The lowdown to lasting the lockdown
Let’s face it, these are unprecedented times indeed. We have all been thrown into a lockdown that has transformed our day to day routines, habits and lives. Many are struggling with their mental health as they battle boredom, isolation and anxiety.
Two interesting quotes sparked off my thinking in writing this article. The first was from an Instagram post: ‘If it’s out of your hands, it deserves freedom from your mind too’ – Ivan Nuru. The second is written on the side of my mug: ‘Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain’ – Vivian Greene.
In other words; if it’s out of your control, stop worrying about it; and make the most of your time right now, rather than waiting for things to get better.
“Of course,” I can hear you thinking, “that’s easy to say, easy for you to type in this article, but not so easy to do”.
To some extent, I of course agree. However, there are things we can all do to help ourselves - if not thrive, - then at least live during these lockdown days. These ideas aren’t rocket science or anything startlingly new, they are reminders and ideas to get you thinking about what else you can do to help yourself.
1. Keep a routine: If you are used to a particular work routine try to keep fairly close to it even though you are at home. Mentally you are used to certain times of getting up and going to bed. Letting yourself get too far from that can begin to change when you sleep. You may find yourself spending more time asleep than you would normally, such as lots of naps during the day. Catching up on sleep is one thing but finding yourself lethargic and sleeping constantly won’t do you or your mental health any good at all.
If you aren’t working, then create a routine. Work out something that will work for you. Book things into your day that you can look forward to and stop you putting things off if some tasks are things you don’t really want to have to do. This leads us on to the next two ideas.
2. Make a to do list: make a list of things you want to do. Of course, you can include big life goals and things you want to do once we are out of lockdown if you want to. However, what I’m talking about here are tasks you want to get done. Maybe split the items into things you need to do (decorating the bedroom or exercise), things you want to do (starting that big book you have been meaning to read), things you have to do (cook a proper meal). You can then mix and match maybe one thing from each list each day. As with point 1, book these things into your day. Rather than having it in your head that at some point today I’ll do some exercise, instead book it in with yourself that you’ll exercise at 10am. The more specific, the more likely you’ll commit to it. Vagueness gives your brain wiggle room to get out of it!
3. Have set breaks: Particularly if you are working from home, schedule breaks. It’s very easy to lose yourself in working on the computer, contacting colleagues and having online meetings, therefore becoming fatigued and dehydrated. Schedule those breaks in so you can get a decent cup of coffee, stretch your legs and get some blood flowing.
If you aren’t working from home, I’d suggest still booking in breaks with yourself in between your to-do list items. This is almost for the opposite reason for homeworkers. Rather than it making you take breaks, it’s to make sure your breaks don’t become nine hours of procrastinating and doing nothing.
4. Keep in touch with people: use your connections, whether family and friends or colleagues. Speak to your neighbours, use the phone, use video chat, use email, use old fashioned letters, use carrier pigeons…well maybe not the last one...but I’m sure you get my drift. You may be isolated, but you don’t have to feel alone. You only need to be on the internet for a while and you’ll see videos of virtual pub nights and quizzes, online barbecues and friend reunions.
5. Try something new: use this time you have indoors twiddling your thumbs to do something new. Read that stack of books you’ve had for ages, try a new hobby or learn something new. YouTube is great for learning a new hobby and there are plenty that don’t need a lot of new kit to purchase. YouTube is also great for learning how to do new things; and there are many websites out there with a lot of online courses to choose from. For pretty low costs there are sites like LinkedIn Learning and Courses. It’s also worth exploring your local colleges and universities, many of which offer online courses these days. There are also things called MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that you may not be familiar with. Most are free and on really interesting topics. Search online for MOOCs and you’ll find loads.
6. Get help when you need it: now it should go without saying that sometimes we just can’t do everything by ourselves. If you are struggling: ask. Ask your network and your friends. Please don’t be embarrassed. Most people will simply be chuffed you asked and more than happy to help. If it’s more formal support you need then seek out an online coach or counsellor. As a coach, and as someone who has coaching, trust me it really is worth it.
7. Treat yourself: you’ve heard, I’m sure, of the carrot and the stick. Here’s my advice during these lockdown days. Have a bunch of carrots booked in throughout the day. Book in treats. They don’t have to be big, expensive treats (although don’t let me stop you if you want them), having a break, treating yourself to a mindful cup of tea or piece of cake will be plenty. Especially treat yourself after you’ve done one of your ‘have to’ or ‘need to’ tasks.
As for the stick. Take that stick, put it through a chipper, burn the pieces, stamp up and down on the ashes, scatter it outside on some soil, dig it in and put a gorgeous plant on top. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life!
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