It's normal to feel abnormal (especially when you're living through a pandemic).

"If this year has taught me anything, it’s that mental health is not a ‘them VS us’ situation. The 1 in 4 stat? I call boll*cks on it."

Words: Amber Badger 

Illustration: Emmy Lupin

We’re now almost a year into navigating our ‘new normal’. And I’m no closer to being used to it.


I thought that, by now, I’d be fine. That I’d have slipped into this new way of life, pulled up my big girl pants and got on with it. My business would keep moving and I would keep giving it my all. The world would continue spinning.


Except… that isn’t quite how it’s worked out, is it? If I’m totally honest, I didn’t think this ‘new way of life’ would still be a thing. 


And yet here we are – what feels like a lifetime later – trying to make sense of it all.


I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted.


In many ways, the dust has started to settle. In others, it’s being shot out of an obnoxiously large cannon.


The fear is still real. The sense of fight or flight remains. Uncertainty and lack of control? Yep, those boxes are ticked.


So why are we being hard on ourselves for not feeling like our *best self*?


For anyone reading, this is the most collectively abnormal period of our lives. Therefore, if the puzzle pieces aren’t quite slotting together the way they used to… well, that’s okay. More than okay. It’s expected.


Especially as freelancers, side hustlers and business owners, the pressure is major. Sure, this month is ticking along nicely. But what about the next? And the next one after that?


What about the days when you wake up and the energy has poured out of you like a deflated balloon? When as much as you want to “GET UP AND BOSS IT” (side note – uch), all you can actually do is hide under a duvet and cry profusely at David Attenborough documentaries?


For some of us, that underlying sense of anxiety won’t be a new thing (albeit, heightened AF right now). But, for a lot of us, this is a completely new state to process. That in itself is a HUGE thing to accept.

We need to be kinder to ourselves. No ifs, ands or buts.

I’ve learnt not to fight these feelings. They deserve a space.


Sometimes – when we aren’t emulating sunshine and rainbows – we have a tendency to play our feelings down.


“I know people have it way worse than me.”


“I need to stop feeling sorry for myself.”

“I have no reason to feel bad… I just need to snap out of it.” 


And sure – perspective is key. All the same, you have a right to any damn emotion that rears its head.


Let’s reframe those comments.


“My own personal situation and circumstances have an impact… they are mine to work through.”


“I am allowed to feel sad, stressed and overwhelmed, and I will give myself the love I need to grow out of that.”


“I am living through a global pandemic. I have every reason to feel bad.”


Acknowledging that it’s okay not to feel okay is an important part of the journey. Because once we understand that, actually, we have a plethora of reasons not to feel tip-top, we can give ourselves permission to prioritise self care.


We need to be kinder to ourselves. No ifs, ands or buts.


Cards on the table – this is something that I am still figuring out. I’m no guru (as much as I’d love to be).


It’s a journey; one that needs to be taken step by step.


And let’s face it pals. We’re shifting into darker, colder, shorter days. Now really is the time to invest in yourself and build a toolbox of support that can lift you when you need that little boost.


That toolbox will look different for everyone. What works for me may turn you into the vomming emoji.


But, just in case you can take inspiration from the work I’ve been doing, here are a few of the steps I’ve been taking to ensure my self care practice remains front and center. 


Get up an hour earlier for ‘ME’ time.


Getting up earlier? Gross, right? Stick with me.


When lockdown #1 hit, I was rolling out of bed and straight onto my laptop. Before I’d even taken my first swig of coffee I was reading emails, writing my ‘to do’ list and diving straight into work mode.


I was so scared of business drying up, I thought that I needed to spend every single second of my day on business growth.


And hey, if that works for you, then brilliant. For me, it wasn’t sustainable. 


I was burning out on the regular. I was falling out of love with the work.


Now, I wake up at the same time that I used to, but instead of opening up my laptop, I open up a book. Or I do a yoga class. Or I write as many words as I can for my fiction novel.


Or I simply drink my coffee and sit snuggled in my dressing gown on the balcony.


No one else is awake in my home; it’s just me, me and me again. A gorgeous way to ease into the day.


I take a walk at least once a day.


My daily walk used to be one of the most important parts of my day during lockdown. Yet, as restrictions were lifted, I stopped prioritising it. I slipped back into old habits of working through my lunch and spending an entire day bum to seat.


I’ve found that still getting outside for a walk everyday lifts both my mood and energy. I pop on a podcast, wrap myself up and enjoy that 30 minutes to an hour. Total bliss.


I work less.


This one felt SO counterintuitive for a long time. The pure panic of work disappearing and my income disintegrating is still there (hello sleepless nights), and cutting down my working hours seemed like a sure-fire way to get me to that nightmare spot quicker.


But spoiler alert; it hasn’t.


The fact is, my energy is far lower than it used to be. I have a set number of ‘good’ working hours in me everyday, and after that it eats into my ‘energy quota’ for life outside of my business. Which is ruddy important to maintain.


Now, my days are a tad shorter and I take Friday afternoons off. The result? A more productive week and a renewed ability to enjoy time with family, friends and on my hobbies.


I don’t hide how I’m feeling.


If this year has taught me anything, it’s that mental health is not a ‘them VS us’ situation. The 1 in 4 stat? I call boll*cks on it.


I do not know anyone that hasn’t struggled in the past 12 months alone. And as much as that isn’t something to celebrate, I will celebrate the fact that it has made a good old bunch of us more comfortable talking about that reality.


Now, if my resilience has depleted, I tell people. If I’m not in the right headspace for a Zoom call, I move it. If I need a mental health day, I take it.


Your health and wellbeing should always come first and foremost. Anyone who doesn’t understand that isn’t worth your time.

We can’t control what’s happening around us right now. We can control the steps we take to look after ourselves.


Your subconscious may have fed you the lie that your needs come after your business needs. But come on, deep down we all know that’s BS.


Afterall, in the words of Mama Ru (and because I’ve decided to end every article with a sassy quote or lyric), “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”


Now, can I get an Amen up in here?