Lockdown 2020 has been a test of our characters, but are we now better prepared for how to survive if we have to quarantine again?
Will staying apart for any amount of time be harder for us because we had been enjoying the recent weeks of freedom?
Or, are we now well practiced at taking stressful times on the chin and adapting to difficult situations more easily?
I, for one, feel like a very different person to the woman I was five months ago and I’d like to think it is the latter that will apply to me.
Having spent all day, every day at home with none of the usual distractions, like socialising, going out for a drink or spending Saturdays at the football, I feel I understand so much better the way my mind works.
And I want to make sure I learn from that, that I remember how to treat myself with kindness and patience now know what it is that makes me tick (or, rather, explode into a self-destructing mess.)
So, now is the time for me to think about how I want to ensure isolation changed my life for the better – I hope this will help you do the same too!
We found our mental health deteriorated during lockdown
According to the Office of National Statistics, 1 in 5 adults were likely to experience some form of depression in lockdown, while 43% of psychiatrists saw an increase in emergency cases.
This is something I can relate to, given my own experience with mental health this year.
I’ve always struggled with anxiety, but it wasn’t until having postnatal depression following the birth of my eldest son, Harry, that I realised how much it impacts my everyday life.
I like to plan ahead, I usually have my weekends mapped out for months in advance and I find it really hard to cope if those plans have to change for any reason.
So, when we were ordered to stay at home, I had to face one of my worst nightmares and I had to learn to be able to roll with the punches a little more.
I’ve been at my lowest point on more than one occasion.
I’ve had days where I simply didn’t want to get out of bed because I’d become tired of the monotony of the parent-feed-clean-bed cycle, and the pressure of balancing that with trying to work as well.
Without my usual crutch of being able to escape to the pub for a break, or off to see family and friends for the change of scenery, I had to find different ways to cope.
These I need to remember as we return to the new normal.
We changed direction in our careers during lockdown
Statistics also show that large numbers of people have changed career following lockdown as many were forced to take a step back from work through furlough or redundancy.
At the start of this year I had begun to bring myself back from maternity leave, I was using my KIT days and trying to find new clients to work with.
Having been on maternity leave when the pandemic hit, I sadly lost the clients I was working with and found myself in a position of having to begin again with my career.
It’s not the first time I’ve been in this position: when I was 10 weeks pregnant I was made redundant from a job in marketing and my whole world seemed to crumble as I feared having to find work again as the mother of a newborn.
This time I was determined to make it the last time I had to start from scratch, I was ready to settle down and find some direction... only this time I had to do it with two little boys around me while I worked!
So, I sat down and wrote a list of goals, the steps I needed to take to reach those goals and the social media content that would be needed to ensure I achieved them.
Having the confidence to trust my gut instinct and allow myself more time for development is something else I have learned in recent months.
These lessons I need to remember as we return to the ‘new normal’.
As I brainstormed my business plan, I kept coming back to the same thing: I knew that I wanted to use my skills to help others.
It’s been a bit of a trend through my whole career:
When I was a journalist, I wanted to raise awareness of different stories.
When I was in retail marketing, I was part of the charity team, so I was helping people that way.
My focus has always been on what difference I could make, but I had lost sight of that a little in recent years.
I’m grateful for this opportunity to focus on what I love doing and a renewed enthusiasm to succeed is definitely the best characteristic I am taking from lockdown.
This I need to remember as we return to the new normal.
We made the most of family time during lockdown
Having originally planned to return from maternity leave earlier this year, it’s true to say COVID 19 brought me precious extra days with my youngest son.
It was a tough decision sending him to nursery for a few hours a week back in January and I could never have known that would become a moot point just 10 weeks later.
People like to advise you to enjoy the younger years, ‘you’ll regret it when they’re older if you haven’t spent more time with them’.
(Obviously these people haven’t spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with no break from their kids… I suspect if they had they’d feel differently!)
I made myself feel guilty for choosing childcare, but I should have trusted myself that putting my career first for a few days a week was absolutely fine.
It wasn’t just James I got to spend more time with this year, it was Harry and my partner Luke too.
We had some wonderful days as a family: playing in the garden, making cakes and having home cinema days (Harry liked the popcorn best).
I survived being a stay-at-home mum for 6 months, something I never imagined myself doing and it’s taught me that I can do anything I want to.
It’s taught me that, whilst all three boys drive me bonkers at times, I adore them all unconditionally and am very proud of this cute little unit we have created in our family home.
This I need to remember as we return to the ‘new normal’.
So, if Johnson and his team do ask us all to isolate again, rather than feeling filled with fear, as I was back in March, I now know I can handle it.
I can handle anything the world throws at me, I just need to remind myself of this often as we return to the ‘new normal’.
In the first episode of Series 2 in the 50 Shades of Motherhood podcast, I was invited to chat to my two good friends Carla Lett (from My Bump 2 Baby) and Sophie Mei Lan from Mama Mei blog.
We talked all about the things we’ve learned during lockdown, including around mental health, juggling parenting with working from home and much more.
I’m so happy to hear that the listeners have found this a relatable episode and hope that by sharing my experience I am able to help others.
We’ve got this!