Who would have thought 2020 would start like this? Life re-defined as never before. Change happening so fast that you turn off your TV / phone and you’re out of date.
As I write, the UK has just been tasked to go into greater lock-down because of Covid-19. No outings apart from the necessary; only essential workers going out; all communal spaces closed; exercise outings allowed once daily and then only alone or with family. New day, new rules. Feelings of uncertainty and not knowing how to be. Not knowing how to meet people. No knowing when life will feel normal again.
Sound a bit like transition and re-entry? I do think there are remarkable similarities.
Transition and Covid-19
Much like transition throws us into a period of unknowing, Covid-19 has done the same.
- Everything you thought you knew is different
- Many things seem out of control
- Uncertainty abounds – about who you are, who your neighbours are, what is going on
- You don’t know the future and what will happen or change tomorrow
- Those you thought were friends aren’t necessarily the people supporting you just now
- You don’t know where to get hold of the things you need
- You’re having to relearn ways of living – where to shop, how to cook with what you have, how to connect with people
- How will life ever feel “normal” again?
Just as in re-entry you learn things gradually and it takes time, so with the Covid-19 situation.
Lessons from re-entry
So what can we learn from our re-entry that we can apply to the Covid-19 crisis?
This too will pass
In re-entry, you know time will heal many things. That after a time, no matter how short or long, things will feel more normal again. Nothing will be the same again, but there will be a new normal and you will feel functional again. There is nothing you can do of yourself to make the time go faster, you just need to wait it out and live each day intentionally.
You may need to relearn / learn afresh how to do things
Which things do you need to adjust to doing differently?
- Cooking with unfamiliar ingredients;
- Shopping in a different way;
- Communicating with family or friends online;
- Trying a different form of exercise;
- Working out what to do with your time
Being creative and being a learner are two of the mindsets you need for re-entry. The same now.
One of the big struggles when coming home is finding your tribe. Meeting people and forming friendships. It’s just as tricky now, especially with so many in lock-down. But I also see an opportunity here.
Many people are more willing to pass the time of day (from a distance), or to share a smile of common understanding of the situation. For the British, who so often exist in their own bubble, I see this as a massive step towards community building. People are setting up street WhatsApp groups to look out for those on their own and offer help to those who are isolating or isolated. Whilst not actually seeing many people on my street I am in contact with more of them than I ever have been.
We are communicating more with our families, checking in to see if people are ok. My teenagers are communicating more with friends online than they used to.
In what ways can you reach out in your community?
Just as in re-entry you feel grief for those people and places you have left behind, there is a sense in which you need to grieve the life you had before this started. The obvious part of this is bereavement and losing loved ones, which is really tough. But there is also the more hidden side of grief – for a way of life that you don’t any longer have in lock-down, for the people you can’t see, the exams which can no longer be taken, events which will no longer happen.
Allow yourself to feel and acknowledge these feelings of grief. It’s ok to feel the loss and recognise it for what it is. Yet another reason to be kind to and gentle with yourself.
Structure and Routine
In re-entry, especially when you don’t have a job yet or don’t know what you’re doing, routine is important. It’s all too easy to let that go out of the window. But it is more important than ever. My teens and I are still getting up at (more or less) normal time; they are doing their school work in approximately school hours, with breaks in between; I am doing normal “work” activities during those hours.
Without the structure to our day, it all too soon becomes like a massive extended holiday, but confined to your own four walls. This can easily lead to boredom and a decline in mental health.
If you’re not working, put some structure in. Decide what you’d like to learn, what self-care activities you’d like to put in your routine, and when you’re going to exercise.
Above all, be gracious
During re-entry, it was so easy for us to judge others on what they did didn’t do, how they lived their lives, what they were worried about, how materialistic they were etc. etc.
Let’s take the opportunity to be gracious – to ourselves and others. Let’s try not to judge others for how they choose to live their lives during this time, or for the anxiety that manifests in different people in different ways. Let us be compassionate to others as we would have them be to us in uncertain times. And let us be gentle with ourselves and our own reactions.
24th March 2020
P.S. I’d like to add a further comparison – reentry is a time to dream, to create a new future. Perhaps there’s something in that for us now… this will be the subject of my next blog post!