Words by: Emma McCormack
As we enter this period of uncertainty and anxiety levels soar, we must keep attuned with ourselves and the things that make us happy, albeit primarily from the comfort of our own homes. For those who are dealing with job losses, and those who suffer with their mental health, this will be an even more testing time which calls for us to keep communicating and treating ourselves with kindness.
Turn off the news*
It’s everywhere and it’s all-consuming; it’s okay to switch off and limit your media intake to a level that works for you. Whatever stance you hold on this, resist the urge to look at provocative headlines and Twitter feeds while in bed. Keep your bedtime routine and morning wake-up schedule untampered with, and keep your phone away from your bedside (if you can). Use an alarm clock to reduce your reliance on your smartphone. Likewise, avoid engaging in conversations fuelled by panic, and try to keep a handle on the reality of the situation.
Get your exercise on
Keep moving your body. Morning yoga, a lunchtime HIIT session or a brisk solo park walk, they’re all still within your reach (at time of writing anyway). Use YouTube to do your usual gym routine at home, and you’ll be surprised by how many calories you can burn off in the comfort of your front room. There’s a lot of fitness influencers taking to Instagram to stream live workouts to keep us all in shape and feeling good during this time, so use all the resources available to you and find the ones that work. Equally, a brisk lunchtime walk to escape the WFH cabin fever is a great way to get reinvigorated for what the afternoon has in store.
Read between the lines
Social distancing doesn’t mean social abstinence. Now is the time to make a conscious effort to check in on family, friends and neighbours. Facetime and call your nearest and dearest, and reach out (although not physically) to the vulnerable people in your life. Set specific time slots for chatting to people and make it a non-negotiable part of your new routine, in the same way you would arrange dinner. You could even share lunch over a video call to enable an interaction reflective of your previous normality.
Loneliness is a concerning issue, and there’s a risk that such a solitary quarantine period may cultivate and exacerbate this for those most isolated, so together we must provide companionship in any way that’s safe. In light of everything, we must keep communicating more than ever before.
Hone in on a hobby or talent
Reading, cleaning, playing games, crocheting, cooking… the list is pretty extensive, maybe you had a childhood talent that your rigorous pub visiting schedule has displaced from your adult life? For some, finessing a recreational skillset isn’t an option, and those of us who are afforded the freedom to relax during this time are extremely privileged. Thousands of people are risking their lives (and mental wellbeing) to fight this virus on the front line — whether that’s NHS professionals, our emergency services, key workers, teachers, supermarket assistants or delivery drivers.
Many others are now dealing with having their children confined to the four walls of their home while trying to adhere to an overstretched work schedule. Balancing keeping bored children entertained while dipping in and out of important conference calls doesn’t sound like an achievable level of multitasking for even the most competent of parents.
Keep it real
If you’re part of a fortunate demographic of at-home workers at this time, resist the temptation to wear loungewear. Have a shower, put on your ‘outdoor clothes’ and structure your day like you would in the office. By doing so, you’re setting yourself up for the most productive use of your day, and preventing yourself from nestling into a physical and mental slump on the sofa. This will help to build a tangible barrier between work and play. When it comes to shutting down for the day, put your work attire to one side and reconvene with your relaxation routine in your loungewear.
Spare a thought for those who aren’t so fortunate, having either lost their jobs or received a significant loss of earnings, as a result of COVID-19. For independent business owners, freelancers, hospitality staff, airline workers and many other groups this uncertain time marks a looming fear of what the coming weeks will bring. Do everything you can for these people, for wealthy landlords this could involve placing holds on rent payments for the vulnerable for example, for everyone else, it’s about doing anything we can to help those in need find alternative work or living arrangements.
Allow yourself to feel
Let yourself truly feel your feelings and don’t feel guilty or sorry. Take a moment with your own thoughts. Handle them in the way that works best for you — open up to someone close to you, keep a journal, or exercise your body and mind. Some aspects of feeling overwhelmed can be simply managed by the way you approach your day.
Not everyone has this level of autonomy, but if you do, set your daily routine around your personal energy levels. Complete your intensive thinking work when you’re at the top of your game and most focused, leaving more menial tasks for parts of your day when you sense you may be more worn out or distracted. For me, these would be best placed mid-afternoon. Find your flow and use it to your advantage.
Remember, we’re all in this together and we don’t know how long this is going to last. What we do know is that there’s a real power in a sense of community, and we’re all in this for the greater good of the vulnerable and our wonderful yet overstretched NHS and service workers. This means more than your usual Friday night drinks down the local, or your tickets to the latest musical. Those things will wait and will be even more magical when we come out of the other side of this. It’s simple really; the longer it takes for people in the UK to take social distancing and isolation seriously, the longer we will be in such a position. I’m pretty confident that extending the current situation is not what anybody wants.
* Some of the sources of ‘news’ reporting on social media at the moment are dubious and may not be trustworthy.