We are right on the cusp of restrictions being lifted. There has been such a sense of anticipation, and quite a lot of excitement. People have enjoyed being able to meet up with others outside, and even eat a meal with them outside. But many feel anxious about suddenly being told we can meet in big groups, and that there is no longer a legal requirement to wear masks.
It is so important to go gently – for the sake of those around us who may be feeling more apprehensive than ourselves, but also for our own safety too.
The impact of the last year
What we have been through during this pandemic has been huge – even if, like me, it hasn't actually affected your day-to-day life as much as it has for others. As I am someone who already worked from home, my work didn't really change. However, there was a lot more of it suddenly (covering the workload of those who became ill) and I was interacting with others working from their homes rather than office spaces.
Even so, I am very aware of the emotional toll this year has taken on me. Feelings of overwhelm seem to strike regularly. Having researched and written articles on the emotional cost of lockdown, as well as having spoken to many others feeling similarly, it does seem that there has been a far-reaching effect that we are going to continue to experience the impact of for years to come. So again, please do go gently.
Strengthened or stretched?
Our closest relationship(s) will also have been impacted. Being literally shut down with our families or flatmates means there will have been an added pressure on those. Encouragingly, recent surveys suggest that many marriages have come out stronger. Couples have recognised the pressure and made a conscious decision to invest in the relationship and support one another well.
But, for others, the added stress of being with one another 24/7 has put a spotlight on underlying issues. If that is you, can I encourage you to go gently – but not to ignore what has come to light. Talk to one another, try and take positive steps to resolve conflicts – and pull in trusted friends if necessary.
And for all of us, let's not rush to try and put this incredibly difficult year behind us. If we bury the hard emotions they will simply resurface in weeks, months or even years to come – and not in a good way.
Go gently ... on yourself and those around you if you notice you have a shorter fuse than usual.
Go gently ... if you notice you or someone you interact with daily is feeling overwhelmed and you aren't sure why.
Go gently ... if one of more of you in a friendship group is itching to begin socialising again and others are more reticent. Take time to talk it through – and go at a pace you agree together.
Go gently ... as you come back together as a church community. Again, there will be those desperate to throw off all restrictions and sing at the top of their voices – and others who are anxious about stepping inside the church building again. Be mindful of one another, and make decisions not based on your own personal preferences and 'rights', but taking time to think of others above yourself and doing things that cultivate a sense of community and care for one another.
There are many other scenarios I could have picked – but I hope you have the message by now. Please go gently, and take care of yourself and those closest to you.
Claire Musters is a writer, speaker and editor who blogs at clairemusters.com. Her most recent books are Every Day Insights: Disappointment and Loss and Grace-Filled Marriage. The latter was written with her husband, and they have provided a series of free videos to accompany the book, which can be accessed on the Big Church Read website. If you feel your marriage has been under pressure recently, now is a great time to engage with that extra, free material. Claire also writes and edits for Premier Woman Alive and Christianity magazines.