Rewind six months ago to March 2020 and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the start of a Hollywood disaster movie that none of us had agreed to be cast in.
Now, whilst social distancing rules continue to be in a state of fluctuation, most of us are slowly beginning to get our lives ‘back to normal’. Or rather, a new state of normal that recognises the lessons and need for social change this pandemic has taught us.
While lockdown for some of us may certainly have had its happy moments (duvet days and Disney+, anyone?), I believe it’s also brought out both the best and worst of society and opened our eyes to the many problems still demanding long-term solutions.
I could talk all day about Covid-19, how it all started and what this teaches us about our relationship with animals and the natural world. However, that’s not what this post is about.
I thought it’d be useful (and fun) to reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned during lockdown 2020, and share what I’ve been up to during this strange and haphazard time.
5 Things I Learned from Lockdown
1. We don’t need as much as we think to be happy
One major thing I think lockdown has taught all of us is that we don’t need that much to be happy.
In ‘normal’ times we fill so much of our lives with things we think add up to a happy life – from the latest products and gadgets to a packed social schedule and even a busy work flow. We’re always searching for ‘more’ and the routine of everyday life seems like something to be embellished or escaped from. Very little do we stop to simply acknowledge and appreciate what we already have around us.
Once we were all told to stay inside and lay low, the mundanities we usually took for granted suddenly became welcome luxuries. These might have included enjoying our favourite healthy breakfast; getting to spend more time with the kids or looking forward to talking on the phone with a friend.
I think it’s so interesting how many people I heard expressing joy at the simplest of things, and I hope this gratitude and joy continues to carry over in life beyond lockdown.
2. We should choose who we spend our time with wisely & intentionally
When we’re caught up in the flow of everyday life, we probably find ourselves spending a large amount of time with other people. In many cases, these people may not always be our first choice, and we feel pressure to say yes to things we may not really be interested in.
One thing I found relief from in lockdown was having a break from those pressures and just enjoying spending my time exactly how I wanted it. It’s not that I’m an anti-social person – I just like to be really intentional with my time, and lockdown was the perfect chance for us all to learn how to do that.
It was a great feeling as every weekend rolled around, knowing that Christian and I could spend it exactly how we pleased, whether that was kicking back around the house, working on creative projects or getting some much needed chores done in the garden.
When it came to keeping in touch with loved ones, again I felt a special kind of intention to this we don’t get to feel otherwise. Every week I set aside time to call those who are most important to me, from my parents to my siblings to my best friends, and in many cases FaceTime was used as a way to maintain that face-to-face connection. We had a few family Zoom quizzes too, which were a great way to feel like we were all still getting together.
It was lovely to allow the social process be guided by my own natural urge to nurture important relationships,, and not allow social norms or expectations to dictate that for me.
3. People can be selfish (& fear is dangerous)
Early on in lockdown, I wrote at length in my journal about angry I was – not just at the government (like everybody else) but also at how so many people were so quick to give in to fear, leading to them displaying some incredibly selfish behaviour.
Need I remind you guys of the empty supermarket shelves, shoppers piling their trolleys high with foods they’d probably never eat, and the daily struggle to find toilet paper as you drove by almost every store in town? No, I probably don’t. Although I think this crazy time was largely the fault of the government and supermarkets for not imposing caps on shoppers much earlier, I also believe that it was reflective of how selfish our society currently is.
The fear immediately went to people’s heads and barely a thought was given for those in need, those who may have been sick or elderly, or those who may not be as easily able to get to the store due to their busy working hours etc. People were driven to grab whatever they needed and then some, which led to a serious shortage of much-needed supplies including toilet paper and medicines. Although this did calm down once some regulation was implemented, I believe its a sharp reminder that fear is dangerous and one way we could protect ourselves against another pandemic is perhaps by building a more selfless society.
Another way I saw this selfishness manifest was in people’s attitudes towards the pandemic early on, which they largely expressed on social media. I was honestly surprised by how many people openly wrote posts about how they could no longer go on holiday, or about how they thought in a couple of months this would “all be over” and they’d be sunning themselves on a beach in Mallorca.
