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How to take care of ourselves and each other in the process of going back to 'normal'

It's been a crazy ride during COVID times. On one hand, we have adapted to a new way of life that involves very minimal social contact, a work environment that takes over our personal space and a complete sense of uncertainty. On the other hand, we were presented with the opportunity to take a step back and look at our lives from a new perspective.
As with any major transformations, there have been some positive as well as some challenging aspects of the 'new normal'; and of course, those look differently for each of us. What is for sure is that this past year and a half, the whole world changed gears and started living a more quiet life.
Suddenly our weekends went from buzzy to dosey, with fewer options to spend our free time on. While this abrupt change may have felt very hard at the beginning of the pandemic, most of us are completely used to it by now (and we may even enjoy it!).

When the world stopped, our attention shifted


Without the external distractions of the world around us, a rare and almost forced mass introspection opportunity, we had the chance to realise what we really care about in life. Maybe for you this looked like getting more sleep, or finding time to exercise, or a newly discovered passion for cooking, or something completely different! From changing careers to spending more quality time with our loved ones (albeit mostly online!), health and wellbeing took centre stage in our priorities as individuals, as well as within government programmes.
The tricky part is that, even though having time to reflect on our goals and values has been a gift, figuring it all out in isolation and while going through a collective phase of chronic stress (i.e. a global pandemic, nonetheless) has brought or exacerbated some major challenges.

Not all of it has been butterflies and rainbows


The pandemic has had a detrimental effect on our mental health with feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, worry and anxiety being reported by more than half of adults and two thirds of young people in the UK. This mental health decline has been disproportionally higher for some groups including women; people with eating disorders; people with obsessive compulsive disorder; frontline workers; and people with disabilities. It is important that as we move forward, we put our collective efforts into supporting each other in any way that we can, especially those who need it the most.

An opportunity to begin again


As the world starts opening up, things don't necessarily have to go back to how they were before. We can take this opportunity to start fresh, take what we've learned about ourselves and our priorities, and build a lifestyle that serves and nourishes us. Of course we all know that being on top of our busy lifestyles while still feeling joyful and calm is not always easy! And this is one of the main reasons why we created Holly Health. We want to support people through the process of prioritising their physical and mental wellbeing in a way that is easy and flexible, rather than adding more stress and pressure to achieve some sort of perfect (and impossible) standard.
Here are some suggestions from the Holly team on how to transition smoothly to this new phase without losing sight of your physical and mental health:

1. Remember it is ok to say NO to things you don't want to do

Some of us may feel pressured to attend to every single social event and live a super exciting life after so much time of not much going on. But if you are someone who found joy on spending less socially busy weekends, it is completely ok to bring this into post-covid life! Setting boundaries with ourselves and with the people around us might just be the single best takeaway from this whole experience.

2. Take it slow

After a long period of social restrictions, it's easy to get carried away with the need to 'catch-up' with what didn't happen during the pandemic. Rapidly filling up our calendars with social events for the fear of missing out (a.k.a. FOMO) can feel very overwhelming. Rather than 'bingeing' on social activities, try to take it slow and schedule them with enough space in between so you have time to recharge. You don't have to go from zero to 100 in 1 week!

3. Reflect on the things that went well during lockdown, and do your best to preserve them

As our routines and environments change going back to 'normal', it is easy to revert back to how things were before (even if they were not the most helpful). Consciously acknowledging and reflecting on what it is that we want to preserve as part of our lives going forward, will give us the basis to create an action plan to actually implementing them as things progress.

4. If you have to go back to the office or any other workspace, think of ways in which you can improve your experience

This point relates to setting boundaries and reflecting on what has worked for us during this time. For example, if you enjoyed having more time to move your body, how can you incorporate more movement into your commute or your daily activities? Maybe it's cycling to work, or parking the car further away from the entrance, or going for a walk at lunchtime!
If you enjoyed having fewer distractions while WFH, how can you set your environment so it enables you to focus? Perhaps blocking off some 'thinking time' on the calendar, or maybe setting some guidelines with your co-workers around meetings and/or informal chats will make all the difference.

5. Be kind to yourself and others

Big shifts are not always easy and it is likely that we will all need a period of adaptation. Kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others can help us be more resilient and come out stronger on the other side!
There are really no right or wrong answers to this. What works for some may not work for others and that's ok! In the end we are all trying to figure things out as we go. Feel free to stop and rewind if something is no longer working for you and experiment with different things along the way.

6. Practice gratitude

Lastly, let's be grateful for all those things we took for granted before the pandemic, and truly appreciate them as they make their way back into our lives.

By Daniela Mercado Beivide
Holly's Content & Research Manager

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Mental Wellbeing The World Around Us