Surviving the lockdown: help, advice, coping techniques…and some great TVBy Bethany Ayers on April 3, 2020
It's a scary, and possibly very lonely, time for a lot of people right now.
Like many of us, I’ve had my fair share of scary and lonely times before this, so I thought it might be nice to share some of the coping techniques I’ve discovered over the years, and some general lockdown help and advice. I hope you find them useful!
Reframe your thinking
Get to know and love the Stockdale Paradox
We don’t know how long the current lockdown will last, nor do we know how long the economic downturn will linger. We don’t even know when we’ll be able to eat as much pasta as we want. But, what we do know, is that the lockdown will end. The economy will eventually recover and, one day, I’ll be able to eat spaghetti for an entire week and be oh-so-grateful for every single bite.
Now is the time to accept the realities of today, and not assume that the lockdown will only be three weeks and that the economy will bounce back by December – because if neither happens, you may become even more upset. What you need to do now is maintain an absolute belief that we will get through this, and that life will improve at some point. Then, just focus on making today the best it can possibly be.
Practice some temporal distancing
This is essentially a fancy way of encouraging people to think about a positive distant future, rather than fixate on the present or the possibly-still-stressful near future. So, when you find yourself a bit down, think about how life will be in five or ten years – or even what some of the longer term benefits of the current pandemic might be. I know, this is easier said than done – but some of the futures I imagine are…
A greater sense of connectedness
Everybody alive today is sharing a huge, life-changing experience. No matter where you go, or who you speak with in the future, you’ll always have the icebreaker of “remember 2020?” Plus, we’ll all have an individual lockdown story of our own to share.
Finding contentment by connecting with others
There’s nothing like sitting at home worrying about your health, your family and friends’ health, your job or money to make you realise that more materialistic concerns don’t quite matter as much. What’s the first thing you want to do when the lockdown is lifted? For me, it’ll be having a nice dinner with my friends in real life.
A world with less waste
Living on groceries once a week and no top-up shops is amazing. It’s made me realize how much we wasted every week – the ends of bread, bananas that’ve gone brown, onions that had sprouted. We were down to one onion last week, and I so regretted the ones I had thrown out over the years. I’m enjoying the creativity required in the kitchen, and fully intend to retain it in the future.
Manage your mind
Just sit still for a little bit every day
I don’t like to call it ‘meditation’ because meditation comes with so many expectations and rules. Don’t worry about sitting correctly, using the right mudras (hand positions) or looking wise. I’ve done of my best sitting sprawled on the sofa or flat in bed. It’s more important to be comfortable and relaxed than to look good or worry about doing it right.
Headspace is a great resource for getting started. There is a ten-day starting series and also some special free lessons currently available to help get us through COVID-19.
My favourite technique, picked up from Headspace, is the body scan. I do it every time I sit. After getting comfortable, I focus on my breath for a bit to come into my body. Then, I release my attention from my breath and focus on scanning my body. What sensations do I feel? Any tension? Is anywhere particularly comfortable? As I do this, I start to experience feelings as well. I try to label them (I’m not very good at understanding how I’m feeling, so this can be a challenge for me.) Often the first word that comes up is the right label. As soon as I label it, I let it go and wait for the next feeling or sensation to arise.
This can be immensely freeing, especially when you sit with the ‘bad’ feelings and just let yourself experience them. We try so hard to run away or repress bad feelings that the stress of avoiding them actually causes us more suffering than just sitting with them. Often, the worst feelings that I’ve been avoiding the longest disappear the fastest – once I’ve given them time to arrive.
The trick with sitting is not to take it too seriously or expect too much of yourself. Do a little bit every day, and soon you’ll be able to start observing your feelings rather than being dictated by them.
