will inform our renewed face-to-face communications. 

 

A new way of looking at work 

Another chief concern was how lockdown was going to affect our working lives. But one of the unforeseen consequences of this crisis has been a chance for many of us to re-evaluate what the concept of work actually means. It seems everything during this current crisis could feasibly be filed under the label ‘work’ from keeping yourself or those around you happy and healthy to keeping your mind occupied by learning a new interest online; or keeping safe by stringently observing social distancing rules to taking up the many volunteering opportunities that have arisen.  

For those of us who are still doing the 9-5, whether it is stacking shelves or compiling spreadsheets, we are all much more aware now how we contribute to the collective culture. Even before anyone anywhere was infected by COVID-19 our key workers were silently keeping our country moving. This crisis has only highlighted what was already evident. Never again in the post-lockdown world, will we walk past a nurse, supermarket worker, road sweeper or policeman, without instinctively knowing in our hearts how they are all keeping everything moving.

 

Exercise as freedom 

Without access to the great outdoors, perhaps many of us were anxious we would become sedentary and, as a result, unfit. However, we have all discovered that we do not have to be Joe Wicks to be interested in how exercise informs our health; and we don’t have to sweat it down the gym to feel physically good – simply getting out for a walk is an achievement these days. After lockdown, the correlation between exercise and freedom; and the idea of a walk, cycle or run as an escape will be hard-wired into our minds.  

By the time everything starts moving again we will also be breathing fresher air. Already in London, air pollution has fallen to the lowest levels since records began in 2000. This will make us feel healthier and less stressed. If many of us continue to work from home more and commute less, this cleaner way of life could feasibly last forever. There’s even talk of rolling out air filters on all London buses. Now that’s something that only a pandemic of this size and reach could ever have achieved.  

 

The re-birth of ‘me time’ 

More than all of this though, perhaps the single biggest improvement in our lives since lockdown was announced has been the chance for us all to just ask ourselves: how am I feeling today? Before lockdown many of us wouldn’t have bothered to ask ourselves such a question. The demands of work or just the unremitting turning of the hands of the clock would have precluded such ‘self-indulgent’ introspection. Well, now for many of us it’s a daily norm.  

Without having to rush off to catch a bus or a train in the morning, we can greet the day with a simple emotional check-in. And with fewer external demands, this can carry on at regular intervals throughout the day. After lockdown, it will be difficult for us to forget this habit. As the demands of life start again, it will be equally difficult to forget how important those little chats with ourselves were.  

As a result, our mental wellbeing will improve and our stress levels will reduce, as we find that even with demands coming at us from all angles, we can find a little time for ourselves. After all, in such an uncertain world, we deserve at least this.