Can you believe we’re nearly halfway through the year? I sure can’t! The last year has seemed to go by in a blur of mixed emotions, ups and downs, twists and turns and moments of great hope and great tragedy. If you find yourself reading this blog in a part of the world where things are starting to open up again, you may, like me, be feeling a whole lot of different things as you begin to navigate what normal looks like after a very, very not-so-normal year. And while it seems like a no-brainer that this would spark hope in all kinds of ways, having to navigate life again after a year spent at home can be pretty tricky too.

If I’m honest, this is how I feel: 😳🥴🤩🙃🥳🤯😐😰😃

While it’s so exciting to see that hope is starting to grow and find its way into some parts of the world, perhaps even our own, it can also be very scary to face this “new” world with all its new changes. But if like me you find yourself floating into post-lockdown with a whole lot of nerves, here are a few thoughts that are helping me keep my head high and my hopes higher ✌️

1. Breathe.

Sounds obvious enough, doesn’t it? But you’d be surprised by how much a few really deep breaths can make a really big difference. I was a Drama Kid through and through growing up and as much as I loved acting and the thrill that came with it, before a performance my lungs seemed to disappear into thin air leaving me with nothing but a stomach full of butterflies and enough nerves to fill an ocean. When this happened, I would be told just to breathe.

Initially, I thought this to be a ridiculous solution because if I could breathe, I wouldn't be feeling like that but when I was tricked into giving it a real shot, I was blown away by how much it helped. On a physical level, how we breathe can have an enormous effect on how we feel. Deep, steady, long breaths can help decrease anxiety and put your mind and your body in a state of calm when you feel overwhelmed. Similarly, purposeful breathing can help to set your mind at peace, giving your brain an extended moment to prepare itself for what’s ahead.

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by life, why not take a few minutes just to breathe and let your mind, heart and hopes find their footing. There are so many resources available online that can help to guide you through the best ways to breathe your way through anxiety and come out on the other side better, calmer and more hopeful.

2. Slow and steady wins the race.

As things started opening up, plans started flooding in. After a year of seeing pretty much the same 3 people and no one else, the idea of socialising again sent my heart racing in the wrong direction. While the prospect of being able to reconnect with friends and family should in itself be filled with hope, it can also be a huge step after having very little human interaction for a very long time. And in case you didn’t already know it, it’s totally okay to feel totally not okay about it.

It’s a big step and you should feel comfortable and confident to take it at your own pace. Each person will adapt to these changes differently and the best part about being individuals is that there’s no one right way to handle it. Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, a mixture of both, don’t worry about what everyone else is doing and know that you have all the permission and right you need to adjust to the world’s changes in a way that works best for you.

Sometimes hope looks like hanging with friends for the first time in a long time and sometimes it looks like a quiet night at home with a book and your favourite take-out. Whatever it is, you do you.

3. Remind yourself that whatever the weather, you got this.

Now, this point may seem a bit wishy-washy and you may be reading that thinking, “If only you knew!” But hear me out for a minute.

Sometimes the very best thing you can do for yourself is to tell yourself that everything will be okay. It won’t fix everything and it won’t magically make the nerves vanish; however, it will provide you with a tiny bit of affirmation and when it comes to hopefulness, a little bit of affirmation goes a long way.

Your mind is so powerful and that power can be utilised in one of two ways - for good or for bad. Kinda like a superhero. There are countless studies out there that look into the power of our thoughts and how one silly little toxic thought can make a huge impact on how we feel. Similarly, one simple little positive thought can make all the difference.

So, if you’re feeling a bit anxious about all the changes that seem to be happening so quickly and wondering if you’ll be able to adjust as smoothly as you hope you'll adjust, tell yourself that you do in fact ‘got this’. And think it over, and over, and over again. Change, no matter the kind, is not always easy to get used to. And that is perfectly okay. In fact, it’s normal.

Whatever life looks like for you as the world begins to shake off some of the restrictions it’s been under, remember that you can navigate it just as you navigated it the last change you faced. Let that affirmation stir up the hope inside of you and remind you that wherever the next chapter takes you, you got this.

4. Reflect on how far you’ve come and be proud of yourself.

In no uncertain terms, everyone has something to be proud of after getting this far following the pandemic. I have always been in awe of humanity and our ability to show the most incredible strength even in the most difficult of circumstances. The last 18 months have multiplied that awe about a trillion times.

I don’t know what the last year has been like for you. Maybe it’s been really tough, so tough that you’re surprised you’ve made it to this day. Maybe it’s been okay, a bit meh with some ups and a fair few downs but you’ve handled every hit like a champ. Or maybe, much to your surprise, it was a great year and brought a 'could-never-have-imagined-this' kinda joy into your life. Whichever one of these maybes you’ve experienced, I hope that as you read this you feel a deep, real, immense sense of pride for getting here. You have shown resilience, strength and a determination that has made history in your life. You have risen to the occasion of life and what an occasion it has been. You deserve a clap, no, an applause that roars through the roof and calls for an encore. You deserve to feel proud of what you've made it through and hopeful for what lies ahead.

So, as a sense of relief, even if only small, begins to creep through and shine from behind the curtains of 2020, please remember that there is joy ahead of you and hope available to you. You are capable of more than you know and that in itself is something to be proud of.

Don’t give up on yourself just yet because hope is on the horizon, it’s rising from the rubble of a stressy and messy year and above all else, it’s bubbling inside of you.

Never forget that you are so much stronger than you realise.

“In fact, hope is best gained after defeat and failure, because then inner strength and toughness is produced.” –  Fritz Knapp

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