I’ve had scoliosis since I was 12 years old, and received surgery nearly a decade ago. Experiencing an enduring health problem has come with numerous challenges – both psychological and physical, and I’m sure if you have a long-term condition, you will be able to relate to this. For me, it has been easier to shut myself off from various opportunities and experiences rather than face rejection or social exclusion. Consequently, I have lived with anxiety for several years. On top of this, I’m also introverted – I don’t like to leave my comfort zone unless it’s absolutely necessary.
However, over the past year, I’ve noticed a radical change in my perceptions of the world. I’ve been feeling happier, less anxious and more open to new opportunities. Being restricted and not having the option to engage with certain activities has made me recognise how much I actually want to make the most of my life and not hide in the shadows.
Up until recently, I found it difficult to put this into words. Nevertheless, I’ve found that repeated lockdowns have actually improved my mental well-being. Being placed into a national lockdown has allowed me to truly reflect and understand what I want from life – my career-related and personal goals, my relationships, my hobbies. I’ve been able to sit down and recognise my triggers – what makes me happy, angry, excited – and consequently, adapt my own routine to avoid or engage with these activities.
But, what has changed? It took me a while to understand why it’s taken a pandemic for me to feel calm and less stressed, but then it clicked, we’ve had more free time. More time to live in the moment, reflect, and take a breath. We’re not spending hours on end travelling to and from work or university, we aren’t living for the weekend to be away from the office, we aren’t overspending on meal deals and coffee. We have learned to appreciate the small things in life (like those notorious Zoom quizzes) and expect less from those around us.
I’m not alone in this, either. I’ve read various posts on social media where individuals have expressed similar feelings. Some suggest that we’re devoting more quality time to our families and friends, exposing ourselves to fewer societal stressors and spending less money. I believe that the simplicity of our new daily routines has soothed the emotions of many, slowed down our world and allowed us to take a well-deserved break.
However, regardless of my own psychological improvements, I do still recognise the devastating impacts of the pandemic. We have all faced difficulties and experienced the destructive effects of COVID-19. For instance, family and friends who have been made redundant, been infected, and even passed away.
It’s so important to find the positives in every situation and I believe that being able to do so is what has kept me going. Having our day-to-day freedom taken away from us has inspired me to make the most of my life when things get back to normal. My only hope now is to hold onto this new mindset and apply it to my life after the pandemic.
In spite of all the pain this pandemic has caused, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m excited to see where my new-found self-love will take me in the future.
Sarah Golding is a health psychology master’s student, with interests in reproductive psychology, paediatric development and long-term conditions.