Are we there yet?

It has been almost a full year since we started talking about Coronavirus. I’m not sure if that time has flown by, or if it has crept along slower than when you were eight years old, counting down the days to your summer holiday.

And for many 8 year olds across the world, they are still counting. Except they don’t know how long they will be doing it for. And their parents have no answers to give them.

Are we there yet? I’ve no idea.

Since the start of the new restrictions on people’s movements and daily routines, I have been curious to see how, en masse, we deal with this new and changing world. I have tried to notice our habits and how people adapt and change to this altered way of life. We are all individuals, but faced with a global pandemic, its fascinating to see how similar we also are.

Many (many!) months back, as I walked into town on a sunny day, I noticed that almost all of the girls were wearing summery dresses. After months of nothing but leggings, tracksuits and runners to be seen across the country, it was like everyone woke up on the same day and thought ‘I’m getting dressed into something fancy today’!

And remember how many WhatsApps you would receive each day at the start of the pandemic? How many do you get these days? Yep, some day, a while back, it just stopped :).

So, I believe it is now that we need to be very careful about how we handle this next stage of living with the virus. Of course, we will listen to and follow the instructions of the experts. We will wash our hands and wear a mask. We will not travel to anywhere that we don’t need to.

However, although these are the most crucial ways for us all to stay safe physically, I think that now is the time that we need to really look after our mental health. Yes, I know that it was talked about alot at the start of this outbreak (Leo Varadkar often spoke about it’s importance), but, as this whole thing started, we remained mostly positive. We figured that if we did everything we were told, that we would come out the far side and put this ‘bad dream’ behind us.

We have been upbeat and welcoming about the little bit of alone time, or the extra walks outside. For the most part, we have figured out a reasonable work / life balance (which was not easy when home is at work and work is always at home). We have had our down moments too of course. Not being able to see loved ones was particularly tough, as was doing the simple things like going for a drink after a long day.

Generally speaking though, it seems that we have managed. We embraced working from bedrooms and got a laugh out of getting Zoom-bombed. We coloured our own hair (some of us have even chanced an adventure with the scissors) and we challenged each other to make our own face masks.

But as another year begins and we realise that we are still very much in the midst of this pandemic, the realisation that we don’t really know when this will be over, has started to dawn on a lot of us now. In recent days, we have started to wonder, not only about the spread of the virus, whether or not we can properly control it, or when we might be able to get one of the many vaccines being talked about; but about how the economy will cope, the certainty of our job, or about the safety of our children going back to school.

In the first few weeks of lockdown, I heard many friends and family members saying things like ‘I’m kind of enjoying this New Normal, I have discovered that I quite like my own company. It’s great to spend some time with the kids without having to leave for the office before they wake up’

And it was great. For a while. It was a break from a life that was over filled with stuff we needed to do, things we needed to buy and places we had to be. And then we had a sudden opportunity to stop and take a much needed break.

But as time passes, each week feels like the last. When our time is not punctuated by things to look forward to, it makes us feel like we are living on the set of Groundhog day. We are social animals and we thrive on our interactions with other people. That interaction has been taken away almost overnight and I believe it is imperative that we don’t allow ourselves to become used to a life without other people in it.

I am no expert in this area, but I have started to notice a few  changes already that makes me concerned about how people are feeling in themselves. People seem a little more down trodden, shrugging their shoulders when asked how they are. The usual good things that we had to focus on, like going on holiday, now seem so far away. Going out on a Saturday night no longer holds the same appeal and many of us still are not comfortable in a crowded setting like a restaurant, no matter how much effort these places have made to make their business safe. It becomes easier to just not bother. And before we know it, we will start to stop socialising altogether. And this will be a big mistake for all of us.

So, in an effort to make sure that I do not fall foul of becoming someone who can’t be bothered to make an effort, I have made a list for myself of all the things I am going to try to do more of over the next few weeks. They are mainly small things, but I feel that they will help. Feel free to join me 🙂

Get out of the house every day, even if it’s raining. It might be to just go for a walk in the park, or a walk to Dunnes. Fresh air always makes you feel better. If you can take someone with you, even better.

Take 10 minutes each day to just be quiet. Meditate, do some stretches, mute the TV and close your eyes to think about nothing. Just sit quietly for 10 minutes to empty your head and calm your mind.

Call someone. It might be your mum, your brother, or a work colleague. Over the past few months we have spent so much time on WhatsApp, that we have stopped connecting properly with each other. You never know when that person will need to hear your voice.

Try to spot someone who may be feeling overwhelmed. There are so many people who’s daily routines have been turned on their head. Do you know someone with small kids that could do with a chat, or a bit of help?

Call your friends rather than text. Remind yourself how you laugh at the same things. Ask them how they are.

Have date night. If you are married / in a relationship, make a nice dinner, get dressed up and set the table. Pick one night and make an occasion of it. If you are single, make a date with a friend and go somewhere for dinner, or have a coffee in the park. Get dressed up.

Eat properly. Eating more green vegetables and less junk food won’t save the world, but staying healthy is a sure way to put you in better form all-round.

Drink more water. Because it’s good for you 🙂

Think about vitamins. Again, not my area and I can only speak from personal experience, but I feel that Vitamin C and Vitamin D are usually a help (Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin and God knows, we could all do with a little of that these days!)

Consider a staycation. We know that restrictions on our movements can change quickly, so please adhere to government guidelines. But if you can, pick a place in Ireland that you’ve always said you would visit. Now is your chance. Even a weekend break will put a smile on your face. If you can, try to get out of your immediate surroundings.

Don’t let negative thoughts get more attention than they deserve. If you find your brain wandering into a negative space, try to pull your mind back out of it. Go for a walk.

Limit your exposure to news. It’s good to stay informed, but too much news and information about the pandemic is not good for you.

Stop trying to second guess when this will all be over. The experts don’t know, so until they do, you won’t either.

Lets make sure that we stay safe, stay sane, stay happy and look after each other.


Mary O’Sullivan

Header Image by Craig Adderley/ Pexels

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