As we start to spend more time with others and ease into socialising post-COVID-19, it is important to protect your mental health as well as others’. Be wary of ‘fact’ pushers and those who use statistic-based scare tactics. This isn’t only limited to people but the media, too. Don’t fall victim to it and know when to say, “I really don’t want to talk about that right now” and divert the topic. Also, be wary of what you say to others. A simple ‘did you read the stats in “x” country?” may trigger someone’s anxiety. Rather focus on positive news. And no, I don’t mean becoming blissfully ignorant to what’s going on in the world. But rather, be cautious on what you share and tread lightly when you walk into COVID-statistics territory.
Another thing to consider is expecting everyone to be in a post-COVID-19 party-esque mood. For many, large social gatherings will feel overwhelming. It may also feel irresponsible, considering the social distancing rules and requirements implemented world-wide. Do not call people ‘paranoid’. You don’t know their backstory and they don’t owe you an explanation either.
This goes for yourself as well, don’t feel like you are a party pooper if you aren’t wanting to go balls to the walls as things start to open up again. Mental and physical health should be your main priority right now and others should respect that. It is also important to have empathy for those who are struggling financially, have lost a job or a loved one. Just because you aren’t directly affected doesn’t mean it’s not happening to someone else. Remember that the way you deal with things is different from others.
Looking after yourself is important, too:
Going back to ‘normal’ is not a good way to think of it. We will be forever changed – our priorities will be aligned and swayed. Was the ‘norm’ of overworking ourselves the best way to continue living? I’ve seen loads of posts about how COVID has forced us to slow down. However, for many, this was a bitter pill to swallow. It is unfortunately innate to us to only feel productive when we are teetering on the edge of burnout. The idealisation of stress, the subtle brag in the phrase “I am swamped” is a dangerous but addictive territory to live in.
As we have become accustomed to a quieter, slower life at home we have maybe also realised the efficacy of time management and mindful working. Just because the world is slowly starting to open up and is rushing back to ‘normal’ programming, doesn’t mean that you have to.
What practices can you carry through into your life from now on that were cultivated during WFH (working from home) or isolation? Can you factor in an extra 15 minutes in bed without checking your phone? Without rushing to the shower? Can you set boundaries around your working hours? During this time, I vowed for a no-laptop zone between 5:30 pm and 9 am the following morning. I aim to carry habits like these into our post-COVID lives.
Another thing to look at is the constant ‘connection’ to the world and our loved ones during this time. More time spent at home, within the world of wifi and fully charged batteries, meant being contactable without excuses 24/7. Can we forgive when a Whatsapp goes unanswered for a few days? Or someone hits us with an “I can’t chat right now?”. Being unavailable will slowly creep back into our lives, and this I am the most excited for. What a luxury it was and something I took for granted pre-isolation.
No, 2021 is not a write-off:
Do not buy into the media – travel can still happen, 2021 is not cancelled and you can still achieve your goals. COVID-19 has presented us with probably one of the biggest challenges we will face in our lifetime. But how lucky are you if your only encounter with it is being forced to spend some more time in a safe home with food in your fridge and a steady income? And no, this isn’t a ‘things could be worse’ lecture. I hate those. But it is a lecture on gratitude. And how sometimes we need things like this to give us a “wake up and smell the privilege” slap in the face.
We also need to let go of this idea of control – when were we ever guaranteed control? When have we ever been certain about our future? The idea that COVID-19 has tarnished and trashed our so-called ‘path’ ahead of us is the easy way out. None of us knows whether that road was even paved out for us.
That being said, no one is expecting you to be the best version of yourself right now. No one is expecting you to achieve your goals for 2021. Let go of expectations of yourself and others. But also remember, that just because it’s been a tough time it doesn’t mean you should scrap anything in the pipeline. They are still achievable with maybe a little more effort but remember, the effort is what builds resilience and that is when the true magic happens.