How to survive the lockdown restrictions
If you’re not one of the many who are feeling somewhat ‘calmer’ now that you don’t have to face your fears by going out into the world, then this post is for you. Let’s go back to basics.
We are hearing unprecedented use of the word unprecedented – but the fact is that we are all living in… let’s say extraordinarily limited… ways at the moment!
Our usual tips on how to get oneself to a state of physical and emotional wellbeing are being severely challenged with the advice on staying indoors. Socialising with others is one of the very important elements on the balance wheel (a tool I use – ask me for a copy if you’d like it). We need to have that interaction with others on a regular basis.
So, right now we need go back to the basics of structure, routine, self care and purpose. And we need to find ways to fulfil this without the usual external stimulation.
Manage your expectations of yourself
If you’re working, studying, being mum, dad, daughter, son, sibling or caring for an elderly or vulnerable loved one, you need to lower your expectations of yourself. You may not have the usual support of others. So the usual rules do not apply. Go easy on yourself.
Limit your exposure to social and other media
We all want to hear the updates, the latest viewpoints and advice regarding what to do and what not to do during the pandemic, in fact we have a responsibility to keep up to date.
However, checking in with the information constantly throughout the day is not good for us. It may create a low-level anxiety and we find it difficult to switch off. The ‘drip-drip’ effect of absorbing disturbing or negative information can be damaging.
Social media may be worse, with exaggerated or inaccurate information and people’s own views and personal experiences. Mood is contagious, so consider protecting your mental health from too much negative stimuli.
Turn off your alerts and try to limit yourself to checking in once per day, maybe for 30 minutes.
When our usual routine has been changed or restricted, we need to find our own routine. The benefits of routine are well known in terms of how we as humans find a sense of comfort within it. Spontaneity is good sometimes, but right now, create some structure
- Create some difference in your routine between Monday – Friday and Saturday and Sunday. We need to have something different to look forward to. So even if you’re at home and have been furloughed or are in self-isolation, make sure that you create structure.
- Monday-Friday (or whatever routine you create) – make sure you get up at a set time, and go to bed at a set time. Sleep routines are vital. The quality of our sleep is a contributory factor in terms of how well we will deal with change.
- Create structure within your day. Take your bath or shower at a regular time. Eat your breakfast, lunch, dinner at a set time.
Going outside has been a good way for many to break up the day and get their bodies moving, but we have a responsibility to limit our excursions outdoors. I’m going to advocate exercising indoors, and there really is no reason not to do this. Recently we have seen people who have run marathons on their balconies and who have climbed Everest on their staircases!
Streaming has saved the day in a time where connecting to the outside world has been severely restricted. So consider joining with others in your exercise from home. You will get a sense of community which will in part, tackle the lack of social connections.
- Exercise every day even if for just 15 minutes. Obviously the more you exercise, the more you will keep your body fit. From a mental health perspective, even a small amount each day will benefit you.
- Think about doing your main exercise in the middle of the day – perhaps before your lunch. This will break the day up and give you something to mark the halfway point of the day. From a psychological perspective, this is beneficial. If you exercise first thing and then have nothing to do for the rest of the day, the day feels longer.
If you were someone that liked to spoil yourself by going for a massage, getting your hair or nails done, or having a pint with your friends, you are going to feel restricted. It is vital to exercise some self care in these uncertain times.
The unanswerable questions around what’s going to happen next, when it will end, how life will be afterwards and other important concerns causes many to be in a constant state of fight or flight. This state needs to be balanced out by self-care.
A bubbly bath, a meditation, some time in the garden, reading. Within your structured week, factor in some self-care.
I’m sure the world has never seen such clean houses and tidy cupboards and sheds. But there’s only so much cleaning one can do, so get creative. Drawing, baking, painting, writing. It doesn’t matter what you do, it only matters that you do it. Write it into your schedule and structure.
Many are connecting with friends and family via Zoom, Google hangouts, FaceTime and Skype. Never before has the elderly population been so well briefed on matters of technology. Connecting with others to keep that sense of togetherness and community going has never been so important. But don’t be pressured!
Now is the perfect time to think about what you might learn to develop your brain. Is there some e-learning course that you could subscribe to? Keep those grey cells firing, it will limit low mood and boredom and more importantly, it links into my final point which is…
As an existential therapist, my thoughts often go to purpose. Without a sense of purpose, we wilt and fade. Lack of purpose and not having a sense of feeling useful or valid is fast track to low mood and worse.
If your purpose was something you got from your work and you now don’t have the opportunity to fulfil it in that way, you must find some other way. It doesn’t have to be a lifelong goal, it can be short-lived – a goal for now.
Think about the learning I mentioned before, or maybe writing that book of poems you’ve mused about for years. Wondered about writing a blog? Start it now. Create a project for yourself – something that you can think about and that will fulfil that vital sense of purpose.
For other coping strategies, read this earlier post.
Families all over the world are suffering the loss of a loved one and face a very different send off feeling that they cannot honour their loved one properly. Front line workers are stressed every day and putting their lives on the line to save others. Many have lost income and their businesses. Pregnant women are having to deal with giving birth in worrying circumstances. Many are trying to deal with young children at home and work at the same time.
Yet streams and rivers run clearer, birds can be heard singing and the planet can breathe for the first time in years. Try to find some positives.
If you have time, use it wisely and go back to basics. Stay safe and healthy