Bouquet of lilies

Positive habits I picked up during the pandemic

Since the world has started reopening and things are returning to the pre-2020 way of life here in Ireland at least, I’ve noticed some of my old, pre-pandemic bad habits creeping in already.

As the world got smaller over the last 2 years, there was a lot of time to think and reconsider the way things were. I made small improvements to my life that somehow made a huge difference. Even though I’m determined to get as far away from the pandemic as possible (when it finally does end), I’m equally determined to continue with these healthy habits (and hopefully add more to the mix) in the After. The old way of doing things no longer serves me.

Following on from my 6 things I learned during lockdown post, here are a few positive habits I picked up during the past two years:

Food first

When I’m busy, food takes a backseat. Even though I love cooking and generally have a great appetite, once I’m in the flow of writing or completing an assignment, I’ve always preferred getting the job done first. Even if it meant I’d be a babbling, delirious mess at meetings, unable to remember anything I’d just said, and I definitely wasn’t giving my best performance. I guess it was a hangover from hustle culture. Now, thanks to my new-found appreciation for Things That Actually Matter, I know I need to put fuel in the engine or the car won’t run. I write for websites, I am not saving the lives of covid patients in ICU or reporting live from Ukraine. Nothing I am doing is worth causing a blood sugar crash over.

Hands off the wheel

If there’s one thing we’ve all learnt in the past 2 years, it’s that we can’t plan anything. Control is an illusion. I used to live 5 steps ahead of myself at all times, constantly pushing to get to whatever place I thought I should be, never living in the moment. I’ve wasted years trying to manipulate situations and manufacture an outcome instead of just letting things unfold. Relinquishing the idea of control has been the biggest weight off my mind. It also killed my ambition, but that’s a story for another day.

I’m not my anxiety

For years and years, I’ve described myself as an anxious person. I’ve attributed dickhead behaviour, like not showing up for things, to My All-Consuming Anxiety. I allowed anxiety to become a personality trait. In recent years, as the anxiety industry has boomed and everyone has been encouraged to talk, talk, talk about their anxiety, I started to question whether this is actually a good thing. To paraphrase Dr Caroline Leaf, anxiety is a completely normal, human stress response. It’s not who you are. It’s not a defining characteristic that makes me or you unique – we all have it. Instead of giving so much power to anxiety, I recognise the palpitations, the fear, the mind-is-swimming sensation, and get on with it. It’s not who I am. Oh, and breathing really helps.   

Yoga is a cult and I’m never leaving

Alisa Vitti (if you haven’t read In The Flo, order it now) says that as women get older we should focus on strengthening exercises like yoga and Pilates. I won’t claim to be Bendy Wendy or anything, but getting into yoga was one of the best things I’ve done for my health and wellbeing in years. Not only does it feel great but being able to mark your progress feels like a real achievement. For example, I struggled with pigeon pose, and now I can fold forward completely and it’s the pose I look forward to the most. I take every opportunity to stretch, whether it’s doing shoelace on my kitchen floor during a meeting (camera OFF) or lifting my leg as high as it can go against a wall to tie my runners. I feel my body strengthen with every practice. My go-to’s are Melissa Wood Health, Blogilates, and, of course, Yoga with Adriene.

A non-negotiable daily wellness routine

Every day I walk at least once for 30 minutes at a time, meditate for 20 minutes in the afternoon, and do yoga after work. I start every day by getting back into bed with a book and a coffee and don’t look at my phone until my coffee’s finished. While that might not scream “wellness”, it gives me so much joy. I’m completely out of sync if I miss any of these things each day. I practice gratitude for the small things and every day make a decision to reframe negative thoughts and see things differently. Routine sounds like a dirty word but it’s a non-negotiable if you really want to look after your mind and body.

Only consume content that feeds you

At the start of the pandemic, I unfollowed all influencers who struck a tone deaf chord with me or made me feel bad. (Side note: I’m convinced this is why TikTok emerged as the biggest app in the world during this time. Pretty, faux-perfection just doesn’t cut it anymore – we want personality, to learn things, to be entertained.) I started listening to podcasts that actually contribute to my life. Two absolute favourites are The Blonde Files, where Arielle Lorre interviews experts about everything from gut health to good sex, and Dear Gabby, a weekly call-in show where Gabby Bernstein coaches listeners with tools to cope with trauma. I also stopped reading “hot” books you see all over Instagram, but always turn out to be disappointing, and started to read whatever I like. Turns out that means a lot of self-help books and Jackie Collins. And my love of reading is back with a bang.

The social media diet

I feel like I’m being sucked into Bill & Ted’s phonebooth every time an Instagram story loads and, before I know it, I’ve lost an hour of my life. Marianna Hewitt said on her Life with Marianna podcast that she sets a daily limit of 1 hour 30 minutes on Instagram. As an influencer and entrepreneur, social media is much more important to Marianna than it is for my life, so I knew I could set the same time limit for myself and still get as much if not more – out of social media. I also started applying a “post and go” approach. By this I mean I always take time to like posts in my feed or on my Explore page, but I don’t hang around for replies or likes after I’ve posted. I have all but stopped tweeting (life is too short for the But Actually replies) and I’ve stopped overthinking my Instagram posts. Once you limit how much time you let social media consume, it just doesn’t seem as important.

Give compliments genuinely and often

I used to be awkward about complimenting people. I had a fear that I seemed insincere or like I wanted something from the person (gross). Now, I give compliments freely, genuinely, and often. If you enjoy someone’s work, let them know. I consume a lot of free content so I make sure to share what I enjoy, such as a screenshot of a great podcast (and always tag the presenter or guest) and don’t skip the ads so the podcasters can get paid. It could be something as simple as telling a colleague that they’re good at a task everyone takes for granted, or just tagging an author in your post about how much you loved their book. It can feel completely cringe, but everyone online (which is all of us, really) experiences more negativity than adulation, so your message could make someone’s day.

If you’ve picked up a new hobby, discovered some pearls of wisdom, or changed positively in any way during this crazy time, I would love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments, send me a message, or follow me on Instagram.

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