Has the pandemic encouraged us to step out of our comfort zones and make changes for the better? Leah Larwood looks at the life lessons we can learn.
How is life for you on the other side of lockdown? Perhaps it’s been a breath of fresh air to have social and work-life freedom again, or has it been a bit of an anti-climax? Maybe a bit of both.
Looking back, have you experienced some form of inner growth from living through a pandemic or are things largely as they were? I have found myself questioning if normality is actually what I want to embrace. Because, let’s face it, there were also some very important and helpful changes that sailed in with the pandemic.
Quite frankly, a forced stop for the collective doesn’t happen very often. It’s been (hopefully) a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to re-evaluate our lives, along with the rest of the world. There’s something pretty powerful in that.
Lockdown removed the fear of missing out because everyone else had to stop too, and it also took away a lot of noise, leaving more space to reflect and regroup.
Although for many, the fear of the unknown and not being able to see loved ones was deeply felt, others were handed the chance to slow down and take less on. The is better than wealth, finding nature was a blessing, and setting boundaries was essential to survive emotionally and at work.
Now, here we are on the brighter side, staring up at the autumn moon, and thinking, ‘what changes do I truly want to keep?’
No regrets, just lessons learnt
After any major global event, there are often many things we can learn. Upheavals such as a world war, catastrophe or pandemic can be life-changing for the collective. There often follows a period of reflection and growth – a chance to re-evaluate.
It’s also a precious space in time where progressive attitudes or preventative measures can be adopted. Now is a good time to ring the changes and decide what lessons we will take with us into a better future.
In a journal about the positive changes experienced during Covid-19 lockdown by L William et al (Jan 2021), the authors reveal that positive changes were indeed experienced in many different ways.
People spent more quality time with their family, others developed new hobbies, many took more physical activity, and others experienced a better quality of sleep each night.
Over 80 per cent became more appreciative of things usually taken for granted and nearly 70 per cent spent more time doing enjoyable things, such as spending more time in nature or being outdoors, and two thirds paid more attention to personal health.
Even key workers, who had to continue operating in the outside world with added complications and pressures, discovered a new-found and beneficial focus that prioritised self care. Those juggling homeschooling with work had the opportunity to re-evaluate their work-life balance or else put in boundaries with work bosses. Some of those furloughed or living alone had the chance to explore new hobbies and develop creative ways to stay engaged and connected.
For those of us living in cities, suddenly – when theatres, restaurants, pubs, coffee shops and retail shops closed – what was left? Not even people. Just the small corners of our urban homes. There’s little surprise that many started to crave those enviable countryside picnics, coastal strolls and woodland jaunts featuring on social media feeds during lockdown. Now, the housing market continues to boom, as many leave cities for a slower life in the sticks.
Ultimately the pandemic handed us a magnifying glass to hold over our lives and help us see what’s important to us. It reconnected many people to the simple things: exercise, creativity, being in nature, reconnecting with far-flung friends over Zoom, spending more time with our immediate loved ones – the free things in life that really are good for the soul.
Undoubtedly, many Buddhists around the country perhaps didn’t find the circumstances as challenging as others, because lockdown echoed their practise of cultivating stillness and minimising distractions such as entertainment and material goods. Instead, it presented them with the conditions needed for their practise to thrive. In some ways, many of us did indeed live a little like monks and nuns for 18 months. We may not be as enlightened, but there have been many lightbulb moments for the world.
However, for some, returning to a new normal or even a form of the old normal, has been filled with worry. Quite frankly, we’ve been in our caves for so long, it may take some of us a little while to readjust our eyes to the light.
Clementine, a women’s mental health app, has introduced several new hypnotherapy sessions and coaching tips, created especially to support and coach women back to the ‘normal’ life and to the workplace after lockdown and the days that follow. Hazel Gale, Clementine’s resident hypnotherapist says, “We were in lockdown (and almost lockdown) for so long that we’ve normalised this kind of living. Change is fundamentally scary, so heading back to ‘reality’ is naturally unnerving. On top of that, most of us associate some level of stress with work and/or socialising, so we’ll be anticipating that again now. The mind naturally seeks out threat in order to plan for it, so we’re likely to picture our work routines and social life and just focus on all the stuff we find unnerving.”
“Our new sessions on the app contain cognitive hypnotherapy methods, such as visualisation, to help people recognise these so called ‘threats’ as opportunities and turn feelings of anxiety and nervousness into that of excitement instead, because it’s actually easier for the mind to do this than to revert back to a calm state.”
“For example, next time you’re picturing a social situation, such as a work event or a trip to an art gallery, instead of surfacing all of your anxiety around it, you’ll be able to focus on the positive elements, such as the fact you’re wearing your favourite shoes (not your house slippers for once), how good your lunch in town is going to taste or enjoying the office banter and after work drinks with colleagues. I tell all my clients that to make a fundamental change, you need to train your mind to think the thoughts that help you to live how you want to live. Repetition with hypnotherapy is the key. You just need to get into the right state of mind first.”
After a tricky 18 months for everyone, hesitancy about the return to normality and what that might bring is understandable. One of the ways to approach our brave new world is to simply take each day or week at a time and to adopt a mindful approach to prevent rumination or anxiety from surfacing about what might or what might not happen.
Keep what works
Holding tightly to what works for us and what we’ve discovered from the pandemic is a precious gift we can each take from this monumental period in time. When we look back in 10 or 20 years, wouldn’t it be wonderful to share with others what we learned and how we allowed these learnings to play forward into our lives?
To hold onto what we’ve discovered, perhaps we need to remind ourselves daily to ensure these lessons stay with us, whether that’s through journalling, creating a mantra or manifesto, or even framing a piece of art or collage as a reminder in our homes. Ultimately, to keep newly formed habits, having a strong intention or motivation is key. Knowing what we want to keep, and what we want to ditch, and having an understanding of the profound impact that can have on our lives, will help us move forwards into the life we want.
The challenge now is to gather up what we’ve discovered about ourselves, our life circumstances and our needs, and to search for chinks of light, wherever we can find them. These rays of light may land at different times for everyone but, ultimately, living authentically will help keep us together.
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