When the UK announced it was going into lockdown in late March, the world was hardly surprised. Infections had increased exponentially and most people around me, from students to government officials, criticised the UK for failing to take adequate measures in line with other countries.
At the time, I had only just moved back to London. After nearly two years in the US, I decided to return to the city where I had completed my undergraduate degree to start a new job, reconnect with old friends and be closer to my family in Romania. As self-isolation became the only sensible move to make, I started to realise I needed to adapt my expectations about what my life was going to look like for a while.
The way I saw it, I could either make myself miserable by complaining about the whole ordeal or try to make the most of the situation. Yoga, meditation, gratitude journaling, Netflix parties, group calls. I've tried them all. And for the most part these practices truly made a difference for my mental health.
Still, every once in a while, I'd wake up in the morning completely unmotivated to repeat the same routine over and over again. Every time that happened, I ignored what I perceived as being negative feelings and went about my day as normally as possible. Frankly, I didn't even think I had any right to be displeased with the situation. Watching the news every day, I knew how privileged I was. I was healthy, had a roof over my head, more than enough food and two flatmates who were practically family.
What I didn't realize at the time was that making the most of the situation was not the same as rejecting perfectly justified feelings of helplessness, frustration and even sadness. I was scared that if I accepted that the routine and isolation were getting to me, I would find myself even more frustrated because there was little I could to change things. But as the weeks and then months passed by and nobody seemed to have any clue when life would go back to normal, I realised I needed to re-evaluate how I was approaching my mental health.
Instead of ignoring the times when I felt down, I decided to embrace them as normal experiences. I could be grateful for the safety and stability I was enjoying and still know that adapting to the 'new normal' was difficult. The first step to truly moving past the side effects of isolation was to accept that these side effects existed to begin with.
For all the positive thinking practices in the world, sometimes there is nothing quite as helpful as opening up to friends about the not-so-positive things you've been feeling. After all, how are you meant to see things on the bright side if you don't first acknowledge the other side?
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