As we approach the halfway point of 2020, it’s hard to believe how much the world has changed since we celebrated the start of the new decade. January seems like a lot more than five months ago! Since then, we’ve spent weeks sheltering in our houses, finding new ways to work and socialise, watching our world shrinking around us and our travel plans dissolving.
If you’re still pinching yourself to see if you’ll wake up, feeling like you’re having an out-of-body experience, or stressed and anxious about the future, that’s okay. It’s normal to feel all these emotions after such a dramatic change and during times of great uncertainty.
Now that you’re able to return to a semblance of normal life, going back to the way things were might feel weird or unsafe, and that’s okay too. You’ve been through a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We all have. It’s a huge amount of change to cope with in a short amount of time, so be kind to yourself if you feel adrift, have trouble concentrating, or are experiencing FOGO (fear of going out).
Here are some tips we think you might find helpful to regain your equilibrium.
Ease back into your routines
While it was quite nice to spend some of lockdown sleeping in and wearing pyjamas all day, the loss of routine has probably contributed to that surreal feeling that’s hard to shake off. Now that you’re able to resume your pre-COVID routine, do it in small steps so that it’s not such a shock to your system. There’s no need to rush straight back to everything you were doing pre-lockdown.
You’ve likely become desensitised to crowds and noisy spaces, so try to find ways to approach them gently. Catch the bus or go to the shops at a less-busy time. See if your boss will allow you to do a couple of days from home until you feel more comfortable. If you’re not back at the office just yet, shift your sleep schedule to what it would be if you were heading out to work each day, to help your circadian rhythm adjust.
Talk it out
Lockdown was a rare, shared experience that affected us all in one way or another. The chances are that you’re not alone if you find it difficult adjusting to your new normal. Take time to have a quiet cuppa with a close friend or family member and let them know how you’re feeling.
Mindfulness is the ability to be completely present in the moment – to be aware of your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judging or analysing them. It enables you to tune in on what you are sensing right now, rather than fretting over the past or the future, which is a particularly useful skill when there are currently so many uncertainties in the world.
Mindfulness has been found to improve memory, lower anxiety, reduce stress, and enhance the ability to step back from your feelings and mental processes. You can find plenty of mindfulness meditations on YouTube or through apps like Stop, Breathe & Think, Calm, Headspace and The Mindfulness App.
Keep your new good habits
Did you start something new during lockdown that you love? Maybe you started a new skincare routine, read more books, went for more walks, did yoga, drank more water (or less alcohol) or got more sleep. If you got into a new habit that was good for your body or your soul, be sure to incorporate it into your post-lockdown life.
Focus on the things you can control
When everything around you seems out of control, it helps to concentrate on the things that you can do something about. If you’re concerned about COVID-19, continue to keep a two-metre physical distance around strangers, wash your hands frequently, carry sanitiser and wear a mask if it makes you feel safer.
Doing something practical is a great way to help you feel in control. Use your talents to give back to your community, whether it’s pulling out weeds with your local environmental restoration group, knitting clothes for premature babies, donating blood or checking on an elderly neighbour. If your superpower is shopping, look for local small businesses that need your custom to get back on their feet.
Be kind to yourself
It’s been a tough year, and nobody can be expected to sail through unaffected. Be gentle and patient with yourself while you process all the feelings that come with huge change and uncertainty. Take some time for a bit of self-care, and if you need extra help, talk to your GP, a friend or a family member.
Here are some links to resources that could help.
Mentemia – A free app that coaches mental wellbeing, created by Sir John Kirwan.
The Mindfulness App – Guided mindfulness meditations and other tools (free, but with in-app purchases).
Talk to a counsellor – Call or txt 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor for free, 24/7 (part of the NZ National Telehealth Service).
Depression.org.nz – Resources to deal with depression or anxiety, including a free 24/7 helpline.
Volunteering NZ – Find volunteering opportunities in your area.
Since this was written, I've felt compelled to also add a link to this anti racism resource, as this has had a huge impact on our lives as well .
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