The vaccination is being rolled out, Spring is (almost) within sight and yet I am finding many people feeling much gloomier than they were during the first lockdown.
It was summer then, of course, and it was a good opportunity to enjoy spending time away from the office and outdoors. Many of us were still earning so that was an added bonus. It was all going to be a short, sharp shock and then back to our normal lives.
It’s not turned out quite like that, has it? It has gone on and on with not too much insight into when and what the end of this pandemic will look like. Maybe that accounts for a certain amount of gloom. That and the uncertainty of when life really will get back to normal.
We all know that excess stress is not good for us and we are presently living in stressful times. We know, and we continue to stress – it’s one thing to be told to stay calm, it’s another thing to actively try and do it.
However, a recent report from scientists at Ohio University says we really do need to take care of ourselves at this particular time. The study suggests those who are not managing very well at the moment, may not get the full benefit of a vaccination against coronavirus. The scientists studied results from vaccinations over the past 30 years and found stress, depression and an unhealthy way of living may adversely affect the body’s immune response to vaccination.
Put simply, those not in a good-enough frame of mind were less likely to find the vaccine fully effective than those other people who felt better, both mentally and physically.
I feel even more glum when I read the research so I suppose that’s not helpful. I know I need to keep my spirits up in case I’m suddenly called for a vaccination. I need to be in prime condition for when that moment comes.
It’s hard, when you’re in a gloomy state of mind, to come up with reasons to be cheerful so I’ve been reflecting quite a lot on what I can do to change my state of mind.
I’ve decided, because of our very real actual limitations, that I’m going to try and seek more positives from how I’m living my day-to-day life. I’m suggesting to clients who are presently finding this lockdown so hard they might consider doing something similar.
For instance, this season is one that most of us rush through on the way to Spring. I hardly give it a glance. Bare trees, grey streets (if you live in the city), damp and a feeling of unremitting drudgery as I put the cheerful lights of Christmas behind me. That’s how it usually feels to me at any rate and this year it seems a highly exaggerated version of that.
So, this time, I’m taking the time to notice what’s going on around me. I’m noticing which trees are bare and which still have leaves. I’m trying to identify what they are and why it happens. I’m quite unquestioning about nature on the whole. It’s there and I’m very pleased about it but I don’t care that much. This year, I’m making more of an effort.
I point out the tree phenomenon to the little person in my life and I’m relieved she’s not at the chatty point yet because that’s about the sum of my knowledge. To remedy that, I’ve bought a book on the outdoors. It’s a simple one for children about trees, birds, flowers etc but it’s doing me the power of good. I’m hoping that, by the time she’s ready for a full-on conversation, I’ll have slightly more knowledge than she does.
We’ve just had some snow. Usually, it might present a problem in the sense of getting to work via train, bus or car. I remember how frightened I was when I had to drive through a snow drift with the car slip-sliding away along an unsalted main road to get to work.
This time I was grounded and there was no need to be afraid. Instead, I dressed up, put on sensible walking boots and went out to take pictures – along with hundreds of others – in the local park. The air was fresh, fellow humans were laughing and we all somehow reconnected as the snow fell. It’s turned to mush now so it didn’t last long but the cheerful memory lingers.
Talking of parks and the importance of nature, I went for a drive through Richmond Park. It’s still London but feels almost rural and the deer really do own it. I caught a glimpse of three white harts (white deer) – considered a lucky omen – comfortably resting just a little off the road. I wouldn’t have spotted them except I was doing the obligatory 20mph (I usually rail against that) and a shaft of sunlight seemed to settle exactly on their spot. It was a breath-taking moment. Another natural revelation to commit to memory.
A friend tells me he gets pleasure from checking out the hours of dawn and dusk. He’s a cyclist and he tells me it lifts his spirits to see the days getting longer. I haven’t tried that yet but I might. The clock watching, that is, not the cycling.
I’m learning it’s good to be outside even if it’s for a short while. It reminds me that there is more to life than it may appear when the gloom descends.
I’d like a vaccination and I’m longing to return to normal life so that remains my long-term focus. In the meantime, I’m going to concentrate on all the previously considered unimportant parts of nature that I’ve missed. For the moment, that’s something to which I can look forward.
By: Lulu Sinclair