Who, alive in 2020, will ever forget that bright season of Spring when we stayed at home and went out only to buy food, or for medical reasons, or to take our daily hour of exercise? Or perhaps the alternative version of lockdown for key workers who went out and worked throughout the lockdown, often in hugely stressful situations. Some of us lost our jobs, some of us were ill, some of us had family and friends who were ill. Some of them died. So, when I say that lockdown had some positive outcomes for me, I don’t forget that for many it has been a time of great struggle and uncertainty.
Despite all that, in the early weeks of the national lockdown I noticed a definite increase in my wellbeing. As someone who lives alone and has often been unable to venture out much due to illness, staying at home was something that I felt I had some expertise in doing! A lot of my activities are solitary: making art, writing, voluntary work online, resting alone to recuperate from time with others. So, the thought of staying at home for a few weeks or even months didn’t really worry me.
I began to realise that other things weren’t causing me anxiety either. The simple truth is that, under lockdown, I was not allowed to do most of the things that make me anxious. Usually I live with a fairly constant level of background anxiety which peaks at times but is always there at some level. Suddenly that was gone.
I reflected that, unlike the book entitled “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”, I had adopted a lifestyle which could be called “Ignore the Fear and Do It Anyway”. I was not acknowledging my anxiety, not trying to minimise it or support myself through it, but just ploughing through it year after year because I didn’t know that it could stop. Then lockdown happened and proved to me that it could.
No crowds, no too-full diary, no stressful in-person voluntary work (though I’ve had an increase of online voluntary work), no stress of travelling to places I don’t know, no stress of local travel which is also anxiety-provoking due to sight loss, no guilt that I should be doing more, socialising more, and so on.
Of course, some of those things bring pleasure as well as anxiety, and I wouldn’t want to entirely rule any of them out in the future. I have, however, resolved to be more mindful of what I will let back into my life once “normal” resumes. I have seen now that life free of anxiety is possible, and I’m not in a hurry to give up the ground I’ve gained.