“For many of us, the last year has been about getting through each day and not really planning beyond that. Maybe you need to structure your day by making a plan at the start of it so you have activities and tasks to focus on. Maybe you’re doing something completely new, hobbies or jobs-wise as a result of the pandemic and that’s what you’re focusing on right now. Maybe you just need to take each day as it comes and get through.
“I think what’s important to say is that there’s no list of things you should have done in the last year. We’ve been in a global pandemic, we’re probably not going to feel on top of the world or able to perform at our best. It’s largely been about looking after others and looking after yourselves, and doing that in whatever way is possible. But the below list includes some lessons I feel like I’ve learned from lockdown, many of which I’ve been quite surprised at.
1. To live day-by-day
“I can’t wait to have big plans in my diary again but because we can’t really do that at the moment, I’ve started looking forward to smaller things in my days without really realising it.
“I look forward to cooking dinner, going for a lovely walk and ringing my friends and family. And while life will inevitably change again as we come out of this pandemic, I’ve promised myself not to lose this appreciation for these everyday events. I think being able to live in the present and find joy in unexpected places is really wonderful because that tends to be what most of our life is made up of.
2. Relaxing is important
“I’m very much still on a journey with this one, but lockdown has helped me to realise that relaxation is not just absolutely okay, but it is actually important for both your mental and physical health.
“I love being busy and having lots in the diary, but it’s taken the slowing down and reflection of the last year for me to truly accept that I can do that while still taking time to rejuvenate. It’s been tough at times. There’s been a big temptation during the lockdowns to take on more and more work just because I don’t have anything else I have to be doing. But just because you’re probably not going much further than your living room for work, that doesn’t mean you can’t get burnt out. In fact, some friends have told me they’ve felt more burnt out during the last year for a number of reasons, such as the added stress of the pandemic and the difficulty of switching to full-time working from home.
“All in all I’ve learned that everybody needs to switch off sometimes to feel better in the long run – I know this because I’ve tried and tested it over the lockdown! Even in lockdown there are plenty of different ways to relax – cooking, reading, crafting, playing a game, going for a walk, watching TV. Whatever brings you peace and enjoyment. And if you need to schedule it in to ensure you do it, then you owe that to yourself to do so.
3. Humans can adapt
“I still can’t quite believe the level to which everyone has adapted during this pandemic. With creativity and determination, many people have been able to continue with things you never would have thought possible when we first went into lockdown last March. It’s amazing.
“Many people who had never worked from home before set up their home desk and got to grips with video calls. All sorts of ways to socialise virtually popped up, from online quizzes to escape rooms. People started volunteering in their communities, delivering essentials to vulnerable people, making PPE and supporting one another.
“It’s shown me that humans have this astounding ability to adapt and respond to change, even if having to do that feels so hard. I think it’s made us all a lot more resilient and it has highlighted some truly amazing people who have gone out of their way to help others through kindness.
4. Setting goals helps
“Following on from my living day-by-day point, I’ve found setting goals, even tiny ones, has been really helpful, especially in times of stress and uncertainty. Sometimes over the lockdowns I’ve had moments where it’s all hit me – I’ll feel sad that I haven’t seen people in ages, worried about the future, scared for everyone out there who is suffering.
“In these moments I usually get a hot drink, sit with my notepad and write down what I want to do next – that could be for the next 30 minutes, hour or for the rest of the day. It could be as small as go for a walk, ring someone or rope my boyfriend into a game of Scrabble but it really helps. If lists stress you out, I’d say try to find your equivalent. What is one thing you could do in moments when you feel stressed that would help relax you and move forwards?
5. Nature is lovely
“Nature is, once again, something that’s frightfully easy to neglect in the throes of a busy life. You go to work, you have social events, sports games and clubs in the evenings, then you have parties, events and meeting ups at the weekend. When are you supposed to find time to spend a few hours frolicking in nature?
“But I’ve loved spending time on walks and runs so much during the last year and I definitely want to take that forward into the future with me. It doesn’t have to be every day, but if you’re feeling stressed or worried I’ve found getting out in fresh air always helps, even if it’s just a little bit.
6. You can create your own fun
“I feel very grateful to have been able to reconnect with some hobbies during the last year – things I haven’t done in years because of being too busy. When lockdown hit I realised I didn’t have that many ‘at home’ hobbies – all my pastimes involved going out of the house to a sporting club or society I was a member of. But over the last year, I’ve been reminded that I can create fun for myself at home for little to no money.
“Some things I’ve done in the lockdowns include baking, sewing and learning to use a sewing machine, learning to knit, polymer clay making and calligraphy as well as some old favourites I didn’t have much time for before like reading and yoga. I’ve also finally started learning to drive which, while I can’t do that right at this moment, is a really big deal because it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for ages.
7. People will always be my comfort
“People make me happy. I may not have been able to spend a whole lot of time around many people this year (apart from my boyfriend, lucky him) but technology has made it possible to keep in very regular touch with all my friends and family. I am truly grateful for this and the phone calls, messages and Zooms always bring a smile to my face.
8. Feelings are valid
“It’s okay if you feel upset you can’t meet up with loved ones or go on holiday at the moment while also feeling devastated at this horrific virus that has taken so many lives. You can feel upset to be missing the fun things in life while also feeling heartbroken that your friend is going through a really rough time because of the pandemic. It’s an important life lesson. There will always be people who are both objectively better off than you, and worse, but that doesn’t make anyone’s sad or happy feelings invalid.