We’re nearly 6 weeks into lockdown and maybe like me, you’re adjusting in your own way. What I’ve found is that just as I think I’m adjusting, I get hit by a new curve ball in the form of a new wave of grief or anxiety. We are human beings and even if we don’t consider ourselves ‘sensitive’ we are all working super hard to process the change and uncertainty that we’ve been hurled into (even if we’re not consciously aware of it). This attempt at processing our new situation can leave us tired, foggy, unable to focus, irritable, tearful, angry and often all of this is in the space of a single day.
I read that people’s reaction to lockdown has fallen into 2 broad camps – those who ‘shut down’ – or go into freeze response, wanting to withdraw and feeling lethargic and unmotivated, and those who ‘fire up’ get really busy, a fight response, escaping uncomfortable feelings with action and productivity. I would suggest most of us are a mixture of both!
So, how can we mitigate the effects of this quarantine and all the stress, boredom and discombobulation it entails. I’ve curated my top 5 tips for coping, and perhaps even thriving amidst the madness as we continue into lockdown.
- Practice acceptance. Accept how you feel, don’t try to resist the emotions. Carl Jung famously said ‘what we resist persists’ so allowing a feeling to surface and fully feeling it will allow it to pass quicker than trying to constantly push it away and distracting ourselves. Yes, there is a place for managing anxiety that feels debilitating of course and I will share some tools here. However, sitting with it first can be a powerful tool in moving through it. It’s simple but not always easy!
- Manage expectations of yourself – again this centred around acceptance. As I said before, our nervous systems and minds are in overdrive trying to make sense of what is going on. It’s practically impossible to function at the level we did before. Accepting this and then adjusting expectations will make a difference as we won’t be in constant conflict with ourselves. We’ve all been in that cycle of setting tasks, not completing them, berating ourselves and then feeling even more demotivated. The answer is to set more realistic goals. I’ve found setting an alarm for 45 minutes and just focusing for this time before taking a break works really well. Don’t pack so much into your day that you are left feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. You’ll have an idea by now of what your capacity is. Stop trying to push against it and work with it instead. Ask yourself what is focused ENOUGH, what is productive ENOUGH. This is not a time for perfectionism!
- Create a personal toolkit – what makes YOU feel better? Write it down. What relaxes you the most? Do you have a particular yoga class you love? Do you prefer walking on your own than with your family? Do that a few times a week. Do you have certain people that lift you rather than drain you? Talk to those people more. What makes you really laugh? Make sure you get your laughs in as much as possible. When you’re at a loss you can refer to your list and pick an activity to give you what you need.
- Limit screen time – we’ve reached an unprecedented level of screen time by now. with all the zooms, houseparty calls, what’s app groups etc. While it’s of course imperative to stay connected when we can’t see people in person, too much is also unhealthy. I think this quote by Gianpiero Petriglieri, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD says it all: “I spoke to an old therapist friend today and finally understood why everyone’s so exhausted after the video calls. It’s the plausible deniability of each other’s absence. Our mind tricked into the idea of being together when our bodies feel we’re not. Dissonance is exhausting. It’s easier being in each other’s presence, or in each other’s absence, than in the constant presence of each other’s absence. Our bodies process so much context, so much information in encounters, that meeting on video is being a weird kind of blindfolded. We sense too little and can’t imagine enough. That single deprivation requires a lot of conscious effort”.
- Practice tolerance – whatever your living situation, tolerance will be tested by now. Maybe you’re having to home school and entertain kids AND work from home, maybe your partner/kids/housemates are driving you round the bend. Perhaps the lack of physical space and restriction of freedom of movement feels too much at times. My best advice here is to up the self care, have time alone where possible and have honest yet kind conversations with the people in your home. Share how you are feeling without blaming. If you need some space, tell people. Create time for your household to air what’s on your minds. Now is the time to practice open communication and not regress into passive aggression or just plain old aggression.
I hope these tips help you out. It would be completely abnormal to be sailing through this period with no challenges or difficult feelings so cut yourself some slack, apologise to people and forgive yourself for not being whatever you think you should be right now, course correct if needed and don’t forget to breathe!
Sending you much love X