The Covid-19 pandemic had a profound effect on all our lives – there’s no doubt about that. Yet research shows that, alongside all the obvious difficulties and struggles, many people also had distinctly positive experiences during the crisis. So, which elements of lockdown actually turned out to be quite good for us? And, as safety measures are phased out, how can we hold onto these things? OpenUp Psychologist Soesja is here to tell us about it.
“Yes, the crisis has been a huge struggle for many people. A lot of people feel more anxious than they did before the pandemic, for example, and that’s totally understandable: Sickness and death suddenly became a part of our daily discourse. The uncertainty that people felt on top of that – not just about their health, but also about their jobs and the safety measures themselves – only served to compound this anxiety. As well as that, a considerable number of people suffered from feelings of loneliness: We were obviously asked to stay at home, but some people don’t live with other people. Humans are essentially social creatures – a sense of belonging is one of our three basic needs – so this created a significant problem for people living alone. Another weighty effect of the pandemic is that it has exposed a difference in people’s opinions. There were, and still are, diverging views about Covid-19 and the measures that have been put in place to control it. This had led to a lot of discussions and arguments – even within families and groups of friends. And given how invested everybody is in this subject, and how much it impacts our daily lives, these conversations can be quite intense sometimes.”
Covid-19: The Plus Side
“What we were surprised to see in our practice was that lockdown also had a lot of positive effects. For example, people reported that they had:
Fewer distractions and, therefore, more time for reflection
People suddenly had time to think about things they hadn’t given much thought before. Questions like: What am I doing with my life? And where do I want to go from here? You don’t need to ask yourself things like this every day, but it’s good to make time for that every once in a while.
Enjoyed spending extra time with their partner and possibly their family
Especially for parents who previously spent a lot of time at work, being able to see their children more often has created stronger bonds.
Felt less social pressure
Ever had to force yourself to go to a party after a long, exhausting day at work? Or had to sit through another mandatory work meeting? So many of these events were put on hold for a while. And that turned out to be a huge relief to a lot of people, because saying “no” to social events can be hard.”
Holding onto These Benefits
“Now that restrictions are predicted to ease, it’s a good idea to check in with yourself by asking some questions: For me, what were the advantages and disadvantages of lockdown? How can I hold onto those advantages? People are hugely adaptable – we quickly adjust to new conditions. This means that we’re now used to working from home, and it feels pretty normal not shaking hands with people. But that also means that we’ll soon revert back to our old habits and they’ll quickly start to feel normal again.”
Do You Want to Retain the Benefits of Lockdown? Practice these Five Tips:
1. Take time for reflection
Check-in with yourself: What did you enjoy about last year? And what did you find difficult? What do you need in the months ahead? And how can you focus on that over the course of the coming year?
2. Repeat this reflection
Schedule another moment of reflection for a few months’ time. Take stock of where you are: Have you fallen back into any old (bad) habits? And how did that happen?
3. Keep practicing those new, healthy habits
For example, continue to show up for that daily walk – even if a whole week has passed since you last managed to go for one.
4. Communicate your needs to your employer/clients
You now know what it’s like to work from home – are there any benefits you’d like to retain moving forward? Now is the perfect time to communicate that at work.
5. Practice saying “no”
It’s hard not to cave into social pressure. Learning to say “no” more often is a really important skill. There are four ways you can do this. Say “no” without giving an explanation (I can’t, thank you); say “no” and give an explanation (that doesn’t work for me, I’ve already made plans); say “no” and provide an alternative (I don’t have time at the moment, but maybe she can help you?); delay saying “no” (I don’t think I’ll be able to, but I’ll check my schedule).