Now I’m sure these people genuinely didn’t mean any harm, but it was disappointing to say the least to see people only thinking about themselves, without seemingly any thought at all for the virus victims dying in hospitals all over the world. People getting their vacations cancelled was clearly the least of anybody’s worries, and several people close to me showed only grace and acceptance when their 2020 travel plans weren’t able to go ahead.
Complaining about a missed holiday when others are dying is one of the biggest examples of privilege in action. I can only hope those same people have learned a lesson or two since then and realised that this whole thing was much bigger than they could imagine.
4. Fast living isn’t alway ‘better’
Capitalism has convinced us that a fast-paced lifestyle is best and encourages us to keep moving as quickly as possible. However, lockdown brought our modern pace of living to a screeching halt and thankfully, most people have welcomed the chance to slow down.
The days and weekends spent at home meant a gentler pace of life was now possible. Daily walks in the middle of the day encouraged us to get away from our screens and the lack of social obligations left us with a lot more time to spare. With most people working from home and many workplaces closed altogether, it definitely helped to remove some of the rushed, stressed feeling we have in our everyday lives (even if those feelings were later replaced with feeling stressed about finances or job security).
Shops being closed meant that mindless consumerism wasn’t as tempting, and although many stores were still selling online, even deliveries took longer than normal due to postal services working with reduced capacity. All of this added to the feeling of life moving more slowly, and many of us probably adapted to having to wait a little longer for things than we may have been used to.
I myself welcomed this change in pace very much, and what was amazing to see was that it seemed everybody else did too.
5. We all have the power to find joy, peace & fulfilment within ourselves
Lockdown definitely brought along some people’s dream scenarios and others’ worst nightmares, and what was interesting is that these could often be the same thing.
For example, when pubs, bars and restaurants were closed, the country seemed divided into two halves: those who were more than happy to stay home and welcomed the closures, and those who protested in anguish, questioning where they would spend their upcoming Friday night.
Now, I realise that some of these public places hold a lot of value from a mental health point of view – for example, many elderly people use pubs as a way to get out and socialise with others outside of their home, which could be their only mode of contact with the outside world. However, this small number of cases aside, I think the closures provided a great opportunity for us all to take a step back from the external distractions that lie outside of our homes, and find other ways to spend our time. Even if this means – *gasp* – spending more time alone!
Most of us have been trained to suppress our inner thoughts and don’t like being on our own or feeling forced to spend time with ourselves. And whilst this period probably has been extremely difficult for many, especially extroverts, I believe it was super necessary. Because how can we have meaningful relationships with other people if we don’t have one with ourselves?
By taking a step back from the outside world, people have been pushed to find other ways to entertain themselves and learn to spend time with their own thoughts. And from what I could see, many people (not just introverts) have relished the opportunity. I’ve loved seeing people get busy in the kitchen, posting their banana bread pictures online, or get stuck into learning a new musical instrument, or take up painting. Many have used the time to start an online course or learn a new skill, whilst others have used the extra time to read more, study, get fit or make some much-needed lifestyle changes.
Watching people turn inward and finding inspiration within themselves, instead of always looking for distractions elsewhere, has been satisfying to say the least. As I said before, we really don’t need that much stuff to be happy.
How I Spent Lockdown 2020
Lockdown has been a hugely transitional time for me in more ways than one. Like everybody else, it changed our whole way of living as we previously knew it, put numerous things on hold and turned our entire year on its head.
I thought it’d be cool to share my little stories of some of the things I got up to, as well as some of the challenges we faced, in the hope that we can all share our own perspectives and know that we really were all in this together.
1. Got back to old hobbies
As mentioned earlier, weekends spent indoors with no social obligations strangely made me feel that anything was possible. Time seemed to open up from a previously hidden place, inspiring me to finally do some of the things I’d long been putting off.
