7 April 2021

Freer Thinking

2 cats looking out of a window

Photo: Jane's cats looking out of the window.

Jane considers the prospect of greater freedom after a year spent mostly in strict lockdown: Will this feel like pure relief? Or could it involve challenges after we have got used to such a different regime?

Writing this on 1 April 2021, people in the UK have been able to exercise certain freedoms for a couple of weeks. We have been able to have rather chilly picnics (if brave) in public outdoor areas and for a few days, meet in our own gardens.

We have become used to being deprived of human company. This has been particularly hard for those who live alone. It has also put pressure on live-in relationships to somehow ‘replace’ the diverse human contact most of us were used to. The prospect of contact with family and friends which doesn’t involve a screen or dodgy wi-fi will feel quite intoxicating.

The long months we have spent doing everything at home – living, working, eating, educating our children, socialising online, often exercising– have required us to make a huge mental shift. This has taken its toll on many people’s mental health and has also meant getting used to the ‘beige’ life. This life has been more routine, more predictable, quieter perhaps and could drive us mad at times, but somehow, we had to do it. Human beings are incredibly adaptable. So, our minds have adapted to the narrower range of choices available. And having done that, we now have to ‘adapt back’. How will that feel?

Freedom, and choices, are great. But they also create more decisions. And when we have been under mental pressure or stress, as most of us have, decision-making can feel difficult. It’s a bit like a muscle which you have to exercise. If you have been working on the frontline during the pandemic, decision-making must have been sometimes unbearably intense and demanding. If not, it could have been the opposite – fewer decisions; simpler and duller life.

For me, the first couple of social encounters felt exciting but also a little scary. I realised I had not lipread anyone face-to-face apart for months. Using BSL (British Sign Language) for our first garden gathering was a novelty and made me realise how rusty I had become. It was a joy, though, to be in the same space as friends. Their tangible presence was restorative and comforting.

It will be tempting to return to the fullest possible life – picking up the pace and filling every moment with activity. That temptation is understandable, but it could be worth pausing before you do and asking yourself a couple of self-coaching questions:

  • Lockdown forced most of us to reflect more: what did it teach you about yourself?
  • Have you developed any lockdown habits which you would like to continue? How will you do this if so?
  • Do you want to fill every moment post-lockdown at top speed, or is there a balance which will be best for your well-being?
  • Thinking about your resilience, what could you hold in reserve for the future and any new major changes you may have to go through?

You may also benefit from having a professional sounding board. Coaching can be a practical way to decide your direction and the best approach for you. Contact us if you would like to talk about the next steps for you or your organisation. And if you are thinking of offering support to your team or staff, take a look at how Level Best, a programme of workshops and coaching, benefited participants and contact us for a chat.

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