Matilda Haymes on the little but important acts of self care we can partake in to stay sane during lockdown.
For all of us, the outbreak of covid-19 is a period of unprecedented change, chaos and confusion. Facing the anxieties of watching the virus spread, all whilst being sequestered inside for an indeterminate amount of time, is a triggering experience for even the most positive amongst us. This is our ‘new normal’, a reality that can feel daunting at times. A time of such uncertainty is a breeding ground for mental health struggles, so it is important to treat your mind with as much care as your body.
1. Switch off. One of the best things you can do is limit your news coverage. Make checking the news once a part of your daily routine, instead of than the background to everything you do. Though it is important to keep yourself informed with what is happening, continuous coverage is not the way to do this. As well as this, ensure you set aside an amount of time each day to be screen free. Whether this is reading a book for a few hours, or leaving your phone at home whilst you are out for your daily exercise, having time to disconnect will help to calm your thoughts. Prioritise using your devices for things that will lift your mood, rather than for constant scrolling through social media. Scheduling a virtual activity to do with your friends is a great way to do this, and allows you to maintain a sense of structure by giving you something to look forward to.
2. Slow down. At this time, your life will undoubtedly be moving at a slower pace than usual. Whether you are still working or not, you are likely to be much less productive than you were previously. It is firstly important to recognise that we are constantly told that our worth equates to our levels of productivity or accomplishment. This is not true. Escape the temptation to replace your previous work levels by prioritising the basics of looking after yourself. Shift your approach to indulge in the things you do. Choose your activities based on how much you enjoy doing them, rather than for a sense of gratification in their completion. Set yourself goals that do not have a measurable output; instead of, ‘I will write X amount of words’, try ‘I will engage with a new idea’. In doing this, you will avoid feelings of failure than can be caused by goals that focus on calculable results.
3. Engage your mind. Make sure to connect to how you are feeling, rather than ignore it. When experiencing feelings of negativity, create an output for them. Writing down your feelings in a journal or creating a scrapbook page can help you to process them fully. Ensure to actively keep your mind occupied. This can be a simple as reading a book, or trying to learn a new recipe. Many museums and galleries are now offering virtual tours of exhibitions that were disrupted by the virus, such as the Tate and the RA, giving the public opportunities to experience collections digitally. There are great opportunities to study free courses; the Museum of Modern Art is offering courses exploring many different contemporary art practises, giving users a platform to engage with the syllabus with classmates from all over the world. Many musicians are offering virtual concerts, which range from James Blake performing acoustic covers on his Instagram Live, to Lady Gaga coordinating a huge Covid-19 benefit concert to raise money for those who are suffering.
4. Engage your body. Being at home does not have to mean a decrease in exercise levels. If you are struggling without the gym or your usual classes, try to find some new ones online. Many fitness instructors offering digital classes, which are a great way to feel connected when you exercise and to support freelance trainers during these times. Make sure to utilise your daily hour outside; even going for a short walk can lift your mood dramatically. If you are lucky enough to have an outside space, use this to relax in as much as possible. Starting and ending your day with 10-20 minutes of stretching can ease you into a routine gently, and these moments of tranquillity will help to recharge you. Although it is tempting to stay in your pyjamas all day long, getting physically ready each morning will give a sense of structure and help you find some much-needed normalcy.
Above all, accept that is natural to struggle during this time. We are living through exceptional circumstances, and it is okay that things don’t feel normal right now. A great approach to have to self-care is to treat yourself how you would treat a loved one who was experiencing a difficult time. Put the same amount of effort and energy into doing things for yourself as you would for somebody else. Although isolating is a challenging individual experience, we should take comfort in how our collective efforts work to look after each other.
Words: Matilda Haymes