Go at your own pace
One of the post lockdown concerns I’ve noticed recently is the return to ‘normal life’. ‘Should I go out so soon?’ ‘Will social distancing be expected?’ ‘Would people judge for not wanting to socialise as much as I used to?’ ‘What will travel be like now?’ The first thing I have to remind anyone with these worries is to go at your own pace. It’s absolutely justifiable to want to slowly return back to normality - whatever that means for you. Everyone's circumstances are different and everyone has different priorities.
I can say that although I’m excited to go out, I also understand the concerns around restarting this mentality so quickly. Especially living in London. It isn’t as easy as ‘we can venture out again, so let’s do it immediately’ or the idea that we have to make up for all the things we missed by going full speed. We are STILL in a pandemic. There are still vulnerable people, hospitals, jobs and businesses and this isn’t going to be fixed just because you can have a pint outside. More importantly, the effect the pandemic has had on mental health won’t be solved at the rate you think it might because of the updated restrictions.
Over the last year, more and more people have dealt with enhanced symptoms of existing illnesses or experiencing them for the first time. Personally, I’ve had both extreme ups and down, moments where depression and anxiety has definitely worsened. But also days when I greatly appreciated the new experiences of working from home (TFL you really do cause me to go full Hulk mode). I’ve never baked this many cookies and cakes to cope with both boredom and actual interest! Each person’s thought process and well-being is completely individual. Even if someone tells you their fine - double check. Pre pandemic, how many times did you say those words when really you felt low? Now imagine how many people say it now because they compare themselves to others who’ve ‘experienced worse’ or are in different situations.
If your friends or family are ready to socialise, don’t feel like you have to as well. You’re not them and they are not you. If sitting outside at the local café is as much as you can handle for the next few weeks or months, that’s fine. Or if booking holidays and festivals is what will motivate and benefit you, the go for it! Personally, I’m pretty ready for socialising and music venues to open but am very aware of the conditions of these places and the health of other people, so won’t dive straight into post lockdown society. Instead, slowly understand what I can and can’t handle physically and mentally. It’s always okay to think about your answers and say no when you want to. Don’t try to recover from a long period of distress in a few days. Prioritise the things that provide you joy and comfort, whether that's going to the gym or staying in and watching your favourite films. Also try not to criticise yourself for not being in a position that you expected to be in pre COVID. Don’t feel guilty for gaining weight or not getting that promotion you hoped for. Try not to compare lockdown experiences either – I think most of us took up a hobby that didn’t succeed very well (sorry ukulele in the corner of my room). Take the time to understand what you do and don’t feel comfortable/safe doing and stay positive in your decisions. Treat and talk to yourself just as you would to others.
It isn’t just in the age of COVID that comparison has had a negative effect on people. The idea of beauty and success needs to stop being restricted to constructed ideals. Society has always been so focused on goals and when they happen. It’s encouraged the idea that we should feel disappointed when someone else has completed something before us. Having children, moving out and ideal jobs are all the things most of us connect with a certain age. Yet we don’t take many other aspects of our own lives into consideration when it comes to these. Not everyone is able to achieve their goals quickly, but it doesn’t mean it’s any less important. If it takes you a while to realise what job you want, that’s fine. If you get your degree later in life, that’s incredible too. We’re told to make big career decisions at the same time that we aren’t even able to drink or have to ask teachers to go to the toilet, so it’s okay to change your mind a few times as you get older. As a millennial, the topic of finances is also incredibly tough. Our monopoly board is excessive renting. Yet we still compare to previous generations who were able to buy property at a younger age, which just causes disappointment and self-doubt. When in reality, this era is completely different. Most of us have a huge amount of uni fees and have experienced extremely low paid (if even paid) jobs just to try to and improve our career aspects. So certain aims will change or take longer than expected. But they're just as valid as someone else achieving the same things in a different time frame. It's time to focus on your own accomplishments and less on someone else's.
Comparing to people and ideas has no positive impact; it simply takes away our own success and happiness. Stop encouraging the idea that success is attached to a number and go at your own pace. We should always praise each other for our achievements, no matter how small.