Life after lockdown – not going back
It is now over fifteen months since the first nationwide lockdown; and we have all had to accept many negative adjustments to our lives. But the end of social restrictions is in sight, and although we may not quite believe it, over the past year our lives have also actually improved (yes improved!) 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 in March 2020 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 year 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 had with friends and relatives during lockdown – albeit mainly online – were imbued with a greater depth of feeling. We learnt how precious these relationships were 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 now, when we finally get a chance to go back to these nice pubs and restaurants, we will never forget those heart-felt conversations and they can inform our renewed face-to-face communications.
A new way of looking at work
Another chief concern was how this crisis was going to affect our working lives. But one of the unforeseen consequences has been a chance for many of us to re-evaluate what the concept of work actually means. It seems everything during lockdown could have feasibly been filed under the label ‘work’ from keeping ourselves or those around us happy and healthy to keeping our minds 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 were still doing the 9-5 during lockdown, whether that 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. 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.
The re-birth of ‘me time’
More than all of this though, perhaps the single biggest improvement in our lives has been the chance for us all to just ask ourselves: how am I feeling today? Before lockdown was first announced 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.
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.