The ups and downs of living in the time of Covid-19
How was your lockdown? 2020 has felt like a year of cancellations, postponements and frequently-used words like ‘furlough’ and ‘unprecedented’. No-one could have imagined the year we are in. The phrase, “what did you do in the war?”, comes to mind, another unprecedented global situation. Back in March, when the government announced a national lockdown, we may have had mixed feelings. Some, relief at not having to use public transport to travel to work or having to be in crowded public spaces – a lowering of the risk to ourselves, our family and friends. However, there may also have been a sense of bewilderment and loss, how did we get to this? When will this all be over? Not being able to hug a friend or parent, missing out on social gatherings, birthdays, holidays. Our lives on hold. These are probably only a snippet of the mixed feelings that have been there for us all, particularly as our experiences over the last six months, from lockdown to easing, have been very different, depending on our jobs, age, where and how we live and our physical and mental states.
One thing we may all have felt was an initial and maybe new sense of coming together for a greater good – to protect the NHS, expressing our gratitude to them and others who were providing vital support services. In some ways it brought out the best of many of us – rather like the coming together of the nation during WWII. It was also a time to find moments of calm, a pause, a space opening up for ourselves. In this space we might have found new hobby, or re-discovered an old skill. This could be a place for creativity and inner resource. An 83 year old man who I spoke to who lives alone said he needed to keep himself busy for at least two hours each day, to maintain a sense of structure to his otherwise long lonely day on his own. We all saw Colonel Tom’s resourceful fundraising walks around his garden, an example of his needing to be able to do something, to contribute. This 83 year old decided to go through all of his books, sorting, cleaning and also shaking them out. In the process he found hidden and forgotten treasures – notes he had made, letters and photos, old newspaper cuttings he had for some reason placed between the pages of these books. It took him three months, and in that time, he was reminded of past times and moments, in a way that felt comforting as well as engaging. We all needed to find our own treasures and moments of creativity.
Once lockdown was eased, that sense of being alone, but largely in the same boat has altered. Different individuals are experiencing different levels of personal freedom, depending on their jobs, physical condition as well as their levels of anxiety. Life may have seemed simpler in some way during lockdown. As we head to the autumn, for many there is an atmosphere of excitement, that new time of the year, as well as an increase in anxiety for many. Autumn leaves, the opening of schools, children being able again to get back to their classrooms and friends, students able to head off to their universities, people getting back to work… Lockdown was a state of extremes, isolation as well as belonging to a global community. Easing opens the door again between the community outdoors and ourselves, and we are learning how to be amongst each other again.
Whatever the next six months hold, these strange times have identified for us all the importance of our building our inner resources and emotional stamina. Much of our feelings of self come from feeling useful and helping others. To be able to do this, we also need to help ourselves. Many websites have appeared offering support for young and old, new online courses or chat groups, tips for DIY, knitting – you may try something you have had at the back of your mind but never got round to – now may be the time to give it a go!