The last couple of years have likely been the strangest any of us have ever experienced. As we move past the peak of the pandemic, life is beginning to resemble what it used to be.
But can we simply pick up where we left off in March 2020? Is it really that easy?
We all faced our own challenges in lockdown
Throughout the pandemic, life changed dramatically for all of us. The repeated lockdowns may have been an oasis of calm for some. A chance to stop and reflect. An unexpected respite to help us take a breath in a busy life.
But for many, it also brought countless challenges, from parents forced to work and home school simultaneously to those living alone without human contact for months on end. Everyone has faced their own trials and studies are now appearing to show that for many, the pandemic has been difficult for their physical health, mental health or both.
Mental and physical health have suffered
When the Prime Minister announced lockdown and an order to work from home if you could, the switch from normal life to lockdown was abrupt. This sudden change was difficult for some to handle, causing anxiety and depression in some cases.
With all the normal freedoms curtailed and many of the activities people do to relieve stress closed for months, it’s easy to see how lockdown took a toll on mental health throughout the country. Likewise, with limited time allowed outside for activity, physical health became an issue for many. With no walk to work or school or the bus stop, lots of people suddenly found themselves less active.
With so many factors combining to make life almost unrecognisable from before the pandemic, it’s no wonder so many of us have struggled with our health and wellbeing.
Anxiety about lockdown ending is a real thing
Much as we all welcome the easing of restrictions and being able to go out and meet up with friends and family, for many there is also a level of anxiety about re-entering society.
The pandemic is not yet over, and for those anxious about catching the COVID-19 virus, it can be difficult to make the leap back into a more open society. And it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious about lockdown ending and restrictions easing after months of being told to follow the guidelines.
Again, everyone will be on their own journey back to normality or what passes as the new normal as the virus still moves among us. Some will be ready to jump straight back into the swing of things, while others may be more cautious. Neither approach is wrong; it simply depends on each individual.
Focus on your wellbeing
The last two years may have given you a chance to think about your overall health and wellbeing. As we move into the later stage of the pandemic, now is a good time to make positive changes. And putting your wellbeing front and centre can make a huge difference to your life and how you interact with the people around you.
As the old saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty jug. If you don’t look after yourself, how can you look after others? So, devoting some time to your own health and wellbeing needs makes sense at every level.
Making small changes can make a big difference to how you feel and improve your overall health. For example, if you’re not moving as much as you should, even little things like parking further away from the supermarket door or going for a ten-minute walk at lunchtime could mark the start of a bigger change.
Ten tips to help you stay healthy and look after yourself
As life begins to return to how it was, you might feel pressured to jump straight back into the thick of things. But you don’t have to. Here are ten things to think about as you navigate your way back to life more like you knew it.
- Give yourself time
Don’t put pressure on yourself if you’re not ready to go to a restaurant, a pub or an entertainment venue. There’s nothing wrong with taking things at your own pace.
- Give yourself permission to feel how you do
However you feel about society opening back up, it’s fine for you to feel that way. Don’t compare yourself to other people – we’re all doing things in our own way.
- Don’t avoid doing things
While it may be tempting to simply not do anything, it could make it harder for you in the long term. It’s better to take small steps and build up your confidence, so perhaps schedule a coffee with a close friend and take that first step out into the world.
- Make plans to help you build your confidence
Making a plan can help you manage any feelings of uncertainty or anxiety. Even small things can help, like knowing the start and finish times of a social occasion, how many people will be there, whether it’s inside or outside.
- Talk to others
Talking about how you feel with someone you trust can help. You may find that you’re not alone in feeling like you do. If you don’t want to talk to a friend, colleague or family member, see if your health insurance provider has a helpline you can call or visit the NHS website for recommended helplines.
- Take time for you
Like most people, you were probably busy, busy, busy before the pandemic. If you’ve found time for you during the social slowdown, don’t lose that. Just because you can do more things now doesn’t mean you have to. It’s important to do the things that make you happy and relaxed too.
- Establish routines
Most of your normal routines probably went out of the window during lockdown, so try to build new ones. It can be something simple like eating lunch or going to bed and waking up at the same times every day.
- Keep a journal
Writing down how you feel can help you get those feelings out. It’s also a good way to track how you’re feeling. Simply reading it back can show you just how far you’ve come.
- Focus on now
You can’t change the past and you don’t know what the future will bring, so try to put thoughts about both out of your mind and focus on the present. Go for a walk, do something mindful such as baking, drawing, singing, anything that keeps your focused on the here and the now.
- Check to see if your health insurance provider can help
Many health insurance companies offer wellbeing services to help you live your best life. It can be anything from health checks to put your mind at rest, to counselling sessions, to suggestions on how to make small changes that will make a big difference to your life.