After one year of staying at home, our pre-pandemic lives are merely a memory now. Friday nights once spent at the bar are now spent in the bath, Saturday bottomless brunches have subsided in place of Saturday strolls, and we swapped our hopes of far flung destinations with more modest summer staycations (roadmap depending).
We steer clear of crowds, shield our mouths with masks and douse our hands with anti-bacterial gel at every given opportunity. We're all familiar with terms like 'rule of 6' and 'Hands. Space. Face,' and know more about virus mutation than they teach in A-level biology.
While there is no doubt that it has been an exceptionally painful and challenging time in many respects, it has prompted a global shift in priorities that could serve us in the long run, namely, a greater focus on our health and a new appreciation when we're able to spend time with those we love, and there are certain elements of lockdown that are well worth continuing with when it eventually lifts, for our overall wellbeing and our mental health.
TAKING ILLNESS SERIOUSLY
Before this pandemic, sick days were largely regarded as skiver’s territory. We would suffer through our sniffles at our desks, determined to carry on while simultaneously infecting every colleague within a two metre radius. Fast forward to today, and any slight sign of illness warrants immediate isolation and a Covid test. While we may not need to take such extreme measures in the future, it’s well worth continuing this newfound respect for our health. “There is a sense of people being more aware of their health and trying to be more intentional about taking care of their health which is great,” says Dr Tosin Sotubo, GP and founder of Mind Body Doctor. “Our bodies and minds are pretty remarkable at giving us signs when we are unwell or when we simply need to rest.”
On top of allowing ourselves time to rest when we’re unwell, the pandemic has instilled vital behaviours that could end up saving lives. “How many of us knew that it takes 20 seconds to wash our hands properly? Or that covering our mouths with our hands when coughing isn’t enough?” says Dr Dr Claudia (Carmaciu) Pastides, General Practitioner & Medical Copywriter at Babylon Health. “We’ve all now been reminded of the importance to cough or sneeze into tissues, to avoid touching our faces with unwashed hands, to wash our hands thoroughly (whilst singing an array of tunes!) and to stay at home if unwell. It has also reminded us that although an infection might have mild consequences for some, it can have quite serious consequences for others.”
DITCHING THE COMMUTE
With those who are able to work from home doing so, many have ditched the morning rush, which often includes an unpleasant and lengthy commute. “My journey to work used to involve driving to the station, a 30 minute overground train and then a further 20 minutes on the tube. Door to door, it was over an hour each way,” says Grace, a 29 year old social media manager living outside of London. “Not only have I gained two hours every day to enjoy as my own, but I’m also not breathing in all that pollution and saving money on the fare.”
It’s a sentiment many share; why spend money and time getting to work when it’s better for our mental and physical health to work from home? Plus, research by Finder revealed that during the lockdown, 60% of the UK adult work force was working from home, with 65% of workers saying they would be more productive in a home office than a normal office. Moreover, two thirds of employers have reported that their employees have been more productive since working from home.
During the total lockdowns, an hour of daily exercise has been the only chance to escape the confines of our own homes - and many of us jumped at the opportunity, taking up jogging and walking. According to Sport England, lockdown saw a surge in appreciation for outdoor activities and exercise, with 63% of people across the first six weeks of lockdown saying exercise was important for their mental health.
“I’ve noticed that a lot of people and patients I’ve spoken to have become more active and are simply just moving more,” says Dr Sotubo. “I hope this is something that people continue post lockdown because there are so many benefits of exercising especially when it comes to our physical and mental health.”
Before the pandemic, 1 in 3 of us didn't know who our next door neighbours were. With physical limitations on movement, and emphasis on looking out for one another and supporting local businesses, there's been a resurgence in community spirit across the country - and it's paying off in terms of our mental health.
Not only does a local support network help to alleviate feelings of loneliness, but it has also been a lifeline to many, especially the elderly and the vulnerable, who haven't been able to leave their homes to get vital medicine and groceries.
This originally appeared on GLAMOUR UK | Lottie Winter