Anyone else feeling like they are in an Orwell novel or a Black Mirror episode right about now? I know I am. Worldwide disease, countries on lockdowns, global leaders behaving like toddlers; I didn’t expect this when I wrote my New Year’s Resolutions. As of Thursday 5th November, England (where I live) has gone into its second lockdown (which the government says is only for a month but I’m not tooooo sure about that).
When we entered our first lockdown, in what was only March but realistically feels like years ago, I was pretty intrigued, and a little bit excited. As an introvert, I was imagining pillow forts, no small talk, tea on tap, and living a glorified influencer version of working from home. But that really wasn’t the reality. I’m talking stress, mental health flare ups, disrupted sleeping patterns, loneliness, and general unhappiness. I felt this horrible weight on my shoulders, and yet I’m one of the lucky ones; I live with my fiance and close friends, have a job where I can work from home, and live in a house where I am not troubled for space. But it is tough.
Lockdown is a necessity. Thousands more would die if we didn’t go through this. But that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be hard. So with all of us in the throws of lockdown, the nation’s mental health at breaking point, and a future of uncertainty ahead of us, I thought I’d try and share some of the ways I’ve kept positive in lockdown. Sure, I’ve had my moments of bursting into tears, or ringing my mum just to hear her voice, or curling up under the duvet because I can feel the depression hole in my chest growing. But I’ve noticed there are little things I’ve changed about my day to day life that have let in some light into my days. So, here are some things I’ve been doing to lift my spirits and keep myself grounded.
Understand that I’m not going to function in a normal way.
“Umm, that doesn’t sound very positive to me, Rosie…” Oh but it is! Just hear me out. In pre-lockdown life, a usual day for me would look like this – get up early, walk to work, work a full day in the office, write a blog post, work on my arts company, study for my Masters, and cook a fresh meal for dinner. Right now, that sounds exhausting – no, it sounds impossible. Why? Because the stress of the world wears you down. You might not notice it at first, but we all carry our stresses with us and it impacts our lives. In lockdown, I’ve found my attention span has been waning because I’ve been focussed on the news and the world, so I simply cannot do what I used to; I just don’t have the capacity.
So, I own it. I got out of bed? Yes, well done queen! Put on a bra and real clothes to work from home instead of holey leggings? Yes, you are an icon! Only wrote a paragraph of a blog? Whew, look at that productivity! Don’t feel up to cooking tonight? Help out that small business and order a takeout! I understand that I am not functioning at 100% capacity, and I won’t be able to. So, I celebrate what I can do, and celebrate myself when I listen to my body and stop.
Subject myself to the outdoors.
Whether it’s a downpour, gale force winds, or icy as the Antarctic (because they are the only three conditions the UK gets in autumn), I get outside. I don’t mean “let’s get our Hunter Wellies and Seasalt raincoats on and go for a stroll along the moors, Jemima”. I mean, I stand in my garden and let my hair get soaking wet. I put on my battered Doc Martens and crush some crunchy leaves in the park. I walk around the street on my lunch break, with a hot tupperware of yesterday’s pasta.
Those good ol’ medical experts know their stuff, and they say we should be getting more Vitamin D than we normally do, because we are inside so much. So, get outside (if you are physically able to, of course). This point isn’t about exercise. It’s about feeling the outdoor world on your skin, something we normally take for granted. Head out for five minutes, feel the cold and the fresh air, maybe even catch a ray of sunshine if you are lucky. You’ll feel better for it.
Revel in the Insta-popular “self-care”
In a way, this one is quite similar to point one. I don’t have the mental capacity to work to the level I used to. So, I do things that do not require mental capacity in its place. Put on your favourite pajamas and eat chocolate. Order those bathbombs on Etsy and soak in the tub. Stick on Tiger King for the third time because it’s trashy and you already know what’s going to happen.
Of course, you need to partake in real self-care too; eating well, washing your hair, cleaning your living space. Although it feels like it, the world hasn’t fully stopped. But we are in a freakin’ pandemic. Don’t stress about having to upload every day. Stress about if you are going to wear real slippers or slipper socks this evening. Don’t stress about the fact you haven’t been as productive as you were this time last year. Stress about ordering gyoza or ramen. Don’t stress about the fact you’ve put on a few pounds in a pandemic. Stress about if you are going to read your favourite book or a new one.
I hate exercise. But seriously, give it a go.
“Ohh you don’t hate exercise, you just haven’t found the right thing…” No. I hate exercise. I hate the burn and feeling out of breath and the pushing and the competition. I hate the fact it’s a trigger for my asthma and a trigger for my ‘oh my goodness, I need to be good at everything’ anxiety disorder. I hate the fact my old PE teacher has made me hate exercise. Do you know what though? I like how I feel after it. Great. Good for you Rosie. But what’s that got to do with feeling positive in lockdown? Well, that’s the whole thing; I didn’t exercise before lockdown.
Pre-lockdown, I used to walk to work every day and that was my ‘exercise’. But with working from home, I don’t walk 2.2 miles each day anymore. Two weeks in, and I could feel my body was aching for movement of some kind, any kind. So, like the majority of the UK, I exercised along with Joe Wicks in the morning. I would swear like a sailor as we did push ups and sit ups. So I tried Cassey over on Blogilates, and would shout at her peppiness. I even tried Yoga with Adriene and got frustrated at my flexibility level; I’m as flexible as a dining table. But all the anger and pain and asthma would subside and that feeling would come in – the feeling of “yeah, I did it. Take that Joe/Cassie/Adriene/World!” And now, it feels right to have some time to exercise each day. If you heard me exercise, you would think I was being tortured by the KGB; the excess swearing, the pained shouting, the raspy breathing. But, it’s actually worth it in the end. I feel good. Who knew exercise was good for you?!
So, those are some of the ways I am trying to stay positive in Lockdown 2: Electric Boogaloo. And it’s all easier said than done. The world is a scary place right now, but make time to find some light; whether that be through a bubble bath, or the feel of the wind on your face, or doing a clothes wash, or shouting obscenities at Joe Wicks. As long as you are safe, do what you have to do to get through this. And we will get through this.