It has been 8 months since we first huddled around our tv screens and heard that the UK will be entering a national lockdown. I remember a sense of disbelief. How can they do this? Do I need to leave University this evening? Will they be closing the motorway? Will I get a fine? While these questions may now seem slightly ridiculous, at the time they were very genuine concerns. The word ‘unprecedent’ has been thrown around repeatedly by politicians and famous figures, but it really is the perfect adjective for the World we (still) find ourselves in. One of uncertainty and unpredictability.
It seems only a few weeks ago that the era of online zoom quizzes and street parties were upon us. Where a video of celebrities singing ‘Imagine’ reminded us mere mortals that hey, even the elite rich are affected during these troubling times. Where social media was filled with banana bread recipes and home work-outs. It seems almost like an alternate universe we all experienced. Time has moved so incredibly slowly, and yet somehow, it seems like I have blinked and we are in the concluding months of 2020. So, as we find ourselves in a second national lockdown, here are some of the tips, tricks, and lessons learnt from the first lockdown which I shall certainly try and implement this time around.
The first is to be more patient. With myself, with others, and with life generally. I found myself in an unusual situation with the first lockdown, where I was completing my undergraduate degree and in the most intense moment of my academic life thus far, yet all other areas of life were halted. I really struggled with this. Things which were seemingly mundane and taken for granted, like popping out for a coffee, or to delivery shopping to my grandparents, I suddenly craved so intensely. I became quickly impatient that I could not do these things, which was obviously completely useless and rather unproductive.
The second is to put less pressure on myself to be productive. The prospect of having an expanse of time where socialising is not a possibility instinctively made me believe that this was gifted time. Time which must be spent wisely and efficiently. Time which I must not waste. I found myself feeling guilty if I slept in some days instead of going for a run. Or if I simply had an afternoon reading rather than reorganising my room for the 10th time. Basically, I saw lockdown as a collective ‘task’ to be completed, which I retrospectively think was a really unhealthy approach. I think it is important to remember that just ‘getting by’ each day of lockdown was impressive. If you can manage to work your daily routine into a lockdown life then that is wonderful. If you can do additional tasks or learn a new skill with the extra time you have then that is also wonderful. But simply getting from one day to the next, I think, is equally impressive.
Perhaps the most important lesson which lockdown taught me is the power and importance in human relationships. The communication I had with my friends during March and April this year was better than it ever has been. Probably because we all had nothing better to do. You couldn’t really say “sorry mate I’m actually out at the minute we can catch up soon!”, because well, most people were at home. But myself and my friends communicated and shared our lives and emotions with each other more over those months than we had in quite some while. I yearned for human contact, even if it were through a screen. I wanted to feel close to people, probably because we knew we couldn’t be. It really made me appreciate the people I have in my life, and encouraged me to reach out to people more often. To check in on them and their mental wellbeing regularly. This is something I will be carrying through this second lockdown, and really, life more broadly.
So while the prospect of more weeks spent in a ‘locked down’ nation is undeniably daunting, I feel somewhat calmer and better mentally equipped than beforehand. That isn’t to say it’ll be easier, only time can tell that. But while trying to be more patient with myself, accepting the lack of control I have over life currently, putting less pressure on myself to be constantly productive and successful, and speaking regularly with friends and family, I am hoping that this ‘winter lockdown’ can be as good as it can be. If I come out of it having learnt a new skill, or eating really healthily, or being totally in touch with myself and my emotions, then brilliant. But if not, well, that’s okay with me too.