What I’ve Learned from Lockdown

As lockdown is being eased, I’ve started to reflect on the last few months in preparation for what is potentially going to be the next stage of our ‘new lives’. What have I learned and what do I want to change? It turns out, quite a lot…

1.To value and look after my health

This epidemic has taught me to take more responsibility for looking after my own health. I do follow healthcare guidelines, but I have realised that I do rely on the ability of modern medicine to cure me — even subconsciously having the mind-set that if I get sick, it’s likely that there will be something that healthcare professionals can do to help me. This epidemic has highlighted the naivety of this assumption. Having been blessed with such high quality health care had lulled me into a false sense of security — and I had fallen into the trap of relying on curative rather than preventative medicine. I have now woken up to the fact that the responsibility lies with me to look after myself as much as I can, rather than relying on others to treat me.

2.That our public service workers are beyond value

Not only do I owe myself to look after my health, but I owe our health service workers now, even more than ever, to keep myself well to reduce the burden on them. When our health workers have risked their lives, and their families lives, to look after ours, we need to do as much as we can to protect them in return. We are so used to prioritising our busy lifestyles over our own wellbeing, that we really need to look at our values, and above all else, focus on looking after ourselves.

3.Never to take food supply for granted

We are so used to having whatever we want at our fingertips — in stores, or online — that the idea of a food shortage would be something that most of us would find hard to comprehend. However, we’ve now experienced what it’s like having to plan, ration and do without things — something we’ve never had to do before. I feel that never again will I take for granted the experience of being able to walk into a supermarket and being able to pick up my favourite snack, and I’m certainly trying to be more sparing and less wasteful than I was previously.

4.To appreciate nature

Nature has been a source of comfort for many throughout this crisis — providing some sense of normality and solace. Having more time has also allowed many of us to dedicate more attention to the outside world — giving us the chance to notice and appreciate it. When lockdown was first imposed, it felt like everything had changed: the streets were empty, and in many ways, it looked apocalyptic. However, nature carried on as usual. I watched the birds industriously building their nests, and spring buds turn in to blooms. I saw that life went on — and that it thrived, even though our lives had changed beyond all recognition. Watching the natural world develop and thrive without human interference was both humbling and reassuring, putting my own experience in to perspective.

5.To slow down

Lockdown has given many of us the gift of time — allowing us to slow down, instead of rushing from one obligation to the next. This in turn has given us the chance to be more mindful — allowing us to notice and appreciate the things around us. Regardless of whether it’s being with our loved ones, listening to music, or being outside, we now have the opportunity not only to enjoy these things in passing, but to savour them and reflect upon our enjoyment.

Facing uncertain and stressful times has also emphasised the importance of taking things one day — or one step — at a time. By focusing only on the next thing we have to do (rather than things days or weeks in the future), we are helping to avoid anxiety associated with an uncertainty about what lies ahead of us. This is a useful tip to bear in mind any time we feel stressed, helping with mindfulness and awareness, and helping us appreciate the present moment.

6.Technology can be a blessing

Although I tend to have rather a love-hate relationship with technology in normal circumstances, I appreciate the extent to which it has served me during lockdown. I have been lucky to have been able to do my work from the safety of my home, have essential items delivered if necessary, and been able to choose any number of exercise options to keep fit. Not only this, but technology has allowed me to see and keep in touch with my loved ones, learn new skills, and keep entertained. This experience has helped me to consider the importance of taking control of my use of technology — it is my responsibly to use it in a smart way; shutting down, or limiting time on apps that I can find stressful, and utilising the tools that can allow me to live a better life.

7.That exercise isn’t a chore

Exercise has provided a welcome distraction from our current plight, and I’ve found that I actively want to take some time to move and stretch my body, appreciating feeling fitter and healthier. Prior to lockdown I had always found exercise a chore that I felt I ‘had’ to do rather than wanted to do. However, in this changed world, I welcome the opportunity to switch off, and actively dedicate some time to focusing on my physical wellbeing. This means I have to ask myself some tough questions about my excuses for avoiding exercise previously — and ensure I maintain my current mindset.

8.Little interactions and acts of kindness can make a big difference

Even the smallest act like a smile or a kind word can make the world of difference to someone — especially if that’s the only interaction they have that day. In many places a real sense of community and solidarity has developed and hopefully this is a mentality that will continue even after the crisis is over. On a larger scale, many organisations and businesses have been helping the vulnerable, and we should aim to reward these business with our support in the future as much as possible.

9.To turn problems into challenges

One of the main principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (the Gold Standard of therapy) is that rather than events themselves being problematic, it is our interpretation of them that makes them so. While we have little control over what happens to us, we have control over whether we let it affect us or not. The idea then is that we could either spend lockdown mourning our previous lives, or we could try to turn it into something positive: using it to connect with loved ones, learn new skills, or take time to ourselves. The key thing is that it is within our control how we deal with a situation. If we treat problems as challenges rather than issues, then we address them differently, and come out of them feeling better equipped to cope with problems in the future.

10.To be grateful for everything I’ve got

While I am always conscious of, and grateful for, what I’ve got, the last few weeks have made me acutely aware of the fact that my lockdown life is very different from the life that some others may be experiencing. Gratitude is a beneficial emotion at the best of times, but I feel that the current crisis has made me even more conscious of the things that I should be thankful for.

Now it’s your turn: what have you learned from lockdown? Perhaps write it down so you can refer to it in the future, and see whether you’ve maintained the same mindset.

  • What about this new way of life did you like?
  • How can you maintain the good aspects post-lockdown?
  • What did you not like?
  • What changes are you going to make as a result of what you’ve learned?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • What are the things that are bothering you that you could turn in to challenges?

Psychologist

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Kirsty Miller

Kirsty Miller

Psychologist

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