Pause, Reset. How the Pandemic healed my nervous system

Last March (before lockdown hit) I was super run down. I was teaching most evenings, with lots of early morning starts, and travelling all over London to get to classes. Any night I wasn’t teaching I’d be seeing friends. I didn’t have a clear weekend for months ahead. On top of this (or as a result of it perhaps) I was dealing with semi regular insomnia episodes, most of which were borne of the fear I might sleep in by accident. I’ve always been a pretty healthy person but that winter I was getting ill at least once a month.

Covid stopped me in my tracks. Those first weeks of lockdown I slept 10 hours a night and still struggled to get out of bed in the morning. There was a lot to be scared and anxious about, but for once, I wasn’t losing sleep over it. The week before an official lockdown was announced, I remember agonising over whether or not to cancel the retreat I had been organising. In the end every cancellation was a huge weight lifted. I still felt anxious and sometimes found it hard to cope with some big feelings (covid was just the tip of the iceberg for me and many of my friends), but in many ways I was healthier than before the pandemic.

The irony that it took an international health crisis to bring equilibrium to my nervous system is not lost on me. In lockdown, away from my normal schedule, I learned how much sleep I needed and when my natural sleep cycles were. Instead of teaching the number of classes I needed to survive, I taught the classes I genuinely felt I had the energy for, and my classes flourished in this environment. I honestly think it might have taken me years to reach this understanding and enact these changes, had it not been for the pandemic.

Now that we’re possibly returning to something that looks like normality I’ve already noticed some warning signs. Sleep is harder to come by, my diary is filling up, I’m spending more time in front of a screen. This time I’m keeping an eye on it. I’m practising saying no (very hard!), cancelling plans if I feel overwhelmed and maintaining my daily practises which give me a chance to stop and check in.

I know everyone has had their own experience of this last year, some of which will be very different to mine. As you piece back together the parts of your life, is there anything you want to change? Anything you could do without? Any practises that have held you up this last year that you’d like to keep?

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