May you live in interesting times

When I think about the past year I am reminded of this old Chinese saying that was apparently used as a curse, the suggestion being that a life of peace and tranquility, where nothing much went on, was vastly superior to living through “interesting times”



I am pretty sure that almost all of you would agree that the past twelve months could definitely fit that title. In fact for many of us I think 2020 will always be remembered as a year that really did stand out for so many reasons.

And whilst there were many tough and traumatic experiences, there were also reasons that might just make the past few months something that will bring smiles and fond memories when we are sitting in the proverbial rocking chair and telling our grandkids about what it was like to live through a global pandemic.


So whilst it is easy to conjure up a whole heap of negatives, let’s take some time to look at the positives that might have come out of the past few months.

(One proviso here though - I do completely accept and understand that not everyone will be able to relish the positives that I list below, but hopefully you can see that looking for the good stuff, rather than focusing on the negative, will have some benefits to us all.)

First of all we had to get used to dealing with lockdown. Whilst being cooped up in our houses, homeschooling kids who would much rather be on the iPad or trying to make Zoom calls from cramped spare bedrooms was undoubtedly a struggle at times, there were some surprising benefits.


A lot of us got to spend more time with spouses, partners and children and found that, given some down time to just hang out, we actually got on with them better than we might have imagined.

Another benefit was that many of us found time to do more exercise, start new hobbies and even just take time to rest up and relax. I am passionate about the importance of having a properly functioning nervous system and modern life makes that very difficult.

We have turned into a culture that values busyness over pretty much everything else, so this enforced time at home actually helped many people realise just how stressed normal life was and how having some time just to slow down was a godsend for them.


Our nervous systems do not like anything that is novel, unpredictable or uncontrollable and the past few months tick each of those boxes. We have all felt overwhelmed, exhausted and upset at various times since the pandemic set in and that’s ignoring all the other global factors causing so much chaos and confusion.

Ok, so eventually the endless attempts to alleviate boredom via Zoom quizzes and online board games did get a little stale, but how adaptable we all became for a while!

I’ve had clients who talked to their grandkids on House Party, went on virtual first dates, organised cheese and wine nights with friends from all over the UK and took part in online bicycle races from the comfort of their own garages. Us humans are adaptable, creative and resourceful when we need to be.

But probably what stood out for many of us was how much more connected we seemed to become as a community. Too often the hectic pace of modern living means that we rarely get the time to connect with other members of our society, but the lockdown suddenly gave us the chance to do just that.



Whether it was clapping for health workers, shopping for elderly friends and neighbours or having work get-togethers online, we all seem to have found connection with others in ways that perhaps we hadn’t experienced before.

In my coaching and therapeutic work I help people understand that often the issues they are experiencing are down to a nervous system that is overwhelmed and starting to break down, and 2020 has really shown me just how much truth there is in this approach.

Our nervous systems do not like anything that is novel, unpredictable or uncontrollable and the past few months tick each of those boxes. We have all felt overwhelmed, exhausted and upset at various times since the pandemic set in and that’s ignoring all the other global factors causing so much chaos and confusion.

So that’s really where I would like to round off this article - with a quick reminder of how to begin to rewire your nervous system over the final few weeks of the year.

Taking time to slow down, top up on your sleep and rest up is vital. Exercising (preferably in nature), eating well and spending time with those people who really give you energy is another must as well.


Adding in some time for self reflection, maybe some mindfulness practice and giving gratitude for what you do have, rather than focusing on the struggles that have been, will move you back into some sort of neurological balance. And, above all, remember to be kind to yourself. Self compassion is such a valuable tool that we should all aim to add to our life each and every day. That inner voice can be such a negative little blighter!

But please don’t take my word for it - all of the above have been proven again and again by scientific research to actually work at a deep mind and body level, changing the way we adapt and thrive when under stress.

Anyway, I wish you all a wonderful end to the year and hope that you all get some time to slow down, connect and have a little fun from time to time. Here’s wishing you an amazing 2021.

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