This year has been a total blur, definitely one we won’t forget (no matter how hard we try to erase it from our memory). We are living through history, ‘unprecedented’ times as we keep keep hearing, and Lockdown #2, although not totally unexpected, has certainly stopped us in our tracks once again. It seems like with every one step forward, we take two gigantic steps back.
However, if there is one thing we can take on board this time- it is experience. We’ve now all lived through our first national lockdown (a scary thought- and gosh did we have ups and downs and tossed and turned nights and days). This time round we are more prepared, and can know a little more of what to expect and get on with it (we have no choice to be honest). The power of hindsight is golden and Lockdown #1 definitely taught us some lessons.
Here are my lessons from lockdown…
1. Give yourself a routine
One of the most important things to do during lockdown is keep to some kind of routine, giving each day a structure. No matter what your situation- whether you’re working or studying, unemployed or job hunting, retired or having some time off - it is a good idea to plan your days, giving them a purpose, defining different moments and varying things up a little from the monotony. With more time spent inside at home, less things to go out and do, and restrictions on the people we can see, it can become harder to differentiate the hours/days and different spaces within our surroundings.
Set yourself some goals, write a list of what you want to achieve each day (whether that be a 20 minute HIT workout, a phone call with a friend, or finishing a piece of work/ study). It can literally be anything but it will give you a sense of purpose and create an event for the day. Vary up where you’re based during the day too - work up your desk for productivity, chill on the sofa to read a book or watch TV- ensure you keep work and play separate. We must remember to allow ourselves time to switch off and have ‘free’ time. Give yourself a designated lunch break to enjoy your food, put some time aside for a fresh air walk around the park. Be strict with yourself. When it’s the end of your work day, stop working (I know easier said than done but try to be disciplined). We aren’t able to go out to bars and restaurants so the days can become long - it is important to still have cut offs to enjoy your evenings and leisure time. Give yourself a break.
Keeping active is essential for our physical and mental health. There may be no gyms open, and your favourite Zumba class on a Thursday has been cancelled due to restrictions, but we can all keep active in other ways. Running boomed in Lockdown #1, virtual yoga classes and fitness app subscriptions soared- there are alternative ways to keep our bodies moving. Yes, it is harder to motivate ourselves in colder weather when a hot chocolate in the warmth is calling us, but the fresh air on a brisk walk or jog around your local park will do you the power of good. It’s all about keeping our fitness levels strong, keeping in shape and stretching out our rather sedentary bodies, whilst building up our immune systems and airing our heads and stresses through activity. You will always feel so much better after exercise, guaranteed.
3. Social Contact
As humans, we are naturally social animals. We thrive off face-to-face contact and benefit greatly from each other’s company. Along comes the pandemic and none of this seems as easy, with restrictions left right and centre and human interaction plummeting. But, Lockdown #1 showed us the importance of keeping up social engagement and we must continue this time round in order to keep our mental states healthy and support others in these strange times.
We may be over all the virtual quizzes and games by now, but the power of technology has come into play. Zoom/Skype or even give someone a phone call to catch up and check in with friends and family. Or you could be really old-fashioned and take up letter writing and have a few pen pals on the go to swap stories and updates on what’s going on with your lockdowns and how you’re feeling and coping. Support networks, even if virtual, are crucial right now. When out and about for your walks/ grocery shopping and essential takeaway coffees, have a (socially distanced) chat with the shopkeepers, fellow lonely customers and share a couple of laughs and smiles- you’ll realise how much you’ve missed it!
As simple as that. Talk. Expressing how we feel is so crucial, especially at a time like this. It’s far better than bottling up your thoughts and keeping your worries to yourself and letting them run away with you. By being vocal and saying how we currently feel, no matter how good or bad or the somewhere in between, we can take comfort from each other, listen to one another and find support and strength. This current situation has many ramifications on everybody’s lives that it is no surprise that some of us can feel all over the place, and anxious about our futures. It’s overwhelming sometimes and this is where the importance of speaking out about how we feel impacted comes in.
Granted, it’s not always easy to open up and articulate our thoughts and feelings, but trying to is the first step and can be very cathartic and a great way to expel some of our anxieties. We can gain reassurance from talking, realising we are not alone in feeling slightly low, or stressed out, and that others are also in similar situations and potentially struggling themselves. Some people may need more prompting than others to converse about how they are feeling- this is ok, give yourself time. Just know that there is always someone willing to listen to you and as hard as it can feel, nothing you say can be wrong and by talking you are in control of your feelings and will feel a weight off your back by alleviating even just a couple of words.
5. Be kind
Kindness doesn’t go unnoticed. We are living through a troubling time, everyone’s lives are being affected in some shape or form. Some people are coping better than others, some are finding it a real struggle. Kindness can go a long way. Look out for each other - keep in touch with your nearest and dearest, give that stranger on the other side of the road a big old smile- it might just make their day! Check in with your neighbours, the vulnerable and elderly in your community, help out with any food supplies, shopping essentials - making a little time in your day to give back to others is easy yet admirable. Even a quick chat over the fence or in the park could be the highlight of someone’s day. It’s a difficult climate at the moment and we must unite and keep strong as a nation. Time to spread the love!
6. Treat yourself
In times of uncertainty and heightened anxiety, self-care and looking after yourself is paramount. We aren’t having our usual joys of brunches and Friday night drinks with friends and family, or weekend trips away, city breaks etc, so we should be able to justify a few treats now and then to cheer us up and help get us through this challenging time. Treat yourself to a takeaway coffee and croissant on a chilly Monday morning, or nourish your kitchen table with an array of beautiful flowers. Or do a spot of retail therapy online, browsing your favourite shops and buying a new item of clothing, or kitchen accessory, or a new book to read- the choices are unlimited. A lot of us are saving money by not travelling to work and not using public transport, cancelling all our dinner dates and coffee catch ups, so allow yourself to splash out a little on you- we all deserve the TLC at the moment.
7. Give yourself a break
This is a hard time. It’s not all that fun being faced with rules, curfews, restrictions and fines. It’s tedious having to do lockdown all over again. We certainly didn’t all predict this is where we’d be in five years time back in 2015, and instead wished of great adventures, career progression, travel opportunities, blooming relationships, copious time with our loved ones… oh it could go on. Quite frankly, sometimes we have to stop and let ourselves feel a little glum. It’s not all rosey and yes we have to keep positive and just get on with it (there’s no other option), but allowing ourselves to accept that it’s a bit rubbish and we feel really fed up is ok too. It’s hard to adjust to this new temporary lifestyle where at times it feels like the world is ending or in an apocalypse, where we can’t see our grandparents, where it can be lonely and lead to overthinking, or you feel like a naughty school child breaking the slightest rule. We can’t always achieve 100% happiness, and we can’t always have the best focus- you are your own worst critic so don’t be too hard on yourself. Some days we just have to roll with our emotions, and that’s ok.
Taking just some of these into account and trying to weave them into the everyday will be of great benefit to you. Everyone is in this together and we must do whatever we can to keep sailing through. There will be an end to this, it will become a memory, and we will come out stronger than ever and hungry for life and fun!