Acknowledging and appreciating the positives

As the easing of lockdown is underway, I’ve started reflecting on the experience. Before I go any further I have to say that I have been extremely fortunate to have not have had any great personal tragedy over the last four months and for that I am grateful. I unfortunately learnt of the death of an ex-colleague due to CV19, and my heart goes out to his family and close friends. I know of five people now who have lost a parent at the height of lockdown and were unable to attend funerals or see them before they passed away. I have been unable to return to Australia to help my brother who has been acting as principle carer for our mum whilst she had recovered from a small cancer operation. All of these things bring home to me that this is not a ‘normal’ time and also lends something to my frustration as we stagger - some more enthusiastically than others – into the loosening of the restrictions that have saved many lives whilst making life difficult for some, and just plain weird for most of us.

In recent weeks, I have noticed a significant shift in my mood; on the one hand I am grateful that I can start to see friends again whilst observing social distancing. On the other hand, I am noticing a heightened sense of anxiety and with that, less peaceful and sound sleep; I am waking up in the night, and having vivid and rather disturbing dreams. I know from research conducted by Kings College that levels of anxiety peaked at the beginning of lockdown but then dipped; we human beings are remarkably adaptable and on the whole, we settled into our new way of life with relative ease, even if at times we were frustrated and even angry at what was happening. Now as lockdown eases, we are in a stage of transition again, with less clarity about the rules, a greater need to use our own judgement about what is acceptable, and the sense that others may have expectations of our willingness to rejoin society that may not match our own wishes.

As I start this transition into the next phase, I want to take time to reflect on the last four months. A quarter of 2020 has gone by, and whilst it’s not been the 2020 I had planned, I don’t want this time to go unrecognised. There have been moments where I have felt such sadness, reflecting on what has been lost and anticipatory grief that many of the things I enjoy may not return; yet at other times I have felt at peace, grounded, and almost lighter with the simplicity that lockdown brings. So what has been good about this time, what do I appreciate, and what can I capture and take with me into the next phase?

· I have appreciated not travelling for work, and my partner being home when he would normally be away several nights a week. This is the most time we have spent together apart from holidays since our first year of living together, and it’s gone surprisingly well. On the whole, we've had fun and enjoyed this most unusual time together.

· I am feeling fit and well. I have walked every morning before work for about 1.5 hours, exploring parts of my neighbourhood that I’d not known before.

· I have enjoyed watching live theatre at home, although of course I prefer the real thing. But National Theatre at Home, and a one-off live stream from The Old Vic meant that I have seen plays that I missed or couldn’t get tickets to at the time.

· We love to go out dancing with friends, and we have really appreciated the various DJ’s that have done live streams; many of them are our friends who DJ in their spare time for the love of the music, and so many a night has been spent dressing up and ‘going out’ in our living room (sorry neighbours).

· I have read more books in the last four months than I have read in ages.

· I have enjoyed various podcasts (The Guilty Feminist, Reasons to be Cheerful, Adam Buxton, Richard Herring) as well as a lot of comedy from BBC radio 4- mostly listened to whilst doing my best Forrest Gump impersonation and pounding the pavements.

· I have had the luxury of time to paint every weekend. I now have so many (thankfully small) paintings that I have completed I don’t know what to do with them. And I been grateful for the beauty of Regents Park where the flowers have continued to bloom in all their glory and allowed me to capture them on film on my early morning walks.

· A couple of our local cafes have opened for take away coffee. We have made something of a ritual of going ‘out’ for coffee after work, visiting the local park where we sit, chat about our day, read a book, and enjoy the mostly good weather. It’s a lovey way to mark the end of the working day.

· I have appreciated my clients who have stuck with me, transferring from face to face sessions to zoom. Being able to work with clients in this way has been a godsend, helped me to keep focused, and also made me appreciate the importance and relevance of 1-1 coaching particularly in times of crisis.

So, why not take some time to reflect on what you have appreciated about the last few months, and maybe think about one or two things you might wish to capture and take with you into the future. For me, I will make sure to both cherish and vary my exercise walks, will reconsider my gym membership in favour of embarking upon something new (I was getting bored), and I will carve out quality time each weekend for painting. And when it’s safe to go back to the cinema, I will consider sometimes seeing a live streamed play, particularly when I can't get tickets for the real thing.

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