How many of us can say our lives are exactly the same as they were in March? I definitely can’t. Three hair colours and two relationships later, and I’m starting to feel like the only thing that hasn’t changed is my inability to be on time for anything.
COVID-19 has had an impact on all of us. Not just in terms of the national restrictions governing our day-to-day lives, but also the changes we have made ourselves. Even if you personally haven’t changed your life in some significant way since March, I guarantee you know many people who have.
Career changes, house moves, relationships beginning and ending. What is it about this global pandemic that makes us crave change?
A 27 year old woman who struggles with basic time-keeping is unlikely to give you the definitive answer, but, seeing as we’re on my blog, you might as well hear my thoughts anyway.
The ‘always-on culture’ we live in has made it easy to live life on auto-pilot. Connected to and through our smartphones 24/7, we are in constant anticipation of the next notification to occupy our time. As we tap and scroll from one day to the next, we live reactively rather than proactively and the only real alone time we have is a few minutes each night, phones down, in bed and waiting to fall asleep.
But this pandemic and its restrictions have forced us to do things differently. Suddenly we have more free time and lots of it because there’s nowhere to go and no-one to see. So, what do you do? Auto-pilot mode – you reach for the nearest screen to pass the time. But eventually there comes a point when you tire of scrolling through the newsfeed. You run out of things to talk about over text or call. You finish the final episode of the latest Netflix drama, and all that’s left to do is think.
Time to think is the single most important thing COVID-19 has given us. While life as we know it is on hiatus, you have the opportunity to disengage autopilot and really think about your life. And if you don’t like where you’re at or where you’re headed, now is the time to make that change.
I have been doing lots of thinking (and as a result lots of changing!) and I figured it was about time to share some of these thoughts with the internet. Here are eight lessons I learned during lockdown.
1. No-one comes out of lockdown with the same hair they had going into it
No, I’m not talking about the extra greys you gained during those dark months when the schools were closed. Nearly every woman I know has changed her hair this year, whether it’s trying out a new colour with a risky home dye job or getting scissor-happy in front of the bathroom mirror and cutting a fringe. And men too have been unable to resist the urge to switch up their ‘do – who could forget the Summer of Shearing, when every man in England decided to simultaneously do a Britney in the absence of a barber shop? With daily talk of death rates and hospital admissions, giving yourself that pink bob you’ve always wanted probably doesn’t seem that big a deal anymore… just make sure it’s semi-permanent and never go blue. Your hairdresser can thank me later.
2. There is no substitute for a hug
I am renowned for avoiding physical affection. It’s not that I don’t enjoy hugs, I am just one of those people who manages to make them feel unbearably awkward for everyone involved. Being the touch-phobe I am, when social distancing was first introduced I thought it would have little effect on me. Boy, was I wrong. It turns out that once I wasn’t allowed to hug other people, I really missed it. As many of us will have realised by now, there’s something incredibly lonely about keeping a two metre distance between yourself and your loved ones at all times. Two metres can feel like opposite sides of a canyon when someone is upset and needing the comfort that only a hug can bring.
3. Spending time outdoors is criminally underrated
Let’s take a moment to reminisce – we’re back in Lockdown 1.0. And, not unlike a prisoner permitted a few laps of the courtyard to stretch their legs, you’re making the most of your daily allocated exercise with a walk outdoors. Truth time: how many of you enjoyed a daily walk before the pandemic? OK, and how many of you who did can say you were walking simply for enjoyment with no purpose or destination in mind?
With socialising indoors prohibited for a humungous chunk of 2020, people have been spending time with friends and family at local parks and nature reserves instead. Whereas pre-lockdown catch ups might have involved a cuppa or a glass of vino in front of the TV, now they are spent outdoors in nature, with less distractions and the opportunity to be more present.
4. Our relationships with family and friends matter the most
The list of restrictions we’re living feels endless, yet if I asked you right now what you miss the most about ‘normal’ life, the answer is more likely to involve a someone than a something. Stating that the people we love are the most important thing in life may seem obvious and cliché, but it’s one thing to know this fact to be true and another to actually live by it. Thanks to hectic schedules and growing workloads, friends and family are often pushed down the priority list. But that promotion you got last year and the expensive car in your driveway fade quickly into background noise when a relative becomes seriously ill. Life is fragile, so make your loved ones a priority. (A great place to start with your partner at least could be to organise a date night!)
5. “Not having enough time” is a bullshit excuse
How many times have you told yourself or someone else that you would do more of ‘X’ or start doing ‘Y’ if only you had enough time? Well, you’re in luck. Lockdown is here! Sure, you can’t nip round to your Gran’s for a Sunday roast but, hey, at least you finally have that time you’ve always needed.
How are ‘X’ and ‘Y’ going?
Sorry, what’s that?
You haven’t started them?
But you somehow found time to binge-watch all ten seasons of Friends and eat your body weight in chocolate? (All in the name of lockdown self-care, of course)
Join the club!
Writing a novel was top of the list of things I would accomplish if I had more time. That best-selling novel remains a life goal but with its word count still at 0, I have been forced to accept that maybe it wasn’t a lack of time holding me back. And you know what, even if lockdown did result in you doing more of ‘X’ or starting ‘Y’, are you planning to immediately stop when life returns to normal? I’m guessing ‘no’, which also proves my point: not enough time is a bullshit excuse. If it matters enough, you will make time.
6. Meanwhile, your mental health is a completely valid excuse
While lockdown may have turned a few (supremely annoying) individuals into productivity machines, it has had the opposite effect on the majority of the population. When it comes to staying productive, most people have realised by now what those of us with mental health issues have known all along – a positive mindset is everything. Living in the midst of a global pandemic is tough, moods are low and anxieties high. Focusing on work can feel impossible at times and that is to be expected. Don’t punish yourself for a bad work day and make extra effort to celebrate the small achievements. If you are looking to boost your productivity, try giving my tips and tricks for a productive pandemic a go.
7. There are few things in life that cannot be accomplished over video call
Ah, the previously undiscovered versatility of the humble video call. Before 2019, video calls more or less exclusively existed in the domains of international business, long distance relationships and cheating scumbag spouses. At the start of this year, if a friend had told you they were going to spend a Saturday evening quizzing with the in-laws on Zoom, you would have probably helped them think up an escape plan. But now a group quiz on Zoom is a perfectly acceptable addition to your social calendar and, as this pandemic has progressed, we have seen more and more activities adapted for video calls. From virtual book clubs and weight loss groups to Christmas parties, the possibilities are endless and frankly we all deserve an award for our creativity.
8. Think more, change more
And we come full circle, back to the biggest lesson I have learned from lockdown. It’s important to make time to think, so we can properly evaluate our lives and feel confident in the choices we have made.
What motivates you in life? What are your short-term aims and long-term ambitions? Once you have sussed out the answers, make a conscious effort to consider them when faced with any big decision to make sure your choices align with your goals.
What lessons have you learned during lockdown? And what’s the weirdest/most impressive thing you’ve seen take place over video call? (Keep it PG, people)