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Inside Soul-Searching

Life in Lockdown {What Helps and What Doesn’t}

We’re almost a week into (partial) lockdown here in the UK and I have to admit that my mood has gone up and down throughout the last 6 days. The irony that my word for the year is ‘Pause’, has not been lost on me.

Initially, I was brimming with ideas of what I could get ‘done’ (always my first thought) and I set about filling up my Amazon basket to assist in said projects.

A timetable went up on the kitchen noticeboard (mainly with my 15 year old son’s school work in mind), starting with exercise at 9am and regular snack breaks (always a necessity with teenagers).

For the first few days I remained fairly buoyed by the constant chatter online, excited by the discovery of Houseparty and Zoom – I was spending more time with friends than normal! ‘This is going to be okay‘ I thought, as my daughter and I sat down to binge-watch The Act on Amazon Prime.

You won’t be surprised to hear that the timetable was scrapped before it even got started (he’s no saint and I’m no home-schooler). The almost constant news updates that were compelling to watch at the start, suddenly seemed like an unwanted nightmare. As we witnessed cinemas, restaurants and leisure centres close overnight, the reality of what this would do to our own business, hit hard.

I quickly realised that this wasn’t a holiday and I would need to find a strategy to deal with the short-term stuff as well as the longer-term prospect of being cooped up for weeks, possibly months. I hadn’t spent hundreds of pounds on therapy, only to forget it all when I needed it most!

It’s been trial and error but I think that I’ve started to work out what helps me and what doesn’t. I wanted to write it down to partly serve as a reminder for me, but also in case it might help someone else navigate this new world that we are currently living in…

1. Pacing Myself

Being a ‘doer’ by nature, I started lockdown with oodles of plans whizzing through my mind of all the outstanding home improvement jobs we were going to get done. When I realised that our life had suddenly become busier (mainly due to the business pressures), not quieter like I had thought it might, I had to tone down my enthusiasm.

This week I have done diddly squat towards our DIY to do list and that’s okay. Let’s remember that we potentially have weeks  of this in front of us so we will need to pace ourselves. This coming week I want to clear out my wardrobe (and maybe the kids’ too) so that’s my one goal.

2. Stick to a Bedtime and Wake-Up Routine

At 10am on Thursday morning, I realised that I had spent 2 hours mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and was still in bed. This is NOT a good routine for me. It makes me feel sluggish and annoyed with myself. I will admit to forcing myself out of bed but I instantly felt better.

Sticking to a regular night and morning routine, especially during the week, will help to differentiate between the week and weekend days.

3. Factor in Alone Time

My daughter likes to spend time with me and I appreciate that so much. However, I also have a dog that follows me around 24/7 so if I’m not careful things can quickly feel claustrophobic.

My kids rarely get up before 11am, so this is the perfect moment for alone time and another reason why I need to set my alarm in the mornings. If you’ve got younger kids then your best time might be in the evening. Whatever works for you, it’s important to carve it out and I would recommend setting boundaries.

4. Get Dressed and Wear Make-Up

Why are you putting make-up on when you’re not going anywhere? How can you wear jeans to relax in? 

Both questions that my daughter has asked me on numerous occasions this week. The answer to this, is that I feel better for getting dressed properly and feel more like myself with make-up on. It won’t work for everyone but it works for me.

5. Keep as Many Normal Routines as Possible

As well as getting up at a reasonable time, putting make-up on and getting dressed, I have found that regular mealtimes, taking a daily dog walk and doing some form of workout 3 times a week, are all things that I need to stick to.

It might sound weird to many but keeping my home clean and tidy is another one. I can feel out of sorts very quickly in an untidy home and whilst it’s not easy with the kids now off school, they did their share of cleaning at the end of the week which I think was good for all of us – they may not agree!

6. Be Creative with Exercise

Has anyone else doubled their calorie intake this week? I need to balance it out by doing some exercise and as I’m used to going to the gym 3 times a week, this has been crucial for my wellbeing.

