It’s no secret that 2020 has been a challenging year, with the coronavirus pandemic leading to the
nation moving in and out of lockdown over the last few months. As the first of the Covid vaccines are
beginning to be rolled out across the country, and we can begin to see some light at the end of the
tunnel, we wanted to look at how we can all start to move forward in a positive and healthy manner.
We have previously looked at how you can get your mojo back in a post-lockdown world including socialising, being kind to yourself, and energising your self-care. Today, we are going deeper into how you can not only get
back to your pre-lockdown level of mental wellbeing but how you can improve your mental
wellbeing to surpass where you were before the coronavirus entered our lives. We can liken this to
the idea of post-traumatic growth.
Opportunities for Growth
It might be highly debatable whether the events of 2020 can be categorised as traumatic; for some
people, it will have been highly traumatic, whereas others may have even enjoyed their year. Either
way, we can learn something about thriving after difficulty by looking at the concept of post-
Post-traumatic growth is not a new concept, it has been around in many guises throughout history.
Think of the phoenix that rises from the ashes in Egyptian mythology. It was conceptualised in the
psychological literature in the early 1990s as the idea that we can experience a “positive
psychological change in the wake of struggling with highly challenging life circumstances (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004). It involves not only a return to normal functioning but a surpassing of the
individual’s pre-trauma functioning.
Post-traumatic growth occurs when a negative experience is a catalyst for positive change.
Living through the pandemic and the lockdowns has caused a lot of us to reconsider how we
socialise and connect with our loved ones, how we work, how we shop, how we parent, and many
other key aspects of our lives. It has brought things into stark focus for many, making it quite
apparent what is important and what isn’t a priority. In 2012, Robert Tedeschi stated that post-traumatic growth is not about making everything better or making the stress disappear. He emphasised that it is about bringing true meaning to a person’s life by forcing them to focus on bigger questions and the bigger picture.
The importance of Boundaries
Throughout this year, most people have been working from home, home-schooling their children,
and/or have been on furlough or made redundant. The upshot is that families have been locked
down together for months on end with often hectic and competing schedules.
Although boundaries have always been important for maintaining healthy relationships and mental
wellbeing, they were suddenly at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds. How do we share office
space? How do we teach the kids while both working full-time from home? These became very real
concerns for a lot of families, who had to learn to compromise with each other and be both more
flexible and more boundaries at the same time.
Although the lockdowns have eased and some people have gone back into the office, we shouldn’t
allow the topic of boundaries to be abandoned, never to be discussed again. Setting healthy
boundaries within the family, friendship groups, and workplaces will go a long way to bolstering your
mental wellbeing as we manoeuvre into the next stages of easing out of lockdown.
With the world slowly opening back up and friends and family desperate to re-connect and socialise,
it might feel quite overwhelming, but it is important to remember that you don’t need to say yes to
every invitation from every person. It is important to still protect your downtime and the time that
you use to recharge.
The boundary between work and home have become very blurred and, for some, completely non-
existent. With no commute into and out of work, the lines between when you should be working
and contactable and when is your own time have faded. Many may have found themselves checking
their emails or receiving work calls on the weekends or days off, letting their work bleed into their
Author and business strategist Greg McKeown flipped this blurring of boundaries and jokes that it
would be difficult to imagine that the same bosses who are expecting you to answer your phone on
a Saturday morning would be happy with you bringing your kids to the office on a Monday. They
might be happy to intrude on your family time, but family time can’t intrude on work time.
Reflecting on the Past
As Ray Dalio, businessman and philanthropist, says “pain plus reflection equals progress”. This is
perhaps linked to the earlier idea of post-traumatic growth but puts it in more tangible language.
This year has been painful for many of us, but if we simply allow the painful experiences to pass us
by, or worse, to dictate our futures, then we will feel stuck. We start to feel like bad things happen
to us, and we have no control.
If we can allow ourselves some time to sit and think about what has happened in the past year, what
lessons have we learned, what do we not want to repeat, what we want more of, what would we do
differently, then we can start to take some more control back and get ourselves unstuck.
The lessons might be that we needed to change our priorities, it might be that our priorities were
right but needed reaffirming, it might be that we needed a whole career change, or that we simply
realised how much we loved our career.
Take the time to take stock and understand what you have been through and what you want the
next few months to look like.
If you would like professional therapeutic support to help you process your experience of the pandemic then get in touch with us by calling 020 8673 4545 or emailing [email protected]
We have appointments available at our centres in Clapham and Tooting, seven days a week.