Reflections of a lost year – but what did we gain and what can we learn?

Reflections of a lost year – but what did we gain and what can we learn?

by Dr Jenny Draisey, Clinical Psychologist

As we begin to come out of the third lockdown in the UK, I can’t help but think about the incredibly difficult year this has been for not only individuals, but families, friends, colleagues, the nation, and alas the world. When I reflect on the enormity of it all, the feeling I get is pure overwhelm and a great sense of loss – we lost time, we all lost our freedom, and a great many lost their loved ones. This year will have changed us all, and for some it may also have broken us. But maybe now is the time to also think about how it can shape us into who we would like to be? How do we build our lives back up and bring back the joy and laughter that was once there? Of course, I would never want to ignore the heartache, anxiety and maybe even trauma that some of us have felt from these losses, but I am hopeful that for most of us, lessons can be learnt and priorities can be re-focused as we re-assess the world we live in and the decisions we make every day. In a strange way, I feel somewhat thankful for being given the opportunity to try to learn from this experience and think about changing things that I wouldn’t have even realised were a problem before.  

Pre pandemic, life in our family felt busy and chaotic. A diary packed with travel, socialising, activities and classes here there and everywhere. We have had a whole year of no after school clubs or weekend sports games to ferry children to, no weekend events that you have to drive 100 miles to get to. I have actually really enjoyed the quietness at times (although only at times!). I want to slow down! My family have already agreed to keep a day free, if we can, at the weekend for no plans and ‘doing what we feel like on the day’. I already feel a breath of fresh air rush through me when I think about this! Sometimes good things happen when you least expect them and maybe doing nothing will actually result in something incredible that you didn’t expect. But whatever happens on that day, we’ll be doing what we want to do, not what we have to do. 

Technology can be amazing! I was terrified of video calls before! The thought of facetime used to leave me in a hot sweat. But it’s actually okay! I can catch up with friends who live miles away over a coffee or a glass of wine without leaving my sofa! I have no commute! Quiz nights are actually quite fun! Obviously, it is no substitute for the real thing, but it has opened up so many doors that were otherwise closed. But I also need a hug! There are some people that I absolutely need to see right away! There are some that I’ve missed so much that at times it has physically hurt. I want hugs and will be getting these as soon as I am allowed to – and they will be the best hugs in the world – mum you are first in line! People are amazing and we should cherish the ones closest to us. 

Our thoughts aren’t always right. We’ve had a lot of time in our own heads in the last year. I realised that my head often tells me what I should do or be rather than help me think about what I want to do or who I want to be. I want to stop listening to the ‘I should’ voice and start listening to the ‘I want to’ voice! What do I actually want to do with my time? What is stopping me reading that book that I started 6 months ago, or doing that Yoga YouTube class, or calling my friend just for a chat. I’m a great believer in balance – of course the washing machine needs to be run, the weekly shop needs to be taken care of and that report needs to be finished. But I also need some me time! Self-care is so much more than just caring about yourself, it is about listening to what your body needs, putting yourself first sometimes and leaving your guilt by the door, asking for help when you are struggling, and taking time out of everyday life to breathe sometimes. None of that is selfish, and I would argue it is essential. Time for myself is going to be as essential as making that important work phone call or putting the washing away – I may even write it on my ‘to do list’!

I will need time to feel ‘normal’ again. Our mental health has taken a bit of a bashing this year and no-one is likely to immediately bounce back once everything is ‘back to normal’, whatever that may look like. Anxieties will remain, the elation that we think ‘we should’ feel about things opening up is unlikely, and social situations may feel harder than before as we probably won’t have much to talk about that doesn’t involve the pandemic! We will all need support to feel okay again and that is to be expected. Please ask for help. Please support each and be kind. Please give others and yourself time to be you again. Take little steps, this is a marathon not a sprint and we still have a long way to go. But let’s do it together.   

Experiences and people are what shape us, not things! We’ve all spent a long time at home. Staring at the same four walls and the same people (whom, don’t get me wrong I love to bits, but I would also love to spend time with someone else, anyone else to be honest, right now!) I long for travel, for experiences, for the sun on my face and the wind in my hair, for excitement and intrigue, for knowledge and culture! For anything but these four walls. Our planet is a wonderful place – I for one plan to enjoy more of it (obviously once I have caught up on my favourite shows, had a long bath, and read a chapter in a book, as let’s face it that is as far as I will get!). 

If you need any help coming to terms with how you and the world might have changed, how to get back to your own kind of normal, and how to manage any difficult thoughts or feelings you might have about any of the above, please don’t hesitate to ask for help – be it from a friend or family member, or a professional like one of us here at the Surrey Healthcare Clinic. Sometimes taking that first step is the most important one to get you back on track and help you find out more about who and where you want to be. 

What changes will you make?

by Dr Jenny Draisey, Clinical Psychologist

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