So we seem to be living in crazy, surreal times currently don’t we! I’m not sure i’d ever thought about being in lock down before, not really.
I mean I’m super in the post apocalyptic stories so id obviously planned my route out of town if zombies ever appeared, and how to barricade the house if rioting broke out, that kind of thing; but I had definitely never planned to sit alone for a long period of time! And actually cope through it!
This journey has definitely been different for everyone and some people are still struggling through it and there’s the possibility we will all have to do it again.
For me this period of down time was very much welcomed but as someone who suffers from anxiety I was very aware that I didn’t want to go down a dark thought process and spiral in to negativity. I’m not going to lie, this did happen a couple of times but on the whole I coped and not only coped I think I actually enjoyed it.
For me finding some type of routine was really important and I noticed the days I didn’t follow this I’d always feel rubbish
I realised through this period as well that being ok with just your own company is something most of us have to learn; it doesn’t happen very often and it can be a really hard concept to grasp. Thoughts such as “I’m bored”, “should I be productive or chill out”, “I feel guilty for not doing A, B or C”, weigh heavy. Then thoughts turn to what other people are doing, and what is meant to be a quick check of Instagram suddenly becomes a four hour trip down the rabbit hole. Not only has time passed but also any positivity about achieving goals or total relaxation have disappeared in to a dark hole of jealously and negativity.
How do we stop this? The easy answer would be don’t go on social media, but let’s face it we live in a world of connection so getting away from your phone, computer, tablet is highly unlikely or even what you want.
Step one for me was clearing the negativity from my phone, deleting or hiding accounts that made me feel bad, jealous or guilty. Instead making it my mission to find people who inspired me, people who posted intelligent things that were worth reading, or who made me feel like I wanted to go and achieve things. After this purge I found I was reading blogs that really interested me about art, film, politics, culture, I also found that I spent a shorter amount of time on social media as I would often see something I wanted to try doing or making or reading.
This actually led pretty easily on to step two; improving and learning skills. Projects I’d been meaning to do that had been sat waiting for me, or things that I’d wanted to try doing. This step for me was made slightly easier, and quite natural, as I have always been creative and had a lot of bits and pieces around the house that I could just get out; but that doesn’t mean it was always that simple or that I didn’t head online to buy supplies.
One of the things I pushed myself to get better at was macrame, I’d had a bit of a go previous to lockdown but definitely needed to improve and learn more so I headed to Amazon (NB. Wash your hands after opening any post, also I personally prefer supporting small indie brands and shops but sometimes Amazon is just what you can find.) to buy some string, and then to YouTube to try and find a tutorial of the basics that didn’t make me role me eyes too much to find out where I was going wrong. With that done, I then headed out for a walk to find the perfect stick to attach my string to (yes I looked slightly nuts walking home with a big stick on my own, but hey its lock down anything goes). Suddenly my day was full of positive activities and that was just the prep.
Plus one of the great things about macrame is you can knot and un-knot and re-knot repeatedly, which I did a lot.
The third step has definitely got to be having patience with yourself, this is the hardest part I think. Some days I just get fed up quicker than others, some days I’m not in the mood and I’m tired and anxious and this makes me snappy and short tempered. Trying to learn something on these days isn’t easy or probably even a good idea.
I use a combination of things to try and deal with these days; this involves having more than one project on the go so I can switch if I’m getting fed up. Breathing and leaving something alone for a while before attempting to come back to it, is also a good method. I remember someone once telling me years ago that it you get stuck, stop, get up and walk around your chair, then start again. This stayed with me and I do it all the time.
Lastly my go to, like many others, was always baking, so at least if all else went to shit I could eat something tasty (well sometimes, I’m not the worlds best baker either).
For me finding some type of routine was really important and I noticed the days I didn’t follow this I’d always feel rubbish, giving us step four.
My routine started very much with some ‘me time’ in the mornings, I would have a long leisurely breakfast and spend time on my phone, reading, making family calls, checking social media and the news. This time was really crucial without the usual work or social activities as it set me up for the day and gave me a sense of control, knowing that the rest of the day was mine so I could let go of any guilt I had of not phoning someone or not replying to a text etc.
At around 11am I would ring my sister everyday and we would find YouTube dance workout videos to try out whilst giggling and having a catch up. Just 30 minutes of any kind of physical exercise that gets you a bit sweaty is so good for your mental health. Since going back to work I haven’t made time for this and I feel way more lethargic and my mood has been lower, so my assumption is that if I hadn’t done this during lock down then I would have just slept though it which is not a good way to maintain good mental health even if it’s the only thing you want to do.
Then it’s shower time followed by my favourite leisure activity…lunch! I got super creative with my sandwich and salad making which turned this part of the day in to a fun activity. Plus after any exercise all I personally want to do is eat and this way you feel a whole less guilty for that packet of crisps.
Then the afternoon is yours to try things, carry on with things, clean things, or even just time for watching a movie if you aren’t feeling creative or productive (Warning!! The tv is your enemy!! Be very aware that once the tv is turned on it very rarely gets turned off again so opt for music if you are wanting to be productive). This leads me on to my final step, step five; helping someone else. This might seem impossible during a time you aren’t allowed to see any one but thinking about other people is a great way to A) be a good human and B) take you out of your own bubble, especially if its a negative or worried bubble that you are stuck in.
How can you make someone else feel better this week? It could be as simple as calling someone, posting something to someone, creating a virtual quiz night, asking a neighbour if they need anything. Absolutely anything really, if you are thinking bigger than this then I’d recommend choosing something you are interested in as then you are involved in the project and it will drive you more.
I think this kind of thinking is as important as having ‘you time’ in learning to cope with yourself as company. It takes you away from your worries and problems and creates some positivity around you, and positivity creates happiness, and isn’t that what we all want ultimately…oh and for the pandemic to bugger off obviously!!
So if you’re ever faced with the prospect of, god forbid having to hang out by yourself, just you, all alone, then maybe give these steps a try. Let me know what you think or things that helped you. We are looking for more isolation stories to share so get in contact, I would love to share some snippets and tales on our social media.