I never in a million years thought that I would be living through a pandemic, it’s something you only see in movies isn’t it?
But here we are.
As we watch other nations slowly emerging from their lockdowns, we in UK are in our seventh week and await news from our government as to what the next steps will be.
It’s been a period of turmoil and ups and downs.
When we first disappeared into lockdown I couldn’t keep my emotions in check. I would find myself bursting into tears throughout the day, anxiety threatening to overwhelm me.
We had just returned from a fabulous month long trip to Australia and Cambodia and when I arrived home things just turned upside down.
I had been back at work two days when we were told we were to go home and start working from there. I hadn’t seen any of my family since before leaving on our trip and I felt quite overwhelmed and frightened by the whole situation.
Add work stress into that and I became a bit of a gibbering wreck for a little while!
However, as the weeks passed and we all seemed to settle into our new normal, the tears dried up somewhat and my anxiety lessened.
It helped so much that I have been able to talk to my mum everyday and know that she is doing ok. She has had a few ups and downs as well, but she is one strong lady and she has taken most of this in her stride, helping out her neighbours with shopping and getting on with things around the house. I keep asking if she is bored as she is living on her own, but the answer is always no!
If I have half the strength that she has exhibited throughout her life I will be a happy lady!
As the weeks have rolled into one, I’ve found myself almost enjoying this period of isolation (ssshhh, don’t tell anyone! Am I allowed to admit this??). Whilst my world has shrunk dramatically to my flat and my local park, the world has also slowed down to a snail’s pace.
I am working from home full-time so my working week is still pretty much the same. Being a newbie to WFH it has been quite a learning curve, but after the initial trials of getting everything set up remotely, I’ve found a rhythm and have glimpsed a different way of life which is very appealing!
In fact it’s been a bit of a revelation! From small things like being able to put a load of washing on when I want, to bigger changes of not having to commute have made a world of difference. I have that little bit of extra time at the beginning and end of each day to play with….a bit of breathing space…
Also with the weekends a blank canvas which can’t currently be filled with the socialising, shopping and general chores of the ‘old days’, I have found the space to finally do other activities I would never normally get around to. Like getting out and walking everyday for an hour or so, whilst listening to audiobooks (I am very thankful we’ve been able to get outside at all!).
And baking! We are currently working our way through a chocolate fudge cake I threw together last weekend!
I have resisted the urge to get online and spend money – but on visiting the supermarket yesterday, I found myself looking at all of the produce and thinking, oooh do I need this, or do I need that? I didn’t and I don’t, but being back in a shopping environment bought out that urge to buy, buy, buy…something I haven’t missed a bit by not going into shops!
And FOMO, where has that gone? Everyone is in the same boat so I’m not comparing myself to others (a sure fire path to anxiety!), worrying that I’m not doing enough, not filling my time productively. I’m doing more of what makes me happy on a day to day basis.
Not having to commute also means that I am generally getting more sleep – albeit accompanied with very weird and vivid dreams! Is anyone else experiencing this?? But it is making a difference to my mental health.
The stress and anxiety has eased, it hasn’t gone away completely. I mean living through a pandemic brings along it’s own anxieties, right? And thinking about when I might be able to hug my mum again is guaranteed to bring a tear to me eye!
But I am certainly finding this slower pace of life is benefiting me. It’s given me a chance to reflect on just what it is that stresses me out and makes me anxious and how I might tackle these things in the future.
And it seems so peaceful at the moment – the air is clearer, there is hardly any traffic so other sounds are coming to the fore…who knew the birds around here could make so much noise!
It feels like the world is seizing the moment and taking advantage of us humans not being able to move! I have loved seeing the reports in the media of wildlife emerging, increased numbers of turtles nesting in Thailand and dugongs returning in greater numbers there also. And of animals taking control in some of the least likely places! This shows us just what we have been doing to this planet.
Unfortunately it isn’t all good news and whilst the downturn in tourism is good for some, it is dangerous for others, with a lack of funding endangering conservation projects and an increase in the conflict between humans and the animals in some areas.
Indeed, I received an email from the Elephant Conservation Centre, which is a brilliant organisation dedicated to the conservation of Asian elephants that I visited in Laos a few years ago, asking for donations to help get them through this difficult period.
I do of course realise that I am in an extremely lucky position at the moment. I have a job, a roof over my head and I am not having to worry about where my next meal might come from. I am not living alone or trying to home educate children whilst also trying to work. I have the luxury of being able to sit back and let this enforced isolation and downtime soothe my soul for a while.
I have felt guilty for feeling this way and was in two minds whether to even admit. I mean this is not a holiday, thousands of people have died and are suffering because of this pandemic and my heart goes out to all those who are grieving losses and who have been affected by it. Thousands of others are working tirelessly to look after us, keep us safe and making sure we can eat (food delivery drivers I’m looking at you!). And then there’s the long term economic impact of it all..let’s not even go there! And the end is not in sight yet unfortunately.
But I don’t think I am alone in finding some positives in our current situation. And I really do hope that there can be some long term benefits that comes out of all of this.
I hope that the world that we emerge back into on the other side of this, is not only one which is more environmentally friendly, but is also one that appreciates the benefits of community and of slowing down and really does take the importance of looking after our mental health seriously.
I of course cannot wait until I can see my friends and family again, but perhaps it’s also time for the culture of ‘busy’ to stop. We do not need to be racing around at full speed all of the time, with a diary full of never ending events…maybe just take a breath, appreciate your surroundings, what you have, where you are.
However, in the meantime, whilst we all still deal with our current situation, we just keep going, taking one day at a time, appreciating the small things (wow, is this pandemic teaching me to do that!) and looking after ourselves and each other, waiting to see how this all pans out.
I look forward to the time when I can have that glass of wine in person with my friends and not over zoom, facebook messenger or whatsapp!
And to the day I can give my mum a hug again!
How have you been coping?