For the fifth article in our mini-series on Mental Health, Cara touches on the things she’ll miss most about lockdown.
I don’t disregard that the coronavirus pandemic has been the most difficult and heartbreaking time for so many people across the world. Nor do I disregard the loneliness and sadness that has filled our lives since last March. We’re all craving freedom, normality and safety; counting the days until June 21st and wishing for the return of our old lives. But for some reason, I just can’t shake the worry that I’ll miss the lockdown.
The return of socialising again is what scares me the most. People are itching to make new memories, celebrate the end of this nightmare, do everything they couldn’t for the past twelve months. But the idea of the streets being flooded with people and feeling too guilty to turn down plans triggers my anxiety completely. I’ll still be worried about the spread of the virus, too paranoid to be near others. A whole year of social distancing and then suddenly hugs, kisses and high-fives will be back on trend. What if people take offence to my continued distance?
I’ll miss staying at home. Relaxing all day in comfy clothes and pyjamas, not feeling obliged to do my hair or put on a full face of makeup. I’ve become comfortable with the idea of being bare-faced, something I’ve struggled with all my life. When the lockdown ends, I worry I’ll return to hating my skin and hiding it under layers of foundation, knocking my confidence back to zero again. I’ve heard so much talk about not turning plans down and making up for lost time. And it’s been so easy for me to not let anyone down over this last year, not having to explain the reason behind my isolation.
People have been more understanding about feeling too nervous to go outside because of the pandemic, but once the restrictions lift, I won’t be able to use coronavirus as an excuse to stay indoors. When I’m asked why I don’t want to leave the house, how will I respond? Sometimes my mental illness takes over my body completely and leaves me low and anxious, slowly returning me back to my bed. Sometimes the only place I feel safe when I’m struggling mentally is hidden under my duvet, completely alone. I worry about the guilt of letting everyone down when I’m not as excited as the rest of the world to leave the house. I honestly fear for my mental health post-lockdown.
However, lockdown has given me time to understand my mental health better, and put me on a path to improvement. I didn’t really acknowledge my mental health properly before the lockdown began. I had time to research, to learn, to write. I took this time to understand what was going on in my head, and started to accept everything. This led me to reaching out for help, starting medication, practicing mindfulness and meditation – all which have changed my life. And yoga. Yoga has completely turned my life around too – something I would’ve never considered in my pre-covid life. I’m excited to wake up in the morning, practice yoga, eat a healthy breakfast, make a coffee and relax in my own company. My daily routine has adapted into something completely different, something I’m proud of, something I enjoy and something that puts my mind and body at complete ease. It’s the perfect way to set-up for a new day. I fear that I won’t be able to keep this up when things return to normal.
I appreciate all the little things that I missed so easily in my busy pre-lockdown life… The sun shining through my window and the song of the birds in the morning, chats with friends and relatives that I had once taken for granted, the achievement I feel when I finish a good book, and journaling to reflect on how my day has been. Our “normal” lives are so busy, so loud and stressful so much of the time, that we rarely take a minute to stop, breathe and take in the world around us and how we really feel. Very rarely are our bodies and mind present together in a moment, something I’ve learnt to do during this time. Simple things like this have changed my life for the better, and I worry that I’ll be too stressed and busy to feel a sense of gratitude for these simple things when normal life returns.
Like so many of us, I took up some new hobbies during the lockdown. We’ve all spent huge amounts of time indoors that we’ve been forced to think up new ways to entertain ourselves. For me, I learnt to cook new recipes and try out new foods, resulting in a noticeable improvement in my overall health and diet. I’ve tried out different workout programmes online that have broadened my knowledge of general fitness and allowed me to explore multiple options for the benefit of my mind and body. Daily walks have become a part of so many of our routines, which has improved my mental and physical health dramatically. I enjoy and appreciate the outside world so much more than I once did.
Although being at home for such an extended period of time has not been ideal (or easy for that matter!), it’s enabled many of us to learn more about ourselves, which is the key to taking good care of our mind and body. There is no doubt that the past year has been overwhelming, terrifying and isolating. And I do look forward to reuniting with friends and family that I’ve not seen for so long. I also do look forward to celebrating all the special occasions that were missed, and being able to do the simple things that bring me joy again. I just hope that this year has taught society some valuable lessons about mental health, making some sort of contribution to defeating the stigma that still exists around the topic. Lots of people will be dreading the return of social events, physical contact and a world without masks. So regardless of how you spend your time from June 21st, please spend it being kind.
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