It’s almost 1 year to the day since my partner caught coronavirus and we went into self-isolation. The week after, the whole country plunged into lockdown one. 361 days later here’s what I learned from our year in lockdown:
10 lessons from a year in lockdown
We’re in the same storm, but not the same boat
I stumbled across this poem by Damian Barr called ‘same storm; different boat’ somewhere around lockdown 2. It described my observations perfectly. We have all been in this together and yet had wildly different experiences. This thought has helped me be more empathetic, less judgemental and acutely aware of how important it is to share our stories. There’s always someone who has had a tougher time than you, but your experience is still valid.
Mental health matters
This year I’ve had more conversations about mental health than ever before. In no particular order: overwhelm, anxiety, empty and unfillable buckets, loneliness, sacrifice, fear of the unknown, grief, guilt, feeling trapped. Never before in my lifetime has it been more important to talk. I’m so grateful for those people who have entrusted me with their feelings and thoughts; who’ve had the courage to share what’s going on and who’ve sought help when they’ve needed it. I hope we continue to talk more.
I am also thankful to the people in my life who asked if I was ok, who supported me when I asked for help, who listened without judgement or advice when I needed to rant.
In those first few weeks, we had so much support from our neighbours. We were the first people in our group to catch covid and they delivered our shopping, brought round games and activities for the kids. Luckily I had very mild symptoms and my partner recovered quickly without medical intervention. During that week I felt that love and warmth from my tribe. Of course, it didn’t stop there and we weren’t alone. Over the past 12 months, we have all seen amazing acts of kindness and the generosity of our neighbours and our country. Our veg box provider, Seasons is just one example of local businesses who have made a difference to our community through delivering throughout the pandemic, sharing recipes and tips and feeding those in need.
We are all creative
On the 8th April, my daughter was writing a poem as part of her school work. She challenged me to write one too. I hadn’t written a poem for about four years and it reminded me how much I loved it. I grabbed my favourite poetry book and challenged myself to write more. I’ve also crocheted more gifts than ever before! But it’s not just me.
I’ve been so impressed with our school who have embraced technology and made it work. The headteacher has stepped right out of her comfort zone, all of the teachers have been honest about how hard it is, the importance of a growth mindset and how it’s ok to make mistakes. My daughters have heard this message from people they look up to.
I’ve seen businesses get creative about what and how they sell, going online, stepping up and out of comfort zones. We’ve had to get more creative in some ways – for our own survival.
We are more resilient than we thought
When I look back on what we’ve achieved since March 2020 I am blown away. Whether you consider yourself to have thrived or ‘just’ survived, you’ve made it. There is light at the end of the tunnel. When I have a wobble I remind myself of what I’ve achieved. This will be different for everyone and similarly, whilst we must recognise that everyone has had a different experience, so must we recognise that we’ve all had different successes. There was a stage where my biggest achievement was getting out of bed. I spent many days not getting showered or dressed. There were other days I spoke with clients, made a sourdough loaf or parsnip cake and tidied up. There were days that my biggest achievement was staying calm with the kids. But you know what? We did it and we must celebrate our achievements, big or small.
I never tried to learn a language during lockdowns 1, 2 or 3. I did, however, find that routine and setting small goals helped me get through. During lockdown 1 it all felt very haphazard as we adjusted to the abrupt changes. I was yo-yoing between the first few stages of the change curve – denial, anger, bargaining. I was trying to teach the kids, speak to clients when I could and manage my own emotional rollercoaster. As the summer came we were lucky not to be so restricted and we went for picnics in our local parks. When the schools returned for the first time I found a routine and it helped me. When we went into lockdown 3 I knew I had to keep the routine and keep my goals small and meaningful. I also had to stop judging myself against my pre-pandemic self. Here’s an example:
Pre-covid I would get up early, journal and do some yoga. I might go for a run. All these things by myself, for me. Post covid I had to break these down into much smaller goals – five mins of reflection in the morning; yoga with the kids; taking them out on the bikes whilst I ran alongside. At first, I was resentful. I had lost my time alone. Over many months it changed. I love how we do yoga together, how it slots in rather than having the pressure to find child-free time. I’ve embraced the mess… because I have three small whirlwinds. Everything gets done in five/ten-minute bursts as and when I can.
Focus on what’s important
I was chatting with someone the other day over the fence and they said “I think we’ve realised what’s important this year. We’ve realised that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”. I certainly agree with this sentiment. I think we’ve had to choose where and on whom to spend our energy. I’ve purged my social media as I was getting caught up in the toxicity of it all. I have actively stayed in contact with the people I love and care for more than I normally would do. I’ve gone back to basics and reflected on what’s important to me (my family, my health, mental health and being outside). Being unable to go out to the pub/restaurants hasn’t changed much for us as a family as we didn’t really do that before, but, not being able to see our family has been huge. We’ve gone from seeing them fortnightly to four times this year (like almost everyone else in the UK). When we’re able to be reunited it will be the most joyful celebration.
The only constant is change
Given I’m a coach and we deal in change, I don’t much like change. At least, not when I’m in it. I like to think of myself as someone who goes with the flow. The truth is that I am adaptable, resilient and open to change…it just takes me a little time to get there. I need space to think, to figure out my own solutions.
The thing about change is that everything is constantly changing. Sometimes it’s massive, global change, other times it’s the tiny, almost imperceptible change you don’t notice until afterwards.
The key is to manage change using coping mechanisms that work for you. My friend retreats into her imagination to write amazing stories, I try to get outside. As long as what you choose isn’t detrimental to your well-being, go for it.
We cannot do it all
Ah, I thought I’d learned this lesson and yet, in the last year, I’ve had to relearn the lesson, and remember and release the “I must do it all” limiting belief. There were many times over the last year in lockdown that I have felt the overwhelm and burden of trying to do it all. As many of you know I have three small kids, am the primary caregiver and run my own coaching business. This doesn’t always result in a calm, balanced life I want! I have had to let some things go – some permanently (like trying to control everything – a work in progress) and some temporarily (like exercising by myself). You will regularly hear me muttering about being Dobby the Elf! Instead, I now ask for help from the family to keep on top of things at home. We have to work as a team.
Of course, it’s not just at home. A lovely friend of mine had loads of work piled on her because she doesn’t have kids and lives by herself. It was deemed that she had more time to pick up the slack. This might work in the short term (with her consent) but it’s not a long term strategy.
Look for the small things
This year in lockdown has not been easy for me, my family or for anyone else around the world but in my own experience and in listening to others I’ve seen a theme. We’re all looking for small things. A sunny day to play outside, a cuddle from my daughter, lovely cakes delivered to our door, a letter through the post, a rainbow in the window. We can all look for and provide small, random acts of kindness to help ourselves and others.
What have you learnt this year in lockdown?