What we’ve learnt in lockdown
KGS Head of Wellbeing, Nick Forsyth, ponders what lies ahead and what we can do to healthily adapt to the new 'normal' of post-lockdown.
As we slowly come out of lockdown many of us will feel similarly unsettled and unsure of ourselves. Where do we begin? Can we pick up where we left off? Perhaps most importantly, will things go back to the way they were before?
Like many of us, I’ve spent much of lockdown revisiting old films and so it came as no surprise when, a few nights ago, I found myself watching Alien. Despite the fact that the film is now more than forty years old, the opening sequence has lost none of its impact. We see the small crew of the commercial space tug, ‘Nostromo’, waking up from hypersleep. How long have they been in those pods, we wonder. Months, years? As they emerge they move slowly, seemingly disorientated as if struggling to remember where they are and what they need to do.
As we slowly come out of lockdown many of us will feel similarly unsettled and unsure of ourselves. Where do we begin? Can we pick up where we left off? Perhaps most importantly, will things go back to the way they were before? Right now, it’s difficult to answer these questions. Perhaps this really is a genuine opportunity to hit the reset button and change our ways. History, however, tells us that we’re not very good at learning lessons from the past. Consider “the war to end all wars”, the “boom and bust” economy, conservation, racial discrimination. The list goes on. Of course the same applies to our own individual behaviour, perhaps even more so. What then, if anything, has lockdown taught us?
Connect: “Talk and listen, be there, feel connected”
Well, top of the list must surely be the importance of family and friends. After social distancing and spending so much time apart, many of us are badly missing the simple social interactions that are so central to our lives. Perhaps it’s only when something is taken way that you realise just how dependent you were on it. Of course, in our natural, human desire to keep in touch our laptops, phones and social media proved to be a godsend. Whether it was family quizzes on Zoom or Friday night drinks on Teams, we all remained connected and, indeed, some of us saw more of our family and close friends than we might otherwise have done out of lockdown.
Keep learning: “Embrace new experiences, see opportunities, surprise yourself”
The importance of life-long learning is something we’re used to talking about in school. Of course, for all of us at KGS, a huge collective effort by students, teachers and parents meant that learning continued apace but we’ve also seen examples of how we’ve used our time to learn new skills. Those early, somewhat heady days of lockdown saw many of us baking bread or dusting down some long-forgotten musical instrument. But even if you didn’t manage to take up the trombone, over the last three months many of us have been able to read more, listen to music more or to simply enjoy having the time to think and reflect. We must also thank parents, up and down the country, who have nobly spent so much time helping their children to study and learn. Not an easy job when you’re tired out, short on patience and having to stave off the nagging feeling that maybe the teacher was right all along.
Take notice: “Remember the simple things that give you joy”
Positive thinking is a powerful force: The ability to see a silver lining despite the difficulties, to remember the simple things that make you happy. Being hopeful and optimistic is not just linked to better health and wellbeing but it helps us to build resilience and to cope better during the bad times. Of course, nobody can be happy all the time, especially with so much worry and bad news around. But it’s important to keep things in perspective, to be thankful for what we do have that’s good and going well in our lives while also recognising and reminding ourselves that things will get better.
Give: “Your time, your words, your presence”
Random acts of kindness. Again, this is something we talk about a lot in school but never before has being kind to friends, family, community and even ourselves been so important. Whether volunteering, helping a vulnerable neighbour or just being there for someone, all of us have something to give. During lockdown one thing that we have seen all over the world, uniting us, is people being kind to each other, coming together to help and support each other and showing us that despite all the loss, anxiety and uncertainty there is also hope, support and community.
Be active: “Do what you can, enjoy what you do, move your mood”
During the first few weeks of lockdown we were allowed to go out to exercise just once a day. How precious that time became. Whether it was a cycle, a run or just a simple walk it reminded us of the importance of staying active and fit, not just in terms of our physical health but also our mental health. In whatever form it takes, physical exercise boosts our energy levels and improves our sleep, mood and wellbeing. During those low points of lockdown when we might have been feeling anxious, stressed, fractious and irritable or struggling to concentrate, exercise was a great way to release our feel-good hormones and restore our sense of calm.
So there we have it. Stay connected, keep learning, be active, take notice and give. Five simple lessons we learnt during lockdown. Five lessons that, despite everything, helped to keep us physically and mentally healthy, happy and fulfilled. These lessons served us well during lockdown and they will do so even more so in the challenging months to come.
But did we really need lockdown to teach us what is important in life? Probably not. The truth is that in all likelihood we knew this all along. As is so often the case, however, it takes adversity to remind us of what’s important but what, all too often, we either choose to ignore or take for granted.
(With thanks to Steer.)
Head of Wellbeing
Kingston Grammar School