Another month, another lockdown. Until this pandemic is under control, it looks like we may need to carry on secluding ourselves, hiding away and dreaming of the good old days when socializing was the norm and hugs were given freely. It’s been almost one year of social distancing and restrictions, enough to drive anyone close to insanity.
I know it’s difficult. This second lockdown has been even more painful to me than the first one. I am sure a lot of people would agree. Mostly because we’re all so tired already! The good news is that it won’t last forever. We can do this. Eye on the prize. We just need to learn a few coping mechanisms to get us through this.
Especially if you’re alone, on furlough or left without a job, another lockdown can be particularly demanding on your mental health. But, worry not, there is always something we can do to make it a little bit more tolerable. With that in mind, I would like to share with you a list of the things that have helped me the most.
Keep a Schedule
We need something to get us out of bed in the morning, a reason to carry on. It is hard to find that reason when you’re locked inside, unable to do the things you were once so reliant on. But if you give yourself a schedule (it doesn’t have to be rigid, far from it), some sort of structure to your day, it can help a lot.
For example, if you were used to waking up every day at 7am to go to work, now you don’t have to keep waking up so early but try setting your alarm clock to 8am or 9am. You will still feel like you benefitted from some extra sleep, but you won’t waste your mornings in bed, feeling like there’s nothing to do.
Allocate yourself a proper time to have lunch and dinner. Plan your day around activities that you need to do – be it laundry, exercise, writing or even watching that new show that’s on tv or calling your mom to check up on her. Whatever it is, give yourself small tasks that you must get done throughout the day. This will help you to maintain some sort of purpose in your daily life, which, in turn, will help your brain process things more easily. We are, after all, creatures of habit.
Look after yourself
Just because we’re stuck inside, and no one can see us, it does not mean we should lounge around in our pyjamas all day, as tempting as that may be. Why? For our own well-being.
Our mind associates being in a pyjama with lazy days or, worse, sick days. You put on your pyjamas to go to sleep, not to face a brand-new day. So, do yourself a favour, when you wake up, start the day right. Go have a shower, enjoy the fact that you don’t have to rush to work in the morning and take the extra time to have a nice breakfast. Try out some different hairdos if you want to, just for fun, or try out some make-up that you weren’t too sure if it would look good on you or not, do your nails, dress properly. When you look at yourself in the mirror you want to see someone you recognize, not a pale shadow of yourself.
This also goes for your house. Keep it nice and tidy, ensure the space you are living in is a reflexion of you: warm, clean, beautiful.
Right now, you have to be your very own best friend. You are worth it! Believe it.
I know you have heard this so many times before! How important exercise is for our well-being! But you may not feel like it’s for you, maybe you’re too tired or you’re simply not into sports, so why bother? Well, the reason why exercise is on almost every single list you may see about well-being is very simple: it’s the most effective way to make you feel better about yourself.
Physical activity can help to distract you, improve your mood, improve your self-esteem and, what’s more, it actually makes your brain produce certain chemicals (fact) like serotonin and dopamine. Both of these are intrinsically connected to a sensation of happiness, they lift our mood.
And you don’t have to be an athlete in order to get some exercise into your daily routine. Try doing something you actually enjoy! Nowadays there are so many online classes you can try for free, why not have a go at it and see if you like it? If that’s not for you then there’s no harm done, move on and try something else. You can always go out for a walk, run, get on your bicycle… Plus, what better reason to go outside? Even in a lockdown you are allowed to go get some exercise, as long as you stay close to home…
Which brings me to the next point…
Go for a walk when it’s sunny
You are allowed to go out for a walk, as a means to exercise, as long as you stay close to your residence. When it’s sunny you should definitely do it! We all need to breathe in some fresh air, take in our dose of natural Vitamin D from those rays of light. More than that, walking around on a sunny day will help with your mood. Much like with exercising, exposure to sun light will increase the production of serotonin and boost your mood levels!
While you’re walking, soak up that sun! Breathe in that air! Take in your surroundings. You can listen to some of your favourite music at the same time. Make it a truly enjoyable experience and relish in it.
If, for some reason, you can’t go for a walk but you have a balcony or any outdoor space in your house, use and abuse it! Take in that sun light!
