I know it sounds silly, but I am suffering from post-lockdown regrets

It might seem trivial, but there is a grieving for the things we didn't do during lockdown, from personal goals to family and work

Jenny Stallard
Saturday 27 June 2020 13:57
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For many people, lockdown was an opportunity to exercise more.
For many people, lockdown was an opportunity to exercise more.

The great "de-lockdown" has begun. Shops are tentatively opening again, and we’re meeting more friends, staying overnight with family, making teeny tiny plans in our minds about what we might do for a summer break.

Trepidation over a second spike of the virus aside, England is, right now, bathed in sunshine and people are celebrating the end of the so-called hibernation. But, along with a feeling of relief that there is a hopeful future, I feel a sense of grief. I am battling with lockdown regrets, thinking of all the things I planned to do and hoped to achieve in the hibernation time that will now never come to fruition.

If you think back to the beginning of lockdown, you might remember vowing to do something unusual or worthy with the hours and days that lay ahead. It might have been as small as a jigsaw or tidying out that cupboard full of baking goods, through to baking itself (home-made sourdough, anyone?) right up to starting a podcast or novel or getting super lean.

After all, we had Joe Wicks on tap every day, time to exercise without trying to join a gym class waiting list, and many of us had hours and hours of time for webinars and workshops.

And now, as the spare time begins to dwindle, replaced with social engagements, I find I realise I will never get round to some of them. And it fills me with regret.

It might seem trivial, but there is a grieving, of sorts, for the things we didn't do during lockdown, from personal goals to family and work things, too. When lockdown began, we were thrown into a state of “what now?” And for many, myself included, the grand plans began to form. I’d throw myself into training as a business coach, exercise so much that when friends saw me again they’d gasp with awe at my toned body, and write a blog post every day.

This all dawned on me when I met up with a friend and shared this “lockdown body” regret I was feeling. She told me she had hoped to be 100% self-sufficient thanks to her home veg (she does grow it anyway but built up more plants when lockdown began).

I fired back how I wished I'd walked into a deserted central London while it was vehicle and people-free. I saw shots of an abandoned Trafalgar Square on social media and longed to go. But I just never got round to it, and now it’s too late, the streets are beginning to fill again.

I also have real regrets about the things I didn't do more of – for example, those webinars. I joined in with some webinars later into lockdown, but I actually vowed I’d run my own, which I haven’t.

Suddenly, the world is opening up again and some of our plans are thwarted - forever, it seems. Statistics support the why of our not embracing a project or plan as much as we might have. A recent survey by wellness platform Modern Health found that 57 per cent of us felt we’d spent too much time on social media or watching TV than we should have done. Seems we’re big on Tiger King, while that kettlebell gathers dust and our regret builds. You wonder if the kids should have had another project on the go, even though you already spent hours as an unofficial teacher.

Lockdown regrets aren’t just tangible things, either. Did you plan to meditate? To work on your relationship with your partner or children, to be the person who learned something about themselves, or a language, during lockdown? Did you vow you’d be a self-care ninja, or to dye your hair pink, only to find now that you’re as frazzled as ever and your roots really need doing?

This regret comes in waves. When I see or hear a story of someone achieving a big goal, I self-compare, thinking I should have tried harder at my own goals. When I meet friends, I get stabs of regret as they tell me what they got up to. It does seem like everyone else nailed it, doesn’t it? That they ran the best quizzes, or secured new work, or did start to get to grips with beginners’ Spanish.

The thing with lockdown regrets is that some of them are still doable. That’s the first step to coping – to decide if you really do want to do the thing you wish you had and see if it’s still possible. After all, it’s not like we’re in a complete reversal of lockdown, there is still more time on some people’s side than there was before the pandemic. Getting fit isn’t exclusive to lockdown, after all. Webinars will be part of our lives for months and years to come, I’m sure.

And then there’s the letting go. The saying, “Did I really want to do that?” I’ve spent half my life wishing I had a slimmer, more toned body. Was I really going to break the habit of a lifetime and become some kind of abs-tastic maven in three months? Conversely, I am looking into, and still planning, to train as a business coach.

Finally, you need to be kinder to yourself about the things you did do. The things you managed that others might be regretting. Because, while you might not have learned guitar, taken up watercolours or started that podcast or novel, you made those banana breads and you did PE with Joe. And I can guarantee there’s someone else out there wondering how all this time passed without them learning to bake or finishing that jigsaw.

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