It's fine to walk and not run straight into post-lockdown life
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The pace of life is speeding up. Can you sense it?
It’s not as fast and furious as it was in 2019 but there is a different tempo in the air – and it feels a bit like getting into top gear when you emerge from a long traffic jam and onto an open road.
But though it’s good news that everything is becoming more normal, for many of us it’s also slightly nerve racking.
The Mental Health website (www.mentalhealth.org.uk) puts it very well: "We should be prepared for the fact that the end of lockdown might be as hard for us as the start was.
"Just as it took us time to find ways of coping during lockdown, we should also expect that it will take time to find our way back, and to reconnect with life."
Now obviously, NHS staff, people working in essential shops, delivery drivers, teachers and so on have been busier than ever during the past year.
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But even they may find themselves anxious about other aspects of life opening up around them.
As for those of us who have been much more home-based than usual, it’s bound to feel quite a leap as we gradually return to more normal ways.
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And for people who have worked from home and not been to their place of employment at all since mid-March last year, the prospect of travelling there, and meeting with colleagues in the flesh could feel quite scary.
Luckily, most companies seem keen to be flexible with their staff as they establish new working practices and are happy to allow home working at least half of each week.
I’m sure this is sensible. Quite apart from anything else, it will cut down how many of us are driving or on public transport, and many firms will be able to downsize their premises.
But the biggest bonus for employees will be that the transition from home to office will be gentle.
When I was thinking about how we should approach the easing of restrictions, I found myself recalling my school days. Do you remember being tempted to sprint along school corridors when you were late for a lesson?
Do you remember too how, inevitably, some teacher or other would emerge from nowhere and bellow at you: "Walk! Don’t run!"
Maybe this should be our motto now.
For one thing it could be usefully applied to getting back into organised and more active exercise.
How many of us, I wonder, are returning to gyms and studios and – appalled at our untoned bodies – are going to throw ourselves into lifting heavy weights and attending hectic Zumba or Body Pump classes?
I don’t want to be a killjoy but please take it easy or you are likely to get injured – and that certainly won’t improve your fitness.
I remember my husband telling me how doctors dreaded January because so many men and women joined gyms in the new year and went mad sampling everything on offer only to damage themselves. Sometimes quite badly.
Well, the opening up of sports facilities now is going to be bigger than any January.
Another change that has already begun to happen is an increase in socialising. But we’re out of practice with this, aren’t we, other than on Facetime, Zoom or WhatsApp?
Indeed, many of us haven’t been in the same room as our parents, children, grandchildren, or close friends for over a year.
So, though we long to see them, the chances are we are going to be nervous, and also find it tiring. It might be an idea therefore not to book up every single weekend with family visits.
I’m a fine one to talk however, as I’ve made arrangements for three weekends running after May 17.
I can see this might be a shock to the system as I’ve been spending almost all my time alone – and cooking for one – for 13 months.
Probably, I should schedule some ‘alone’ time during these visits. Perhaps you should too. We may be fed up to the back teeth with a solitary existence, but even so, seeing too many folk too soon could feel overwhelming.
Another big worry for many individuals is that they believe their friends, family or colleagues are going to think they’ve put on weight, or let themselves go, or aged a lot, or even become rather vague.
The important thing to remember here is that lots of our nearest and dearest are going to be seriously worried about we think of them!
Let’s just breathe deeply, and realise we are all in the same boat and – most of all – be kind to ourselves and others.
We’ve done our best with an unprecedented situation. And now we can look forward to enjoying all the people and activities we’ve been deprived of for a long time.
So, let’s embrace it all. But at the same time, do let’s walk, rather than run, towards the future.