How COVID-19 Affected My Life in the Last 12 Months

Window to landscape

In November 2019, I was packing my things to travel in Southeast Asia & the Pacific. I needed a break from everything: work, life, routine… At first it was only a dream but then it became reality: my fiancé and I had a solid plan! Bearing in mind that even the most robust plan should expect the unexpected at some point, we left confident that we knew exactly what we were doing (for 90% of it). At that time, no one suspected what would happen shortly after we left. A virus spreading all over the world, is that even real? It still sounds like fiction to me.

Now that we’re back in London, it’s weird to realise we couldn’t have timed it better, given the current rules with international travel. By the time the pandemic started to restrict our freedom of movement, we had already managed to visit Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Australia & New Zealand… It’s only when we got to Fiji that reality started to kick in: the world was in crisis and we got stranded there for 3 long weeks.

Everyone has been affected by the pandemic somehow, and even though it’s still far from being over yet, I think now is the perfect time to reflect. Because it’s been 12 months since we were “released” from the island and “allowed” to fly back home. Trapped and vulnerable tourists were easy targets in Fiji, it really felt like we were hostages. Today marks the anniversary of our first day back in the UK.

“Home” is where you want to be when the world is in crisis

If you consider that the number of infections were rising very quickly in Europe, we could have considered ourselves a lot safer in the Pacific. But it was mentally difficult to stay so far away from home for any longer. I remember our flight back home like it was yesterday. The country was in lockdown but passengers were still entering freely through airports. We didn’t interact with anyone. No one to give us any rules to follow, no mandatory quarantine… We were just “released” into the wild, with no clue how to adapt to this new world.

This is when I realised we had overlooked our mental health. Our first few days in our temporary flat were a mix of relief and exhaustion. We had so many unanswered questions, the future seemed so blurry. The main one being: what happens now?

Time is precious - London

Time is precious, and there is always a way to make the most of it

It was difficult enough to have no choice but to interrupt our dream travel plan, the last thing we wanted after spending so much time abroad was to be surrounded by too many people. We had to quickly return to reality, even if it was hard to swallow. Back in London, we isolated for 2 weeks, using a non-compulsory quarantine as an excuse to focus on our wellbeing. This time was very much needed for us to mentally recover from all this nightmare. We needed to get our lives back together and prepare our future the best way we could.

Accomplishments

At least I will remember lockdown(s) for being the catalyst for all the things I’ve done this past 12 months:

  • I learnt how to cut my fiancé’s hair myself. New hairdresser skills for me and lots of savings made for the rest of his life. Not to brag about it but he receives many compliments for his haircuts…
  • I decided to focus on my health, as a result I lost 25kg by revisiting my eating habits.
  • I significantly improved my cooking skills, read a lot about veganism and included many new foods in my diet (mostly vegs I didn’t think I would ever like). Proof that the good kind of unexpected can also happen.
  • I discovered intermittent fasting, which was a revelation for me.
  • We adopted Luna, to give our older cat Miko some company. Raising a kitten requires a lot of time within the first few months and we knew it was the right moment. Now they’re inseparable, mission accomplished.
  • I decided to delete my personal social media accounts. Oddly enough, lockdown made me become more selective about the technology used to communicate with friends and family. Best decision ever!
  • Last but not least, I started this blog to share my journey.

When I look back, I sometimes try and visualise how different the present would look if I chose a different path. For example, if I decided to soothe my anxiety with more food (like many people do) and became obese. Or what if I chose to spend my time learning how to play the guitar, instead of starting a blog. Overall I’m very happy about how it all turned out and I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason.

Also, you can have all the time in the world, there are always going to be some things left sitting at the bottom of the list. We got engaged in December 2019 and I can tell you almost nothing has been done with the wedding planning. Sometimes, we just need to accept we can’t have it all. The world has been moving at a slower pace, let’s embrace it and trust the fact that the best is yet to come!

Post-COVID, the world will never be the same again

Now that I have reflected on this past crazy year, I realise that most things are here to stay. At a personal level of course, but also on a bigger scale. It seems to me like mental health received more attention than it ever has in the past. It’s not invisible or taboo anymore. People value their work-life balance even more and prioritise things differently, maybe in a better way. I’ve noticed a bigger focus on environment too, which is key for me. That’s right, we’re about to enter a new era and I’m excited about it.

That being said, with the lockdown cautiously on its way out in the UK, I can’t help but feeling a bit anxious about the return to “normality”. After so much time spent at home, I got used to my very own comfort zone and it seems daunting to get out there again… Back to a year ago when we were clueless how to behave, once we got off the plane. Even small things like taking public transport make me anxious and I wonder how I did it so “normally” before. What if lockdown enhanced my introversion for good? Will I ever be able to socialise without the help of technology?

Tell me what changed for you since the pandemic started, I’d love to know! What do you think will never come back to the way it was before?

