By Dr Dilraj Kalsi
Why we need to give ourselves room to breathe as we get back to ‘normality’
As things start to open up again, Pandemic Fatigue and mental health problems are coming down. The COVID Social Study data below is a testament to that. But getting back into normal life on a backdrop of those problems brings issues of their own that are worth getting ahead of.
I started playing football again a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t be more grateful. Having not been able to play for so long I realised how much I missed it and wished I’d taken it more seriously growing up and prioritised it more relative to my studies. Going into it I felt ready. I’ve been exercising quite regularly, I’ve had physio to sort my joints out, I’ve gotten over my Pandemic Fatigue, I’m good to go…
Errr no. I cramped up halfway through. My quad actually cramped so hard my leg was stuck straight at one point. Luckily I managed to stretch mid game and walk it off. Initially I was confused and frustrated but then I realised, I literally haven’t played football in almost two years. Sure I’ve done strength training, daily walks and the odd cycle. But I’ve not been in a full on sitting against an opponent to get to the ball first.
My expectations weren’t calibrated for that. I could’ve been fairer to myself going in, appreciating that I’ve not played in a long time. More importantly I could’ve factored in how tired I might be for the next day or two.
This is just one example where not only will Pandemic Fatigue potentially make it a bit difficult to get into the swing of things but just the sheer fact of not having done something for two years means it takes some getting used to, including recovery time.
Take travel or commuting for example. Many of us have just been at home or commuting locally. The longer journeys in the car or public transport will feel different to the last couple years and with that comes a need to accommodate the toll that might take.
Even the notion of retail shopping, eating out or grabbing a coffee or drink. The experiences almost feel new again and in lots of ways there are. Making sure not to overwhelm ourselves with it, or at least factoring in some downtime after, is really necessary in the context of such change.
The most obvious one is socialising. Being around people again can be overwhelming, especially when we’re used to rolling around on pyjama bottoms and a shirt. Real life doesn’t have an option to mute while you burp, turn your video off while you pick your nose or breakout room with your friends. Actually being in groups now can be quite overwhelming and anxiety-inducing because we’re so used to everyone in one screen it’s like our eyes need reminding to move between people around a table. Building on that is the obligations we’re now have again towards others when it comes to our time, let alone the political hot potatoes flying around such as masks etc.
None of this is to say these opportunities are negative. I think many of us are coming out of this time with a better sense of the things we deeply enjoy in life. What we do need to acknowledge however is that we’ve not done these things for a while and with any change we should accommodate how they take getting used to and factor in how we recover from that. Being too full on about it is a recipe for burnout, which we’ve all faced to varying degrees in the last couple years.
So next time you get back to something you haven’t done since before the pandemic, take a moment for yourself to be kind in your expectations and factor in recovery time afterwards.
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