I have been amazed (and slightly overwhelmed – see point 8) by the wealth of creative ideas being released online. We really are spoilt for choice when it comes to exercise classes and our garden room is the perfect space for doing it in.

This week I’ve been doing The Body Coach’s 7 Days of Sweat (every other day), my regular gym has also released a load of online workouts and there are some local classes available on Zoom. Spoilt for choice and no excuses!

social distancing humour

7. Stay Connected

Honestly? The thought of not seeing anyone other than my immediate family for 3 weeks was concerning. Since then, I’ve found loads of ways to stay connected with all the people I like to prioritise – WhatsApp groups where we share funny memes and chat through concerns. I’ve ‘seen’ my wider family far more than I normally do this week and the laughs we had the first time we discovered Houseparty, were priceless.

I’ve set up a shared bible study via You Version with my bible study girls and we shared prayer requests online with each other midweek. My church has been outstanding in their mission to keep everyone connected, providing assistance where needed. Not to mention the weekly livestream on a Sunday morning; it’s been a lifeline for so many.

8. Keep Overwhelm in Check

The introduction of all these new apps and online resources, can have a downside – overwhelm. I have a tendency to immerse myself in anything new, being seduced by all of the fun and interesting things that other people are doing. Although many of them are good, our minds only have capacity for so much and mine has slipped into overwhelm on occasion this week.

So I’ve reduced the amount of news updates that I watch, listen to or read on a given day (some days I have avoided them altogether and it’s been blissful). I’ve tried to put my phone down when I’ve reached capacity or irritation (whichever comes first) – inner rage is a sure sign of overwhelm for me.

9. Avoid Unnecessary Torture

Every morning this week I’ve received a calendar alert to remind me what I’m no longer doing that day. On Friday, ‘Portrait Artist of the Year at Battersea Arts Centre’ popped up and I was disappointed. I then decided to delete every social engagement on my calendar until the end of April.

There’s no point in starting every day with disappointment. This period is going to require positivity in abundance and everything can be rescheduled to a later date.

10. Cut Myself (and Others) Some Slack

One of the biggest things that I learnt in therapy, is that showing myself compassion leads to showing others compassion. If we aren’t doing the former, we will find it very difficult to do the latter. I think this season is not only going to require lots of positivity but copious amounts of compassion too – on all counts.

I would love to hear what strategies are working for you in this weird time. What has been heart-warming this week, is seeing the British solidarity coming into its own. I’m volunteering at a pop-up support centre in my local town, this week. We’ve got to stick together folks – even if it is at a social distance!

Inside, Outside & Beyond

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13 COMMENTS

  • Esm Green

    So many wise words here, about getting up and sticking to a routine. I’m totally with you on the getting dressed and putting on make up. I’ve also started switching up my earrings – just because it makes me feel better. Also, the kids notice and I think it makes them feel that Mummy is ok. Also putting lots of music on in the house as I feel it lifts the mood. (Usually Heart 80’s!).

    I’m homecooking more and without the pressures of school and homework for the next few weeks, getting the kids involved in making and baking and enjoying us all eating together.

    Ironically, I’ve never felt busier – with homeschooling, cleaning my own house!! and spending time each day talking to older relatives who are in isolation. I have lots of good intentions to sort out cupboards, watch box sets etc but the days are just disappearing. Trying to manage down my screen time too as can see it is creeping up each day.

    That said, I thought I might sign up to an online mini film making course for iPhone – I might get my son to do it too, something we can do together. As well as Joe Wicks PE. If I keep that up I will be fitter after this than before!!

    Sending all the best wishes to you and your family. X

    • Suzanne W
      AUTHOR

      I love that you’re changing up your earrings! You’re so right about the kids noticing and you looking or being ‘different’ is just another thing that might make them feel unbalanced at the moment. The film-making course sounds great and as you say, definitely one that slightly older kids can get inspired by too. Good luck! Xx

  • Sarah MumofThree World

    This all sounds very sensible. I think we all have to do what works for us, and it’s probably far easier for parents of teenagers than parents of little ones, as they don’ need all the supervision! I’ve been sticking to getting up and going to bed at the usual time (unsurprisingly) and wearing normal clothes, but today I have no nail varnish on! I’ve worn nail varnish daily since I was 16 and it’s horrible without it, but I really need some new as it’s clogged up and sticky. I haven’t done any online socialising, but that’s not a problem as I don’t really socialise anyway. In the mornings, if I have no work, I pretend to work – I shut myself in the spare room for my headspace, then I can be a nice mum in the afternoon!
    Good luck with getting through the next few weeks.

