Finding our way back to ‘normal’ after two years of global pandemic

Lockdown restrictions were never going to stay in place forever. But anyone who imagined that Covid-19 would magically disappear and be as irrelevant as the Millenium Bug had become in 2001 was indulging in an understandable but naive form of wishful thinking.

Two years later, we are no closer to ‘Covid Zero’ than to ‘Flu Zero’, 104 years after the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. But in the UK, hospital cases are stabilizing, as a form weaker of the virus becomes dominant, and vaccines are in the majority of weapons.

Whether the return to normal life is happening too soon is debatable. But it is undeniable East happening, and it’s already happened in most parts of the country.

For much of the workforce, from bus drivers to shop workers, from bar staff to police officers, the days off and sheltering at home are already long forgotten. The creative professions, however, have largely evolved at a different pace.

Many artists, designers, illustrators, animators, and video editors have found ongoing remote work not only feasible but, in many ways, preferable. However, as the last vestiges of lockdown laws are removed, the pressure on employees to return to the studio and on freelancers to resume in-person meetings is growing.

Many of us will appreciate this opportunity. But what if you feel differently?

Well, to start, let’s look at reality. No one will force you to stop self-isolating if you don’t want to. As long as you work effectively and efficiently via remote work, no sane HR department will want this fight, not this year anyway. (If your experience is different, we’d love to hear about it). What if an independent customer throws his toys out of the pram? Well, they probably weren’t worth sticking with anyway.

But what if you’re basically ready to get back to the normal work routine but you’re feeling anxiety, stress, and even fear about it? You would certainly not be alone. So we asked our Twitter followers for their tips on managing the transition and taking care of our mental health along the way.

1. Go at your own pace

The first tip is that you don’t have to rush into anything. The shift from self-isolation to physical interaction does not have to happen all at once. So take everything at a pace that works for you, and well, be kind to yourself.

“I try to be self-compassionate as I navigate group anxiety again,” says illustrator Amy Lauren. “I gradually adapt to being outside instead of expecting unrealistic performances. Taking things slowly helps me enjoy everyday life better.”

Patrick Gallagher, freelance designer and 2D animator, currently at CNN, followed a similar strategy. “I changed up my routine by using a coworking space a few days a week,” he says. “It helps me get away from the big house setup and get around with my laptop.

“If you don’t have a co-working space near you, I think a coffee shop, full of regulars that you could get to know, would also do the trick,” he adds. . “Just being back with the others is such a boost. The first day the space was a bit empty except for their admin staff, but I enjoyed just talking to them .”

2. Pay attention to your mental health

Even if you are keen on ending your self-isolation, you may encounter mental health issues that you did not expect. So now more than ever, it’s important to pay attention to how you feel, recognize your emotions, and take steps to manage them.

Specific techniques and activities can help, although these vary from person to person. “Drawing a few times a day has really helped my mental health lately,” says graphic designer and illustrator Iancu Barbărasă. “I take a pocket sketchbook with me everywhere and I draw what I see or from photos I take. I have also found it useful to use the Freedom app to limit access to news and to social media for most of the day.”

For author, artist and social entrepreneur Anna B Sexton, meanwhile, it was: “Lots of naps and keeping it simple. Booking less work instead of being scared and overworked, when it doesn’t help my mental health. Meditation helps too.”

Anthony Galasso, creative strategist at Again Interactive, found the self-audit useful. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, on various topics,” he says. “I wonder if I’m happy with who I am, where I am, what I do, etc.” For more tips on mental health techniques, read our article Be Kind to Your Mind.

3. Pay attention to your physical health

Of course, mental and physical health cannot be treated in isolation. And so, taking care of your physical health is key to dealing with all the mental health issues you are facing right now.

“For me, it’s all about balance,” says artist and illustrator Carina Lindmeier. “Regular physical activities keep me fit mentally and physically, so things don’t get too overwhelming with FOMO or things like that. I also think it’s important to block out ‘me time’ in my schedule, so I have enough time for the things that keep me sane.”

Artist Jarvis Brookfield tells a similar story. “One thing that has helped me a lot is establishing a consistent exercise routine,” he says. “I’ve gotten stronger and feel like my body looks better, which has increased my sense of confidence. So exercise has definitely been a big help to me over the last 18 months. .”

4. Reframe what “normal” is for you

One of the most stressful things about the end of self-isolation is the somewhat disorienting notion that things will “get back to normal”. In truth, life in 2022 is still very different from what it was two-and-a-bit years ago, and it’s important to recognize that, says graphic designer and illustrator Jane Bowyer.

“I’m no longer chasing the idea of ​​who I was at the start of 2020,” she says. “Instead of looking back, I’m trying to move forward, carrying the weight of the experiences I’ve had over the past two years to the next stage of my career and my life.

“One piece of advice I’ve taken is to ask yourself: how do you want to feel? ” She keeps. “Do you want to feel confident again, inspired, like being part of a community? And then set a small, realistic goal to help relieve the pressure and keep you from overloading your plate. For example , you might say, “I want to feel inspired to do some work for me. So a realistic goal for you might be to visit an exhibit opening next month.”

Carolyn Hughes, an independent public relations consultant, offers a similar approach. “It’s still hard to say what the new ‘normal’ is and will be,” she says. “I certainly haven’t been out as much as I was before the pandemic, with most meetings taking place online now. While that’s actually more time-efficient, it’s difficult to be physically alone for much of my working time.”

In terms of mental health, she found it important to connect with other freelancers and friends. “They understand the challenges of what you do and your professional life,” she says. “Taking a break and getting together for a half-hour conversation and an infusion does you good. »

5. Speak openly as an organization

So far, we’ve focused on advice for employees or freelancers in the creative industries. But if you’re an agency manager or owner, London-based senior product designer Elliott Rylands has some tips for you too.

“‘Back to normal’ is something we hear a lot,” he says. “For many, these words offer great comfort and relief to be able to return to our pre-Covid lives from a social and business perspective. Rightly so. Carrying a mental health disorder for a large majority of my life , I understand the complexities that can come with following the ever-changing “stay at home/go to work” guidelines.

“While going through mental health hurdles throughout my career has not been a picnic, I have had the good fortune to work with many people who are suffering in the same way and have found ways to effective in combating the obstacles that my brain tries to put in my way”, he adds. “These have been particularly useful during the pandemic.

“Being transparent with my peers has been helpful for my team. We have addressed the issue of mental health. As a senior designer, I think it’s important that we try to incorporate these conversations about any form of discomfort , whether it’s mental health or otherwise, in our daily lives. It has unified my team in many ways.

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