How to “Re-Emerge” from Lockdown with Wellness

By Amanda Lim

As an avid exerciser, I did everything I could to stay “active in public” as long as possible before the circuit breaker – I took group exercise classes until the last day Singapore allowed it in April, hired a personal trainer (yes – even trainers have trainers!) after that, and finally came to terms with fully-at-home workouts once all other options were extinguished.

Truth is, I’m both a gym rat and the “outdoorsy” type – but I’ve never, ever been an at-home exerciser. I used to pay money to go to a yoga class rather than roll out my mat in my own living room, and I was far more motivated to push hard and lift heavy in a CrossFit class rather than WOD at home alone. It took something as severe as the COVID-19 restrictions here in Singapore to keep me working out in my home (or, as I’ll speak to in a moment, alone outside) with any sort of regularity.

Add to that the fact that I (ashamedly) don’t really cook, and being locked down at home for over two months was really a shock to my routine. The “new normal” during Singapore’s circuit breaker period meant that I had to make a lot of changes – not only to my exercise routine and food habits, but to my mental health and self-care choices, too.

A friend of mine who runs a successful counselling business asked me to collaborate with her on a “butterfly” project, putting together ways that we could help our clients with their “reemergence” from lockdown with the best possible physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness. Our planning for the project got me thinking about the fact that while Singapore’s government is slowly but surely deeming us “ready” to get back to the regular pace of social life, many of us may still need some transitional assistance to get all the way there.

For example, many parents who were suddenly thrust into the challenge of home-schooling their children had the relief of sending them back to school. No matter how you felt about that educational experience, it is worth commemorating the time that the whole family was “stuck” home together with a photo mural or art project. Developing a physical memory of time spent during the lockdown – whether through photography, arts and crafts, poetry, or some other creative expression – will create a lifelong memory for the family as well as allow each member to express her or his personal interpretation of the time spent at home.

In terms of nutrition, hopefully the circuit breaker was a time to develop healthy habits such as cooking at home and sitting down to eat meals with your household members. Consider keeping those habits alive by keeping the nightly family dinners on the agenda, or by establishing a rotating “supper club” with friends in their homes – or online! Share favorite “lockdown recipes” with friends and family and compile them into a circuit breaker cookbook – annotated with photos from the period, if you can – for another fun keepsake idea.

Where exercise is concerned, many (understandably) still harbor some trepidation about returning to gyms, group classes, and shared facilities, since these places are often hubs for the spread of even innocuous germs. Consider starting back slowly, with a gym or class you know and trust, while keeping the best elements of your at-home routine intact. For example, I am maintaining my home yoga practice with the “Yoga With Adriene” YouTube channel while also returning to my favorite outdoor CrossFit class (where the spacious facility makes it easy to maintain a level of distance from other exercisers, and I know the coaches take great pride in keeping the facility clean and disinfected).

If you took time to enjoy the outdoors in your own neighborhood but feel a little exhausted by the repetitive local scenery now, consider a return to Singapore’s natural treasures after lockdown (some classics include Gardens by the Bay, Pulau Ubin, Palawan Beach, the Botanic Gardens, MacRitchie Reservoir, Bukit Timah Hill, or Punggol Waterway Park) or exploring a new outdoor space each week with your partner or family. Rediscovering the great outdoor opportunities that Singapore has to offer should not be limited to a time when we had no other choice!

Finally, returning to work inside an office may also have felt like a rough transition if you’ve been enjoying the relative freedoms of working from home (no commute, shorter meetings, more casual clothing, and unlimited healthy snacks, to name a few). Give yourself ample time to readjust to the rat race, possibly continuing to work from home a few days a week if your office allows it, or taking outdoor walking meetings and phone calls to re-energize your spirit during long workdays away from home. Create new rituals in the workday that mimic your favorite parts of working from home, such as scheduling a Zoom meeting with friends or family over your lunch break or requesting a weekly “casual day” for office attire.

No matter how you spent your “circuit breaker” season this year, the reality is that it’s time to get back to our previously scheduled realities. That does not mean that we have to do things the same way, or all at once. Consider taking the small positive physical, mental, emotional and spiritual changes you made during the lockdown and implementing them into your “new normal” from now on. You’ll then be able to look back on those tumultuous months without regret and with great intention for what the rest of this year holds.