    • Suzanne W
      AUTHOR

      Oh yes, I would NOT want to have little kids right now! I hope your nail varnish is back on now. Pretending to work sounds like a very good option. The morning is the only time I can get access to my macbook because it’s hogged the rest of the day!

  • BLEKE

    Suzanne,

    The first week of the lockdown hasn’t been too difficult to cope with here, in part because we’ve had plenty of sunshine and little or no rain. And at the end of the week, the clocks went forward. I’m trying to improve my chances if I do contract the virus, by eating a nutritious diet and getting plenty of sleep.
    Of course, it’s early days…
    For some of us, COVID-19 may bring bad news on the personal level during the next few months, and we mustn’t shut our eyes to that possibility. Looking further ahead, it seems likely that 2020 will turn out to be one of those pivotal years after which things are never quite the same again (think of 1914, 1929 and 1989). This pandemic is disrupting all sorts of plans and expectations. However, as other people have said on social media recently, we should minimise the time we spend worrying about things over which we have no control — easily said, I know! — and the advice you have given above is relevant and helpful in that respect.
    Your word for the year is “pause”, and we are all having to take a pause in various ways, but let’s accompany it with something else you mentioned in this blogpost: “positivity in abundance”.

    • Suzanne W
      AUTHOR

      Your comments are always so well thought-through! I definitely need to work on the nutritious diet 😉

  • Plutonium Sox

    Lots of great advice. I never really wear makeup or make much of an effort with what I wear anyway so I don’t feel the need to do that but I totally agree with you on not planning too much. We’ve already completely overhauled our garden and I’m resisting the urge to start on DIY before the garden is finished!
    Nat.x

    • Suzanne W
      AUTHOR

      Ah I’m jealous of you making all this progress on your garden! I bet it has been a real god-send this weekend in the beautiful weather. xx

  • Kate

    Such good tips. As you know I’ve been struggling with getting any time on my own and a lack of space in our flat, but despite a bit of a wobble at the weekend I’m doing my best to see the positives. We have a routine of sorts and I’ve definitely made sure I don’t watch the news anymore. I’ve asked family to let me know if there’s anything I need to know about and will avoid the news going forward. Working in social media and being bombarded by coronavirus related tweets and messages for up to 18 hours a day with the news playing on a loop in the background just isn’t healthy. There’s lots of things I could do with my time and no doubt probably will but right now I’m taking it easy and seeing what works for me going forward. Lots of love to you all x

  • Gail

    Lots of great ideas and tips here Suzanne, and so much that resonates with me. I find sticking to a routine, exercising and being careful with news and social media are all really important for me right now. I’m definitely spending more time on my phone than normal but I’m trying not to beat myself up about that, as it’s such a good way of connecting with others right now. I think you’re absolutely right on the productivity thing. This looks like being a marathon rather than a sprint so pacing ourselves and going with our energy levels is going to be crucial over the next few months, I think. Take care. xx

    • Suzanne W
      AUTHOR

      I’ve spent hours on my phone every day. That balance I had so carefully created has gone a bit out the window! But I’m trying not to beat myself up because it’s actually been a lifeline for me, just like you said. ‘Marathon not a sprint’ is they key here, I think. Reckon we are in it for the long haul 🙁 xx

  • Pinkoddy - Joy

    These are amazing strategies. I think let go of what you think you know is also another good way to cope. For a start most people I know who home educated their children in other times do not go by a schedule or timetable.

    I think that you sound like you have everything in hand.

    • Suzanne W
      AUTHOR

      It’s definitely important to let go in this season. So much disappointment around and it probably needs to be grieved.

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