Getting back out there
I’ve just popped to the shops to get some gifts for Father’s Day. I ordered my husband’s gifts some time ago – after consultation with my children otherwise I’d have been in big trouble for buying without their input – however, the presents will not arrive in time. Most frustrating when I felt quite smug that I’d ordered in advance. What I had not factored in was COVID-19 and the delay in deliveries this is causing. So, I needed back-up bits and bobs. My husband wouldn’t have worried if his pressies were delayed but our girls would be most upset. I decided I’d put a hamper together – a smorgasbord of his favourite snacks and beverages. In a basket. With raffia and cellophane wrapping. That means about three different shops. This back-up idea was taking more time than the main event present!
I haven’t been to a shop since the weekend before Lockdown so, armed with a mask my Mum has made me, off I drove. I didn’t quite know what to expect and I felt it a good idea to adopt a blasé ‘this is all perfectly fine’ attitude – this would adequately mask any anxiety I might have about coming into too close contact with anyone, not to mention getting my head round this ‘new normal’ I was about to encounter!
Firstly, I hadn’t thought about the queuing. Outside every shop, you queue. You’re then told when to enter, you sanitise the basket/trolley and your hands, and then off you go, ensuring you adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. I had to smile to myself when I realised a woman in front of me in the queue was less than subtle in side-eyeing me because she obviously thought I was too close to her. It wasn’t intentional – I was looking beyond her and watching the procedure of how we all enter the shop. As soon as I realised her ‘looks’ were directed at me and were telling me non-verbally to ‘back-off’, I quickly took a step back, making sure I didn’t then invade the people’s space behind me. Tis all so complicated! Most of the time in the shops, I felt like I was dancing the Dosey Doe, ensuring I avoided people in the aisles – I didn’t want any more of that side-eying business or worse still – a loud tut!
For many of you, who’ve been coming and going in supermarkets throughout Lockdown, none of this will come as a surprise. You’ve all been seeing and experiencing this for some weeks now but this is new territory for me; my husband has done a few food shops but other than that, it’s been visits to the village shop and local farm shops and butchers or, we’re in a group of friends who all shop for each other as and when we can secure online delivery slots – appreciating they are mainly for those deemed as priority.
I spoke to the staff who served me in each of the shops and asked how they were coping in this strange new normal. They were generally quite philosophical about it and commented that it is what it is – if this is how things are going to be for some time, we just need to get our head round it and deal with it. Fair point. Those people clearly value their jobs, so don their face mask and gloves and they get on with it.
I realise for some people their thoughts are not in the same vein. They are fearful. At the start of all this, in a very short space of time, we needed to comprehend that in order to guarantee our safety, it was crucial we stay safe in our homes, work from home if we could and only travel if essential. It’s almost as if fear was promoted in order to persuade us that staying at home was the wisest course of action. We therefore built a haven for ourselves very quickly and did things to keep ourselves busy and that facilitated us enjoying being in our cocoon. Many had DIY projects coming out of their ears and painting and decorating was the activity du jour. But with Lockdown easing, we’re now being coaxed to come out, to send our children to school (albeit certain year groups), to shop, to go back to work, to stimulate the economy and try to get things moving again. However, no amount of strict social distancing guidelines is going to persuade some people to leave their bubble – they are perfectly content. They’ve effectively adapted their lives so that there’s no need for them to venture further than the front gate. They’ve deliveries set up for milk, groceries, newspapers, and online shopping for everything else has become an art form. They’ve got this new normal sussed.
In general, the brain likes homeostasis – the familiar, equilibrium – for everything to be balanced and just so. So, when it is introduced to something new, it’s the freeze, flight or fight reaction. As we come out of Lockdown easing, for many, easing is not the operative word. Conversations I’ve had with people range from ‘I don’t need to leave my house. I’ve got a system in place now for deliveries and I’m more than happy at home. There could be a second wave so I’ll sit tight for the time being’ to: ‘It’s all a bit weird and I’m trying to get my head round it so I’m going out slowly slowly, starting small.’
Readying yourself for change
Right now, it feels like a transitional period and going out today, I can see by the numbers of cars and shoppers that people are returning to their place of work and venturing further afield. With retailers now open, there are many keen to get things back to normal. Equally though, there are many who prefer to stay at home. I’m not talking about people who need to because they are shielding, I’m talking about those who are perhaps fearful they’ll come into contact with someone who has the virus, worried that not enough is being done to prevent spread of the virus.
Maybe, there are those who are allowing anxiety to take hold, when perhaps they could be having thoughts which build their mental resilience. Because it’s so important we don’t live in fear and make our world smaller right now. It’s been small for so long and the longer we continue to do that, even though guidelines are changing, we are writing ourselves a narrative when it isn’t necessarily true.
The drawbridge will only be lowered though when each individual feels ready and able to. If they’re happy with their circumstances, that might not be happening any time soon. Only they can decide when, and it’ll be when there’s a strong enough reason to do so. That’s when they’ll leave the familiar for the unfamiliar. And it will all come down to mindset - the way they’re choosing to think about it. It’s being consciously aware if we’re allowing the gremlins to take control – that we’re putting them in control of our thoughts and letting them fan the flames of fear.
And the fear is understandable. COVID-19 will apparently always be with us and as yet, there is no Track and Trace app, nor a vaccine – only those still in development. However, it’s important to be mentally resilient as this whole situation evolves. We have no control about how this pans out but what we can control, is the nature of our thoughts about it. Fear, anxiety and frustration are expected in these strange times and are totally valid emotions but long term, they will not serve you well. The fortress that is built to keep you safe, can very easily become a prison.
It’s about keeping yourself safe - not just physically - mentally too. Do what you need to do to feel healthy in the present moment and if that means staying safe at home, that’s what you need to do. But it’s also important to have a holistic approach – to be aware of government guidelines, the latest advice, probably advisable to not absorb too much daily news, limit your social media intake – especially if the algorithms are sending more negative news your way, and to look to the future in terms of preparing yourself mentally to gradually reintroducing yourself to society as it were. Baby steps are key – whatever actions help you to feel comfortable, but which are moving you forward, that progress is being made. It’s so easy to stagnate rather than to push ourselves and after all, we have no reference points for all this – nothing to help us to contextualise the situation. So, feeling trepidatious is natural but it’s important to take control of your thoughts – to be conscious that the nature of them is serving you well.
This is a whole new normal we’re figuring out day by day. Our mindset is crucial so ensure yours is working for you, to enable you to be resilient, resourceful and mentally strong.
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