Exercise every day
Get out for your daily walk, but make sure to practice social distancing and keep two meters away from everyone else. The fresh air and movement will help you feel better. If you can face doing any more than that, here are some other resources for you:
- Yoga: Yoga with Adriene (free YouTube videos); Ekhart Yoga (lots of teachers, the first two weeks are free); Yoga with Kassandra (free YouTube videos and lots of yoga styles and levels)
- No equipment needed workouts: The Body Coach; POPSUGAR fitness
Take a break and try some restorative yoga and/or Yoga Nidra
This is my favorite way of resting. The point of restorative yoga is simply just to rest; you should be absolutely comfortable and supported in whatever pose you’re in. For an extra treat, listen to a guided meditation while you it – my favorite is Yoga Nidra.
Here are some restorative yoga guides, with no props needed. Top tip: an eye pillow is great for helping you to fully relax. If you don’t have one, just use a t-shirt or a scarf to cover your eyes and keep the light out!
I discovered Yoga Nidra when I was pregnant. It’s my go-to soother for whenever I can’t sleep, have a sore tummy or are nearing a panic attack. This one is my all-time my favorite; it disappeared from Spotify a few months ago, but I was delighted to discover it was back while writing this post! If you don’t have Spotify, you can also find it on YouTube:
If you don’t like Soraya Saraswati’s voice, search online for a voice you do like – there are hundreds of versions to choose from.
Create a routine
The fastest way I make “the new normal” seem normal is to create a routine. It helps me keep the days separated, and helps to preserve a sense of progress in times of monotony or when in a new situation. It doesn’t have to be a complex or strict routine, but build some structure into your day.
Mine includes waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day, and having lie-ins and slightly later nights on the weekend. I make sure I dress in actual clothes every day, and have a break and catch up with the kids each morning – plus family lunches (almost) every afternoon and dinners every evening. I try to fit in a walk between work and dinner, and yoga after dinner. Then, it’s family reading times and the kids’ bedtime, followed by an hour of TV, the news, and bed.
Think about something else
Help other people
One of the best ways to stop worrying about yourself and your own situation is to help someone else. The NHS has 750,000 volunteers now and has temporarily paused further recruitment, but other organizations still need help. The best way to get involved is to to check out your local council’s website, which should have information on all of the local organizations in need of help.
Stay away from social media and the news
Everyone is saying this, but what exactly should you do instead of freaking your brain out with all of the dire numbers and bleak outlooks? To end this piece on a lighter note, here are some of my favorite TV shows, podcasts and books to help fill in all the extra time at home!
- RuPaul’s Drag Race (Netflix, Sky) – this got me through my mother’s death. If you haven’t watched it yet, lucky you! Twelve seasons and four all-stars series await you
- This Is Us (Amazon Prime) – a bit hokey, but great characters and makes me cry nearly every time
- The Good Wife and The Good Fight (Amazon Prime) – legal drama, democratic-leanings, strong female lead. What more do you need?
- The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime) – another strong female lead (I’m starting to sense a pattern here!) Great clothes and a compelling storyline
- Veep (Sky) – Armando Iannucci created it. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is fantastic. Clearly the most realistic take on the goings-on in Washington
- The Guilty Feminist (Podcast) – hosted by Deborah Frances-White. A way to explore the noble goals of 21st century feminists while confessing the insecurities, hypocrisies and paradoxes which undermine them
- Revisionist History (Podcast) – each week, Malcolm Gladwell reinterprets something from the past; an event, a person, an idea, something overlooked, or something misunderstood
- My Dad Wrote a Porno (Podcast) – cringe-worthy writing and the most un-sexy sex ever. So bad it’s good. And very, very funny!
- Educated (Book) – by Tara Westover. Harrowing but fascinating
- Inheritance (Book) – by Dani Shapiro. Page-turning memoir about identity
- Everything I Know About Love (Book) – by Dolly Alderton (I sense another pattern!) This time, memoirs by women…
I hope there’s at least a couple of things in here that you enjoy – if you have any of your own recommendations, coping techniques or lockdown help and advice, I’d love to hear them!
The opinions in this piece are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Peak.