As we’re all aware, we are in the midst of a public health crisis. Today is day 61 of lockdown here in the UK. We are in the process of a gradual easing of the measures; we can have unlimited exercise now, and meet 1 person from another household at a 2m distance outdoors. But the pressure of these restrictions is building, calls to mental health support lines are rising, and the general consensus is that lockdown has been a significant factor in a decline in the population’s mental health. The things we usually tell people are beneficial to maintaining a healthy wellbeing – work, volunteering, education, socialising, having a structured routine – have almost entirely disappeared from our day to day lives. It means that we’re suddenly facing a lot more time alone with our own thoughts.
For me, we’ve moved all of our work – including therapy groups – online. All socialising is done online (had anyone even heard of Zoom before all of this?!), and my own medical appointments are -yep, you guessed it, online. I’m getting close to a point at which I say that’s it, no more. I’m already vowing to reduce my screen time when this is all over.But for now, it’s very much not over. The world is in a conflicting state of chaos and calm, which in itself is an unsettling situation.
So how can we cope?
Well, it’s a balance between online and offline:
While online, we’re almost always contactable, and faced with a barrage of news – 99% of which is not good news. My top tips for being online would be;- Keep an eye on the time: take regular breaks for the sake of your eyes. Zoom-exhaustion is a very real thing. Headaches are on the rise because we’re spending more time on our devices-
Keep it varied:
if you use your devices to unwind, mix it up a bit. Download a different game to play, browse a different streaming service etc- Try to avoid over-committing: it’s easy to slip into the thinking that you have all this time on your hands so you must be able to do those 3 meetings, and then video call a friend and family Zoom-Quiz night. But in reality, you’ll likely need some alone time (online, or off)-
Where possible, avoid the news.
I find this really difficult, so I set myself a specific time each day to catch up (in the UK we have daily Government updates around 5pm, so I catch up on UK news 4-6pm, and world news over my morning coffee)The irony that I am writing this online after a day of work on Zoom is not lost on me Which is why I’ll be going offline after I’ve posted this. I’ve rediscovered my passion for reading since lockdown started which I’m so grateful for.
My top tips for off-line survival would be;
– Don’t put pressure on yourself to learn something new:
One of my biggest frustrations right now is the amount of people suggesting that now is “the perfect time” to take up a new hobby. NO, no it is not. Not for everyone at least. If you feel passionate – great, give it a go. But these are such uncertain times that actually, it’s ok to just be.- But saying that, it can be a useful time for some reflection. Whether that’s personal e.g. your spiritual development, your values, your goals; or catching up on those Professional reflections.
– I’ve found a strong urge to escape the world, and I do this through reading
An actual book, not an e-reader. I tend to have a variety of books on the go; an “easy read” (Horrible Histories books at the moment ), a young adult book (these tend to be relatable, with gripping storylines that really help with the escapism) and some sort of development/non-fiction I can dip into (Mrs. Hinch’s book at the mo, although before that it was the DBT manual – I live an exciting life )
– Try to get moving.
30 minutes a day is the recommended, but if you can only manage a 10-minute walk round the block, or a couple of 5 minute dances to songs, then that’s great! It’s about being realistic with your expectations.
– Eat well. When we eat crap, we tend to feel crap. And particularly if we’re not getting much sunlight/exercise etc, it’s important we’re fueling our bodies as best we can.
Also, gentle reminder – have you had enough water today? Go grab a drink
I think the main take-home (bad choice of words for lockdown ) point is this: please be gentle with yourselves. We’ve not had a situation like this in our lives, and although we’re not all in the same boat, we are in the same storm so let’s talk to each other.
Sometimes we can be a life jacket, sometimes we need one.