23 March marked the one-year anniversary of the Prime Minister addressing the nation to announce that we would be going into a national lockdown, in an attempt to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

I recall at the time feeling pretty terrified, if I’m honest. My days would centre around the 5pm news updates, feeling more and more horrified at how this virus was destroying so many lives, those who tragically weren’t able to fight the virus and for the families who lost loved ones, for those who lived in fear of their vulnerable relatives being taken from them and for the families separated for months on end in an effort to keep safe.

Of course, the direct effects of contracting the virus have not been the only damaging consequences. Isolation for many has meant desperate loneliness - being alone has kept them safe from the virus but the effects of enduring each day alone has been devastating. I have witnessed the profound effects on so many individuals' mental health this year, as those fundamentals that we took for granted, such as meeting up with friends and family have been brutally withdrawn.

Lockdown has also meant that the routines and structure that kept us feeling safe and secure, pre-COVID, have been hugely disrupted. The entire year has felt incredibly uncertain and planning for the future with any kind of confidence, has been virtually impossible. I guess we’ve held onto hope, I know I have anyway. Hope that things will get back to ‘normal’ again soon, whatever normal looks like now anyway.

I’ve also noticed that for a substantial proportion of the wonderful clients I have worked with this year, the prospect of coming out of lockdown has been daunting and anxiety provoking. Many people have become comfortable with their condensed worlds, they’ve adapted to their new routines and simply can’t face the prospect of change yet again. Expectations of being social have left them feeling nervous and they are questioning whether they’ll be able to cope with the demands that come with venturing back out into the world again.

I wonder whether we could use this next stage in the ‘COVID chapter’, as a platform to review our old routines and habits. For those who fear the pressure of expectation when lockdown lifts - could you rethink your existing boundaries? Lockdown has given us permission not to do some of the things that we endured, rather than enjoyed before, so could this be an opportunity to pull back on those things?

It’s important to remember that you have a choice in deciding how much time and energy you give to others. Counselling can be so helpful in enabling you to recognise and change those patterns that previously led to overwhelm. It also helps to process the tangle of emotions you might be feeling around loss, guilt and change. I know that my virtual therapy space has been a real sanctuary over the past year for a lot of my clients as they have tried to hold everyone else together - our time has provided them with the safety that comes with processing and understanding your feelings without biased perception or judgment.

Ultimately, it is our resilience that has pulled us through and I hope that the past year has allowed many of us to reassess our priorities and make lasting positive changes that align with our needs and values.

Views expressed in this article are the views of the writer and not necessarily the views of BACP. Publication does not imply endorsement of the writer’s views. Reasonable care has been taken to avoid errors but no liability will be accepted for any errors that may occur.