A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called The Zoom and Gloom is lifting where I talked about making post-lockdown plans for the life that you would like to have going forward.
In both that post and previous ones, I have encouraged readers to ask themselves some questions and to look at what is working in their lives and what isn’t and then to think and look at what they would like to change.
Based on that post, I received some emails. Some were from people I knew or had worked with before and some were from people on my mailing list that I hadn’t met.
Different genders, different age groups and different walks of life but all telling me the same thing – how anxious they were at the prospect of getting back to any kind of ‘normality’.
Most of them were feeling a bit shocked at how they felt and found that in conversations they were sometimes afraid to admit to their anxiety as they felt most other people couldn’t wait to get out of the house and get back to a less isolated life.
One said she was walking around feeling like it was the Sunday night before school, that feeling that affects both your mind and your stomach. I totally remember that feeling as a child and as an adult, it resurfaces every now and again.
A friend mentioned that feeling the other day, in a different context. Do you recognise it?
It’s a mix of fear and dread and I can still remember the physical feeling right in the pit of my stomach that used to start late on a Sunday afternoon. But it was never there in the school holidays.
You don’t have to have had any previous anxiety to feel like this. The people that emailed me were not particularly anxious types before the pandemic, but now they are people that are feeling torn, unsure, maybe a bit panicked or just not feeling quite ready to face it all yet.
Many of us will have been feeling the psychological effects of the trauma the whole world has been through. You may feel a little panicked in a crowd, or overloaded by being surrounded by noise as the streets and roads get busier.
You may also have been unwell yourself, and finding the recovery taking its toll on your energy for far longer than you imagined.
And let’s not forget that some people, in fact many people have suffered very real losses. They have lost people, they have lost jobs, maybe used up any savings that they had and so going forward is not going to ever feel the same.
I feel a bit torn on this too. Of course, I want to have shops, pubs, restaurants and offices getting back to work because I know that people and businesses need to start earning again. They need to support themselves and others and getting back into the swing of things and out of the house is good for everybody's mental health.
And of course we need to reconnect in a more social way with people that we may not have seen for such a long time and we need to start to have some fun again. But because it doesn't feel as straightforward as before, it's hard to picture how it will work.
I feel that we all need to support those people and businesses by getting a degree of normality back – but here’s the thing, you just don’t have to jump into doing everything you used to do – all at once. You can take it at your own pace.
In a matter of weeks, we will be functioning in a more recognisable way, but it doesn’t have to be about rushing around or overwhelming yourself with too much responsibility, too soon.
Stress isn’t good for our immune systems, and with a virus still out there, we need to be pacing ourselves and taking extra care. Physical and mental health go hand in hand, so we absolutely need less stress and pressure to build our general health and resilience.
Here are a few tips that I have brought back from a previous post that are still relevant. Read them through and remind yourself of them when you feel the world is moving too fast.
Don’t try to go from 0 to 70mph
While this may feel obvious, you could easily put this pressure on yourself without realising it.
As we are such creatures of habit, it’s normal to try to resume all your usual activities without considering what that would be like - if you go from a total stand still to a motorway speed, it will probably feel a bit much.
If you start to feel yourself accelerating then just remind yourself to pause and see what can wait for another day.
Have one focus at a time
Multi-tasking is a false economy; there, I said it. I know it might not be what you want to hear, but it’s a universal truth.
I spent years doing a bit of this and a bit of that because I thought that if I had a few things on the go everything would get done quicker and everything would still get done well.
Except it doesn’t.
When our focus is divided then each target receives a fraction of our energy. It’s true to say that we have a limited amount of energy and focus each day, and so when we have an important goal, we do best when we dedicate 100% of our focus to it.
So, decide what’s most important for you and then focus on that one goal or that one thing until you get it done.
Then you are free to focus on something else.
Don’t overlook the effects of trauma
No matter how you feel about what happened to the world in the last year, it will likely have had some effect on you.
We have all been exposed to trauma, and it’s perfectly reasonable that we should all be gentler with ourselves in the next phase of recovery.
The stress of lockdown, financial worries, loss of loved ones and concerns for the health and wellbeing of ourselves, those we love and the wider world are all real, so please acknowledge that you deserve time to process and heal.
Our situations are unique to us and everybody feels and deals with things differently. There are more people than you think that are feeling anxious right now, whether they show it or not is a different matter.
We shouldn’t feel embarrassed to admit how we are feeling and it’s really important to try not to judge ourselves based on what other people want or feel able to do.
If you would like some help to explore what going back into the ‘real world’ means for you, then please get in touch.
I would love to hear from you and together we can work out how it could work best for you, at the pace you prefer.