Do something you love
You have all this extra time in your hands now. You may be feeling bored out of your mind. But if you think about it, when the world was normal and your days were busy, how often would you complain you didn’t have enough time to do the things you actually love?
Dedicate this extra time to your hobbies. Don’t have a hobby? No problem, there’s always an opportunity to get a new one. Love writing? Start a blog (wink)! Love dancing? Try a Youtube lesson. Love gardening? Get those tools out.
What’s important here is not the activity you chose to do but how much pleasure you get from it. Find something that brings you joy.
Spend quality time with your pet
Ok, this is not for everyone, I realize that. If you don’t have a pet, go ahead and move right on to the next item on this list. However, if you do have a pet: your best friend wants your attention. Make the most of this time to build on that special connection you have with your dog/cat/hamster/turtle/bunny…
One surprising side effect of these lockdowns for me, personally, was discovering how easily I could teach my dog tricks. Seriously. Before the world went crazy and the words “social distancing” became part of my vocabulary, the thought of teaching my dog things like “give paw” had never even crossed my mind. Now I have taught him not only to give paw but also to sit, roll over, lay down, stand up, and a few others. And it’s been so much fun!
Don’t know where to start? Easy : Youtube. There are plenty of videos showing you how to train your dog and you can have your choice from a vast number of tricks.
And let’s not forget, walking your dog on the street is yet another thing you are allowed to do while on lockdown. Just stay close to home, wear your mask and be safe.
Learn something new
Technology. Isn’t it wonderful? You have a whole world at your fingertips. Why not take advantage of it? There are so many cheap and even free online courses on platforms like Coursera and Udemy. And let’s not forget the magic of, yet again, Youtube. Why not take this opportunity to learn something you always wanted to but never had the time to?
Always wanted to know how to knit? Order the necessary items, they’ll deliver to your house, and there are lost of books that will show you how to knit, free online videos too. Want to learn a new language? Plenty of websites that offer language courses.
You don’t have to leave the comfort of your home to learn something new. And you’ll be glad you did. Consider it time well invested in improving yourself.
Re-watch your favourite film
We all have that one film (or two or three) that we know always makes us smile. The perfect tearjerker or that romcom that always tugs at your heart strings like no other. Why not revisit them?
Go ahead, treat yourself with a night in, watching your favourite classics or comedies that you haven’t seen since you were a child. Just because the cinemas are closed doesn’t mean we can’t get our movie fix. Grab a blanket and a bowl of popcorn, make yourself comfortable. You will be surprised how something so apparently small and easy will can actually be so enjoyable and make you feel, straight away, a million times better.
Catch up on your reading
Always wanted to finish that classic novel but never seemed to have the time to do it? What’s your excuse now?
Grab those books collecting dust on your shelves and immerse yourself in their stories. For anyone who loves reading, there is nothing quite like discovering a fantastic book for the very first time and getting lost in its pages. As for new books, there are always services ready to deliver them to your door. Also, nothing could be easier than downloading an ebook. So, no excuses.
Reach out to the ones you love
Probably the most important one. No man is an island, right? This is why these lockdowns have been so difficult to endure. We’re not meant to be apart from the people we love. We want to get together over dinner, we want to see them at the local pub and share some stories and jokes over a pint or two. We can’t do that now and it sucks! But that doesn’t mean we can’t get in touch.
Don’t be shy about it. Call them, text them, email them, get them all on zoom. Find some time every single day to reach out to someone. See how they’re doing, do they need help, are they managing alright through this. Do it with both people that you were used to seeing every day, but now can’t, and people you haven’t actually talked to in a while. Make this the time you re-connected with everybody who means something to you.
If there is one thing these lockdowns, and this pandemic, have taught me is how much we all need each other. We can’t possibly survive this on our own! Now, more than ever, we need to be willing to let go of any pride and ask for help when we need it, much in the same way as we offer our help to anyone who may reach out to us. We need to stick together.
I would also like to point out one last important thing: give yourself a break. It is ok to not be ok. If you have days when you feel like doing nothing that is perfectly understandable! You are allowed to feel tired, you are allowed to do a lot of nothing. Just look after yourself. Try to fill your days with whatever is best for you!
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It may still be far away though. So we need to toughen up, gather our inner strength and look out for each other.
Stay safe everyone!