“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.” ― Sean Patrick Flanery.
At the beginning of 2020, I’m sure you had many exciting plans and goals set. No doubt this was not the year you anticipated: no jet-setting, no pubs and virtual offices. Sounds like the makings of a dystopian film — and we’re the cast. Covid-19 put a spanner in the works, and we’ve had to adapt to this weird way of living quickly. Boris can’t seem to make his mind up, and things are constantly changing. (If you haven’t yet seen Matt Lucas’ impression on the Great British Bake Off, I urge you to watch now.)
We humans are creatures of habit, and due to our primitive nature, we’re often resistant to frequent changes in our daily pattern. This is because we run on autopilot, so we subconsciously repeat habits as this is light brain work. (That’s probably why you often reach for the same bowl of cereal every morning…) Coupled with the fact that change is often accompanied with uncertainty — another thing we’re not fond of — we’re met with mental resistance. Basically, it takes time to adapt to change, and when change is frequent, it becomes more difficult to do so confidently.
Inevitably, this begins to take a toll on our mood, motivation and wellbeing. It’s easy to get trapped into the mindset that there’s nothing to look forward to. You may be wondering what point there is to working hard if you can’t spend your money or time on meaningful things like holidays and events. Moreover, as we’re in the midst of a second wave, it’s certainly becoming more difficult to plan anything long-term. So we’re left thinking: what now?
Revise Your Goals and Priorities
We don’t know how long this Pandemic will last, so rather than sticking to goals that suited pre-COVID lifestyle, adapt them. How can you work with what you’ve got? Find something that is achievable and will benefit you both in the short and long term.
It’s possible to use these circumstances to your advantage. For example, with gyms closing temporarily, there’s been an influx in online classes ranging from yoga to strength training. Interestingly home workouts and physical activity has increased in popularity. Since June, many small businesses like PsycleLondon and We Are Club V have emerged to create plans that fit into the new regime. They’ve revised their business model to suit the majority, and it worked out pretty well!
Look for Alternatives
Sometimes change can be negative and affect our employment or businesses in several ways. During this time, job stability and security have been especially problematic. If you’re worried that you might be laid off or furloughed, start looking for new positions. The earlier you do this, the more likely you’ll find a back-up plan if things do go sour.
Practise Positive Thinking
It’s important to maintain a level of hope. This is such a subtle emotion, often derived in times of hardship, but has positive benefits. The situation that this world is in won’t last forever, so practising gratitude and focusing on positive potential outcomes could lift your mood considerably.
This year has also been a test of your resilience, the ability to cope with whatever life throws at you. You’ll develop a crucial trait that will make you stronger for things to come. Yes, you may be unsure what you’re working towards, but you still have a future, and it’s brighter than you think.
Savour the Small Things
Make a note of little achievements and things that have made you happy throughout the day. Psychologists suggest that the next time something good happens, stop to pause and reflect to really appreciate that moment. Studies show that the happiest people regularly practise this exercise. It can prevent the onset of depression and is one of the easiest ways to cultivate happiness. This can be something as small as your morning coffee in bed or having a funny phone-call.
Don’t Give Up
If you planned on taking the kids to Disneyland or travelling around South America — there’s always next year! You could save more money and plan an even better trip. Just because it didn’t happen when you wanted it to, doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen. Of course, it’s natural to be disappointed, but mourning what could have been is a form of mental torture. You have to go with the flow. Many people have taken to exploring their own local towns and cities, finding beautiful areas they would never have found had it not been for lockdown.
Maybe you intended to focus more on your health and fitness; you can still do that even if gyms are closed, and you’re stuck at home. Is COVID just an excuse for you to give up? According to statistics, there were over 1 UK million downloads of the Couch to 5k fitness apps backed by the NHS between March to June. It goes to show anything is possible if you put your mind to it. We can slip into thinking “well it’s over now” and order fast food every day because of the incredible deals on UberEats. Yet in fact, it turns out more than 20% of Brits have been cooking from scratch due to having more time. So think of all the incredible things you could whip up in the kitchen with your friends and family!
There may be a 10pm curfew, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop the party there! It’s time to get creative and organise indoor nights. Especially as Winter is coming, home events might be more popular. You could organise a cocktail night and make your favourite drinks — effectively making 3 drinks for the price of 1! Check out the best cocktail shaker sets here (starting price from £20). Alternatively, you can go booze-free and have a board game or movie night. Spend some high quality time without breaking the bank.
The answer is to live in the present. We’re naturally prospective thinkers, so it’s time to train your brain into being in the moment. You’re going to have to ground down and start putting things into perspective. What is truly important to you and your happiness right now? Although restrictions and guidelines keep changing, you’ve got to this point and tackled it like a champ. Remember to be kind to yourself and focus on the simple things that make you happy. One day, you’ll look back on all this with relief — it’s a story for the grandkids.
Written by Naida Allen
Naida is a Criminology and Psychology graduate who is passionate about promoting positive mental health and wellbeing. She is a creative writer/blogger and runs an online platform with a close friend called ‘Confidently Anxious’ — which aims to help others struggling with their mental health by sharing personal stories and coping tips. She currently volunteers as a Peer Mentor for young persons.