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!
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!