Big Girl x

What Is It Like to Be an Introvert During Lockdown

Several countries in the world have been going through multiple lockdowns this year due to the pandemic, taking away people’s freedom by limiting social gatherings (among other things). When I discuss the situation with people around me, it becomes quite clear not everyone copes the same way. How come? I think we find isolation more or less difficult depending on if we are an introvert or an extrovert by nature, this key aspect of our personality is now standing out more than it ever did.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

What’s the difference between the two and how do you know if you are an introvert or an extrovert? Well, it’s quite simple. Introverts don’t mind spending time alone, they need to retreat to their cave to recharge their batteries. Extroverts are quite the opposite: they love being surrounded by people, that’s what really fills them up. It’s a pretty basic explanation but if you want to dig deeper, the most famous personality test uses the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. There are 16 personality types and you can find out which one you are by answering several questions, it’s free and it takes roughly 10 minutes. According to this test, I’m an “Advocate” (INFJ profile) and 76% introverted.

What is it like to be an introvert

I’ve always known I was an introvert, I never found it hard to be on my own and I’m pretty much always among the first ones to leave a party when I’ve had enough. I would then need to reenergize with very little interaction with the world. So when the first lockdown happened in the UK 8 months ago, I found it quite peaceful and relaxing. Especially after being abroad for several months prior to that. Of course I miss not being able to go wherever I want, whenever I want, but I wouldn’t say I miss social events so much. I even dread video calls as I find them exhausting, they drain my energy.

Boundaries are important

Before I quit my job last year to go travelling, I was working in a company full of extroverts. It’s difficult to adapt when the majority of your colleagues, as well as the management team, are outspoken and loud. They don’t always let you speak even if you have (more interesting) things to say. Then it hits your self-confidence and your self-worth, to a point you start doubting yourself on the quality of your contribution. Boundaries are very important because they protect you from being abused. People with poor boundaries confuse the feelings of others with their own feelings and it’s not healthy. So in a way, I sometimes feel like this lockdown has allowed me to take the time to centre myself a bit more, which was much needed. Is it selfish to say that?

Lockdown can be a blessing for some

Today, the British Government has announced the national lockdown in England will end next week and we will be back to a tougher tier system. London will be back in tier 2, which means we’re not allowed to mix with any other household indoors except for only 5 days during Christmas. It seems likely to last until March/April 2021 (with better weather and hopefully a new vaccine). Personally, I see the next 4 months as an opportunity to focus on some things that are easily neglected when too busy: eat healthy, sleep more, go out for a wander, phone or text family & friends who live far away.

What’s your personality type and how do you cope with the current situation?

Big Girl x

12 Things To Do To Avoid Completely Losing It

Once again, everything escalated very quickly over the weekend and a second national lockdown has been announced in England. Other countries in Europe have already made this decision so it was only a matter of time for us to follow. Is there anything more terrifying than announcing it on Halloween day? I doubt it… So if you’re freaking out and don’t see the end of this pandemic, just inhale slow, exhale slower, and have a read through my ideas below to avoid completely losing it.

At least an entire month not being able to do anything but the bare minimum – on top of depressing weather and temperatures going down every day – is not going to be easy. This time we’re facing a lockdown during cold months though, we could use it to our advantage. Think of bears, they hibernate several months during winter, a lockdown would be ‘easy peasy‘ for them!

  1. Take a hot bath and relax
    • Use a nice bath bomb or anything with a lovely smell
    • Why not using some candles for a cosy ambiance?
  2. Apply a face mask
    • It’s getting cold and your skin can get dry very quickly
    • You’ll do yourself a favour and it feels nice
  3. Focus on your hair
    • Split ends? Dull hair? It takes time to properly take care of your hair… So this is the occasion!
  4. Don’t forget about your feet
    • They’re often overlooked and they need attention too
    • Apply a nice pair of moisturising socks and leave them on for as long as needed
    • Buy yourself a comfy pair of slippers
  5. Apply moisturiser on your whole body
    • Exfoliate your body and love yourself when doing it
    • It’s an excellent way to maintain good mental health
  6. Sit down and drink your favourite beverage
    • How about a hot chocolate under a warm blanket?
    • Close your eyes and enjoy, put your phone away, no distraction
  7. Read a good book
    • Even better if it’s a book that empowers you or takes your mind off the real world
  8. Cook your favourite meal and eat it mindfully
    • Take the time to enjoy every mouthful
    • Don’t eat in front of TV (or any screen)
  9. Write about your feelings
    • It doesn’t have to be in a public blog, you can write in your own private journal, just for yourself
    • It’s very soothing to put down your emotions and acknowledge them
  10. Make a list of things you feel grateful for
    • It’s easy to feel low about tough situations but don’t forget to practise gratitude about positive things too
    • I’ve done that exercise already when I was going through a difficult time back in March this year and I regularly come back to my lists as a reminder
  11. Prioritise your sleep
    • Make sure you get enough sleep to guarantee a sane and healthy brain
    • Take the time to dream, feel cosy under your duvet, forget about your potential issues, don’t think about work (or try not to)
  12. Listen to your favourite playlist
    • Finally, if you feel like you need something to spend your energy on rather than relax, you can always dance like nobody’s watching to your favourite tunes (yes, it counts as a workout and it’s more fun)

That’s pretty much how I spent my day yesterday… Today I feel better and ready to kick start another week! We’ll get through this, we’ll fight this shitty virus together and we’ll come out of it stronger than ever before. And don’t forget, you got this! Keep in mind that one day this period of your life will be in the past and you will look back at it when it’s all over. What do you want to remember?

Big Girl x