Maintaining the habits and connections you formed during lockdown
For many of us, lockdown has meant a complete rearrangement of life as we know it. Work, school, socializing, and even grocery shopping are all different. However, while you may be looking forward to getting back to normal, there may be some habits and ways of thinking you adopted in the COVID-19 pandemic that you want to preserve.
Here are a few things you might want to integrate into post-lockdown life as well as some guidelines for how to go about doing that.
Exercise. You may have started a more regular exercise regime in order to make up for the incidental exercise you missed, such as walking to the shops or commuting by foot. Or, perhaps you found new exercises to maintain your activity levels while gyms were closed. Whether your new habits were a daily walk around the local park, regular high-intensity interval training sessions, cycling to new parts of your city, or jogging around your neighbourhood, making exercise a part of your regular life will benefit you in countless ways.
If you find that exercise takes a hit when socializing and commuting come back on the agenda, try to multi-task by walking or cycling to work or jogging with a friend.
Community connectedness. Protecting the vulnerable has been one of the major rallying points of the pandemic; people have turned up for their neighbours and for complete strangers, helping them access groceries and medications, even when they couldn’t do it themselves.
Keeping those connections routine as restrictions relax may mean putting a reminder on your calendar to check in on those more vulnerable people in your area, especially if they’re still in lockdown conditions while you and others have returned to a more normal life. You may also suggest starting a text or Facebook group to keep in touch with neighbours.
Keeping in touch with loved ones. You may have found yourself reaching out to loved ones more often during the first months of the pandemic—whether it was teaching an older relative to use a video app or connecting with groups of far-flung friends. Continue to connect with others. You may find that it helps to set a specific date for a family chat or to catch up with friends far away.
Self-care. Learning to manage in difficult circumstances is challenging, but many people have seen the value of self-care. Self-care isn’t just having bubble baths (although that’s nice too), but creating boundaries, taking time out for yourself, eating well, reading, journaling, going to therapy, getting adequate sleep and exercising.
Maintaining a practice of self-care when life returns to full force might be a challenge because it’s easy to let other demands take over. Remember that you have to “put your own oxygen mask on first” and take care of yourself so that you can take care of others.
Cooking at home. We’ve all had to do a lot more home cooking than usual during the lockdown, and this may be a habit you want to continue. Although it’s exciting to think of eating in restaurants again, cooking at home is both more cost-effective and usually much healthier than eating out; you have control over the portion size and ingredients and tend to use less salt, sugar, fat, and fewer processed foods. In fact, research has even found that people who eat home cooking more frequently live longer and are happier than those who eat out more.
If you find it’s harder to cook every day once life begins to return to normal, try bulk cooking one day a week, making double batches, freezing extra portions and learning to repurpose leftovers. Meal planning can also help you become more organised and make sure you have the right groceries on hand.
Mindfulness and gratitude. Finding ways to be grateful has a huge array of positive health and relationship benefits, especially in the wake of the pandemic when there is a lot of uncertainty and fear. You probably never thought you’d be grateful for readily-available toilet paper, hand sanitiser or basic groceries, or the friendly chats with a friend or neighbour. The pandemic has taught many of us that we took easy conversations and the availability of items for granted. Acknowledge your gratitude for being able to buy the groceries you want and talking with a friend or family member without keeping your distance.
Similarly, the lockdown has taught us that slowing down and living in the present is a valuable tool for mental health and wellbeing. If you took up a mindfulness practice such as meditation or you simply paused for a moment in the day to acknowledge the here and now, try to maintain this habit. Mindfulness has a wealth of physical and mental well-being benefits, especially when it comes to managing stress.
Seeing restrictions lift after isolation can be exciting, and it can also be an opportunity to think about what you would like your life to look like moving forward. Think about the positive changes you made to your life during the COVID-19 pandemic, and do what you can to make those a part of your everyday life.