This included picking up my guitar again after several years of neglect. It’s not that I don’t enjoy playing guitar; it’s just that I continue to see myself more like a vocalist than a guitarist. I’m definitely not good at it, but it was a great way to gently occupy my brain and felt like picking up a piece of my past, which I found soothing in such an uncertain time.
2. Invested in myself
I also took some of the extra time I had to learn some new skills and strengthen my own knowledge. This spanned a few different things – from teaching myself how to use GarageBand on my phone to investing in some business/brand building courses online, all of which have been really beneficial so far and have already got me changing how I work and run this blog.
3. Appreciated the value of a good phone call
I’m sure I’m not the only one that felt transported back to the 90s at the start of lockdown, when phone calls became the new texting (and FaceTime the new phone call).
This is something I really loved as I find it so much more rewarding and comforting to talk to loved ones on the phone than always rely on texts or Whatsapp. Now and in the future, I think all of us will want to keep up this habit and maintain this new level of connectedness we established.
4. Actually got to know my neighbourhood
With more people walking daily for exercise, I’m sure many of us learned the simple joy that can come from walking with nowhere to go.
This is something I did a lot of in May, with the heatwave out in full force and having been furloughed from work for a month. With nothing but my house keys, sunglasses and my favourite podcast in my ears, I would step out of the house most afternoons and simply walk through my neighbourhood, taking in the scenery. I took detours up streets I’d never been through before and meandered through villages I’d only ever passed by in the car.
In remaining open to the surrounding environment and not having a particular destination in mind, I got to know my neighbourhood so much better than I did before and even discovered a couple of new places I had no idea existed, such as a health foods co-op and a smoothie bar!
5. Chose my own morning routine
Spending almost every single day at home meant I was no longer tied to the rhythms and routines of external forces, but for once could choose my own morning routine exactly as I pleased.
This was a great opportunity to establish a morning routine that worked for me, usually involving some variation of cleaning, yoga, working out or meditating (or some combination of those). There were definitely weeks when my commitment to this fluctuated, and my exact routine varied week-to-week depending on what was a priority (sometimes it was breakfast and then straight to my desk). Above all though, I loved this chance to start every day off on the right foot and to create a daily structure that was flexible and doable.
6. Enjoyed more regular workouts
Of course, having no daily commute has meant that mornings and evenings have been a lot more relaxed. As a result I’ve found it so much easier to fit in regular workouts each week and maintain some semblance of fitness during lockdown (although the number of hours spent sitting on my butt each day has also certainly increased – but hey, gotta appreciate that balance!).
For those of you wondering – these are the YouTube fitness channels I’ve been using since before lockdown and throughout.
7. Evaluated my relationship with social media
I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone in saying that during my lockdown, my daily screentime massively increased. Whether it was obsessively checking news sites or scrolling social media to see how everyone else was handling the crisis, or maybe even spending more time messaging loved ones, I think we’ve all been glued to our phones more than ever during this time.
When it came to social media though, my relationship has been less than healthy, and something I had to come to terms with when I found that some days I was struggling to put my phone down. I think a number of things triggered this over-reliance: being furloughed from work (and later, self-employed) meant that I was 100% free to choose my own schedule – for better or for worse – and having nowhere in particular to go meant I was way more likely to drift to Instagram in those gaps of time between tasks.
Not only that, but on days where Chris was in the studio I felt a strange sense of loneliness, probably due to the fact he was my main source of company for several weeks whilst we had been working from home together. This was a new feeling for me as I have always been someone who does just fine in her own company, but the lack of real social connection for three months, mixed suddenly with a wide open schedule, meant I was perhaps craving a connection with the outside world way more than usual.
I was also feeling a sense of pressure as a blogger to look like I was keeping busy and staying happy and positive during these tough times, and social media seemed like the way to do that – even though some days I was really struggling and would have benefitted so much more from spending time away from the phone.
