Emerging from Hibernation

To kick of Mental Health Awareness Week, our Deputy Chief Executive Andy Warren reflects on what he’s learnt over the last year.

Sequels are never as good as the originals (with the exception of The Godfather Part 2 and the Empire Strikes Back). This has never seemed more true as we come out of our third lockdown: emerging from our homes blinking into the sunlight after a long, tough winter.

If that wasn’t bad enough, we’ve been inflicted with the collective experience of being both utterly bored and at the same time totally exhausted.

I don’t think the first lockdown had much to recommend it, but at least we had quiet roads, unseasonably warm weather and the unique sensation of a once in a lifetime experience. I enjoyed the change of pace.

Working from home often meant later wake up times (hoorah!), more time with family and the opportunity to explore the beautiful countryside that I’ve taken for granted for all my life.  It helped that everything seemed to happen with a glass of something cold and fizzy. It was tough but it was all going to be sorted in a few months, wasn’t it?

The pandemic started to bite

Fast forward to Christmas and the true enormity of the pandemic bit hard: a death toll that defied belief and the realisation that last summer’s lockdown was a brief reprieve and not the roadmap out of our troubles. We were missing our old lives, our colleagues and our wider social circles.

Those bucolic spring walks (‘I can’t believe how lovely it is here, how many times have I driven past this place!’)  were replaced with muddy trudges through well-worn paths, surrounded by people having as little fun as you were but just needing to break the endless cycle of Zoom meetings and too much mediocre telly. To put the tin hat on it, it was dark at 3:30pm. I’ve never dug an underground tunnel for a living but that last five months is as close to a sense of dark claustrophobia that I’m comfortable with.

Spring brought hope
Spring always provides us with renewed optimism with everything in bloom. For those of us still enjoying something cold and fizzy, we’re now topped up with a far more potent and helpful form of vaccination against this pandemic. There is every reason to believe that the worst is over and we can begin to think about a meaningful return to the lives we lived before all of this nonsense.

At Second Step we’ve been talking a lot about our recovery plan, primarily to make sure we transition safely back to normality, but also to make sure that we come back having learnt something from all of this horribleness. It’s only natural that we want to feel stronger and wiser for the individual and collective travails we’ve experienced during  the last 14 months.

My own recovery plan

Thinking about my own recovery plan has been harder. Actually I’ve been thinking exclusively about the things that I will miss about lockdown and my anxieties about what leaving behind a very simple life looks like. I hope you can relate: I really want to get back to work, not playing team sports has been really tough, football and rugby without crowds is rubbish,  I want to see my friends and have a proper pint in the pub and most importantly…

I NEVER WANT TO GO ON A WALK EVER AGAIN

But….on the other hand, I’ve enjoyed not having to socialise much, I like endless TV box sets. Immediate family aside my PS5 is the one thing I would rescue from my house if it was on fire. The pandemic has allowed me to indulge in that side of my character. The anxieties that accompany so many facets of modern living are real for so many of us, in fact they have grown and taken root. I don’t want to stay in lockdown, but I recognise I need a more complicated period of readjustment than I assumed.

I’m going to need to be mindful that we are all operating on different timescales as we pick up our lives. Things will inevitably become busier, more complicated, more stimulating and provide more variety that we have been used to. We need to take care of each other as we go through this change.

So what’s important to me? Connection and collaboration with friends and colleagues, getting back to the natural rhythms of the week and trying hard to enjoy the simple things we took for granted before lockdown.

There’s so much to look forward to as we leave this collective trauma behind, let’s just make sure that while some of us want to run towards the promise of a brighter future, plenty of us are preferring a slow and gentle amble. Given that I intend to burn my walking shoes,I don’t think I have much option.

We’re sharing our stories of nature and connection over on our social channels. Do get in touch to share yours. @wearesecondstep

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