Over a year of on and off lockdowns, level 5 restrictions, 5km radius from home, and not seeing family and friends… its been a huge eye opener for me on how myself and others have been able to manage this ‘new normal’. Most days, I have been OK with staying home and hanging out with the few people I actually enjoy hanging out with – my introvert self has managed things for the most part OK. But on the days where I have struggled, its almost been because of someone else’s poor choices or actions.
1. No one knows what they are doing.
I get annoyed easily these days at the news, because I am a heavy rule follower. I have always been this way, if the rules are clearly outlined, make no mistake that I will rehearse them, learn them back to front and follow them to the letter. In true opposites attract, I’m married to a lawyer, who sees ALOT of grey. Everything is grey to him (whereas for me its most certainly mostly black and white with a few very detailed and specific grey exceptions that have been accounted for and outlined in said rules). So for Rob, everything is up for interpretation and debate. And for me, there is no discussion – rules are rules. Throw a pandemic into the mix and you slowly realise that the rule setters actually have no f**ken idea what they are doing (perhaps they are all lawyers with a lot of grey!?). We are all just fumbling about in a sort of trial and error scenario (my absolute worst nightmare! we need better structure and rules!!). Plainly put, the pandemic and how best to handle and manage it is a whole lot of grey. And its managed by humans, who by all accounts are selfish and self serving and mostly are all faking that they know better than they do. So yea, its been a TRIP and let me tell you a massive lesson in letting go and accepting things for what they are in the present moment, and stopping yourself thinking about the future worries.
2. Everywhere in the world is handling things differently.
Clearly we are not anywhere near over this. That hope that the new year meant a nice big reset back to the old ways, is just not looking likely now 4 months into 2021. Yes we are moving slowly out of level 5 lockdown restrictions with only a slight ease in restrictions, but the majority of non-essential stores and businesses are still unable to open – how people are managing??? Mental health is completely stretched. And we haven’t even got to the part of the story where we are ‘living with Covid-19’. At the moment we are still in the ‘try avoid Covid-19’ stage of the game plan. No one can say what the next few months will be like. That uncertainty is a not-so-great ingredient to further stretch everyone’s mental health, am I right? And the real kicker is if you are reading this outside of Ireland you probably think we are all crazy, because certainly the process for managing this pandemic has been different dependent on where you live in the world. I have friends in New Zealand who just can’t even comprehend a lockdown that lasts longer than a week or so, never mind a lockdown going on and off for over a year. I have friends in South Africa who say they wish the restrictions would be stricter. And ones in America who have different restrictions depending on the state they live in. Its all guesswork and that is hard for a rule keeper like me to handle.
This lockdown hasn’t all been doom for me though, personally I have more better days than not. Mostly because I am able to control the news I consume, and one of the key lessons I have learnt is how essential it has been to create some boundaries between myself and people I find hard to be around when things are going wonky. That old joke, who would you like to be stuck on a deserted island applies here. Its been essential for me to manage who gets unlimited access to me when my emotions are sensitive and my mental health is struggling. I don’t feel the need to reply to every WhatsApp. I have stopped accepting Zoom Quiz nights. I am selective with who I complain to – some people spiral both us down further, others just aren’t sympathetic or understanding, and some you just want to have a fun chat and it feels like its going to ruin the vibe if you share your worries. also this all online – none of these are personal face to face connections, so I have felt distant from a lot of friends and family. What’s the point if you have no real news to share?
4. Daily walks outside have been essential
Grounding, meditations, walks with the family – these are all things I did way before a pandemic hit, but I never realised how essential it was to keep doing these every day until someone told us we couldn’t leave our home unless it was exercise within 5km. Suddenly then, the streets have been filled with everyone in the neighborhood going for walks. And the neighbors smile and say hello now when you walk past. I’ve had more random chats with complete strangers in the park over what my child or dog is doing than I ever did before – people are desperate for human connection.
5. Human connection is more than zoom calls, voice notes, and text messages.
The truth is, we need face to face interactions to keep relationships and friendships going. Also I hate work video calls that could have been an email, lets normalize email – let’s bring that back eh?
6. Daily Gratitude Practice is a must.
The quickest way to stop an anxious or stressed moment? Name 3 things you love and are grateful for. Some days they are just: husband, child, dog. Other days it is: the postman remembered Jack’s name. Our neighbors got a new dog. We made a cheesy pasta. On other days it could be: The kid said a new word. Hot coffee. A positive email from work. Simple moments captured throughout the day to be grateful for. I write down 10 things each night. I have been doing it since November last year. What I find happens now is when I am feeling sad or anxious or I catch myself worrying about the future, I start silently listing those things I am grateful for. And suddenly it brings me back to the present moment. It doesn’t always improve my mood completely, but it settles me enough to be able to move on.
7. Breaks are mandatory and should be scheduled.
If you are reading this and working from home right now, get up from your desk, walk out the front door (or back) and take 3 deep breaths outside. Do that again in an hours time. Set an alarm if you have to. Take breaks, and move away from your workspace. Honestly, think about the days we were in the office and someone walked past your desk on the way to the coffee station or asked you if you were keen to walk to the deli for a snack? we took breaks before the pandemic, now suddenly we are all working from home and trying to make sure our screen is always showing we are online – we still need to pee. we still need breaks.
8. Housework is not for the weekend or evenings.
Oh yea, want to know my favorite part of working from home? I can put on a load of laundry while I make my first coffee and switch on my laptop – and in summer, I will be able to hang it out in the sun and fold it away – all before the end of the work day. HECK YES. I am here for not doing loads of laundry in the evening. We even clean the house over lunch breaks now – so we don’t have to do it on the weekend – revolutionary! Tell your friends!
9. Stop watching crap on TV.
Joh, this is a big one, but who is absolutely done with watching crap on TV – I have burnt through everything good on Netflix, that I just can’t get myself to watch another crappy show. We watch one episode of a show (Call My Agent is what we are currently watching), and then we head to bed at 8:30/9pm and read/journal. I am sleeping so much better because of it. Also, speaking of tips for better sleep – I switch my phone to flight mode before I turn the light out, which effectively makes my phone a clock only – no notifications and that means in the morning I can choose when I am ready to respond to messages and notifications and check social media.
10. Music. Dance. Good wine. Take-away coffee. A tasty take-away.
Maybe its just me, but I absolutely love the little dance parties we have had as a family – its been such a great stress release. Good music pumping, moving our body – shaking out the bad energy, drink the good wine, ordering take away coffees while we are on our daily walk, supporting the local take-away restaurants by doing a Friday lunch out – these have been all fun little ways to switch up the mundane days we have been struggling with. When things look bad on the outside, I go inward – and that’s when I am forever grateful for the fact that I have Rob, Riley and Jack to bring me back.
I hope this post finds you and your family well and safe in these uncertain times.
HOW HAS THE PANDEMIC BEEN FOR YOU? WHAT LESSONS HAVE YOU LEARNT?
With love from Ireland,
p.s I write about expat living in Ireland, minimalism and slow travel (when we can travel!). I am mindful about inbox spam and only send out one email newsletter each month, so to be sure you don’t miss out you should sign up and get all the news straight in your inbox – Sign up now!
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