After a few weeks I realised my addiction was doing nothing for my productivity levels, and began to take the necessary steps to rebalance my social media use and get back on track. Even now I am still not perfect and sometimes still struggle, but I feel like the experience has really opened my eyes to the sort of relationship I want to have with social media in the future.
Perhaps I will write a separate blog post on this going into more detail (drop me a comment if you’d like to see that!). At the very least, I feel that the last couple of months have been much more balanced and I’m starting to really get the hang of incorporating a little social media in my day-to-day, whilst not letting it get in the way of my to-do lists.
8. Cancelled our house move
One of our biggest curveballs this year was having to cancel our house move, which was due to take place at the end of May. With social distancing rules being at their peak during this time and most letting agents being either closed or unavailable for house viewings, we had no choice but to postpone our move till the end of August, and have since postponed it again till the end of October.
Whilst I am ultimately so grateful to have had a place to stay during lockdown and not have to move in with family, the process has nevertheless felt like a logistical and emotional rollercoaster. From the stress of house-hunting to the constant back-and-forth of deciding what to do next (not to mention trying to figure out how we would move all of our stuff amid a pandemic), it’s something that has definitely sapped a lot of our time over the last several months and has been a source of definite concern.
In hindsight though, I feel like everything turned out for the best as we’re now in a much better position to move house and have a clearer perspective on where we want to live. So despite the stress, I’m confident that this was the best possible outcome.
9. Had a change in career
The other big change I’ve experienced during lockdown was that of my professional situation. As some may already know, I started off lockdown working for a company, which led to being on a rota’d furlough, which eventually led to that company no longer being able to sustain so many staff and letting me (and several others) go.
I was neither surprised nor affected – the job had already not been the best fit for me, and had been made undoubtedly worse by the immense pressure put on employees to try and ‘keep the company afloat’ amid a global pandemic (whilst completely ignoring any personal or mental trials they may have been going through). Tensions were high, expectations were unrealistic and I struggled for two months with an overbearing manager and pretty terrible work-life balance. When that stint of employment abruptly came to an end, I felt nothing but relieved and could only see it as a blessing from above.
Over the last couple of months I’ve been able to take some time off to think about my next professional steps that would truly make me happy instead of simply hopping straight back onto the hamster wheel. This gave me some time to do some freelance work, continue to expand my own learning as mentioned, and begin to implement certain strategies that will help me take this blog from being just a side hustle to a full-time business.
I’m now due to start a new job in the next few weeks that will take me to a whole new city and be a completely new experience, so I am curious (if a little intimidated) to see what the next few months will bring.
To wrap it up…
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that lockdown has been a complete roller coaster for me, as it inevitably has been for a lot of people. As well as the usual tide of personal challenges we all go through every year, the backdrop of a global crisis unfolding has only exacerbated whatever we may have been experiencing on a personal level.
When this whole thing started, I was a little naive in overestimating just how productive I would be with a ton of free time on my hands. The truth is that for me and most other people, this time was not actually ‘free’ but spent battling the worries and concerns about what would happen next; working out how we could stay financially secure; planning out next moves such as a change in job or location, and overall working towards a more stable future. If ever there was proof that humans like routine and predictability, this was it, and even the strongest of us will have been fighting to stay mentally sane throughout this whole chapter.
For me, there have been a lot of things in lockdown I would do differently, if I had the chance to do it over again. I recently read a quote that said we live our lives forwards, but understand them backwards, and I think lockdown is a perfect example of this.
Only now as life is slowly resuming to normal and my own personal time-freedom is coming to an end am I finally reaching some feeling of balance, routine and contentedness again that has felt difficult to hold onto over the last several months. Only now am I realising where my time was best spent, what I could have done less of and what was and wasn’t worth worrying about. I know I won’t be the only one in feeling this way, but hey, what ya gonna do? You live and you learn.
Covid-19 and social distancing rules are far from being over (and we shouldn’t pretend as such). However, I’d like to think that all of us are giving some serious consideration to what parts of ‘normal’ life we believe are worth going back to.
I know I will be.