It’s a sign of the times when hitting ‘Publish‘ on a blog post feels like the biggest social event of the year.
We’re almost a month into lockdown here in the UK, and I think it’s safe to say that many of us are starting to go a little stir-crazy. As the initial panic and stockpiling frenzy wears off, feelings of isolation and loneliness are beginning to set in across the country.
As a major introvert and self-employed homebody (that’s right, I was social distancing before it was cool!) I’m actually in a pretty good place right now. I’ve had a few years to come up with healthy routines and habits to keep myself sane during times of limited human interaction, and now I’m here to share them with you.
If you’ve been struggling to adjust to this new way of living, read on for ten tried-and-tested ways to help you to survive and thrive during lockdown!
Clean your space
There’s something so therapeutic about cleaning and decluttering your home from top to bottom. I love getting rid of unwanted items, vacuuming those dusty corners and mopping my floors until they sparkle!
In our busy lives, it’s often hard to find the time for a good declutter. But if you’re suddenly finding yourself with a little (or a lot!) of extra time on your hands, I highly recommend getting stuck into the housework.
A lot of my anxiety stems from a lack of control. So this pandemic and subsequent lockdown has the potential to send me spiralling into a vortex of stress! But when I clean and organise my apartment, I feel like I’m taking back that sense of control. I may not have the power to change what’s going on out there in the world, but I can control how my space looks and feels.
It may sound small, but keeping on top of my cleaning has had an incredibly positive impact on my mental state during this chaotic and unpredictable time.
Now, I’m not telling you that you need to achieve everything on your to-do list during lockdown.
But if you don’t even have a to-do list, I’m telling you to make one!
Sitting around all day playing Animal Crossing and watching Netflix may sound appealing, but it’s a sure-fire way to end up feeling sluggish and unmotivated. Your list doesn’t have to be made up of huge, intimidating jobs – simply making your bed or trying a new recipe can feel incredibly satisfying to tick off. It’s important to have daily goals, no matter how small, in order to feel inspired and have a sense of purpose as the lockdown stretches before us.
If you’re like me, it can be easy to fall into the trap of striving for constant progress and achievement, even during a global health crisis! The key is to strike a balance between productivity and relaxation, and it may take some trial-and-error before you get there. But you will get there.
Work out regularly
I am missing my daily walks so much. I completely took them for granted, and find myself struggling to remember a time when I could stroll down the street without a care in the world.
These days, I don’t feel comfortable enough to go for a walk. Here in London the streets can get fairly busy, and from my window I’ve observed many people who can’t seem to grasp the term ‘social distancing.’ The horror!
So like Rapunzel in her ivory tower, I stay locked in my top-floor apartment. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve been neglecting my regular exercise routine – in fact, I’ve ramped it up! With a simple daily arm workout, the occasional yoga session and a determination to take 10,000 steps a day (yes, I do pace the length of my apartment until I hit that goal!) I’ve actually managed to tone up and lose a few pounds during lockdown.
The mental benefits far outweigh the physical ones – I feel energised, strong and more able to cope with the stresses of COVID-19 life.
Get fresh air and sunlight
Although I live in an apartment, I’m lucky enough to have a private rooftop situated high among the treetops. It feels completely secluded from the rest of the world, and is the perfect place to soak up the sun and breathe in the fresh spring air. We also have a huge, beautiful shared garden that I’m determined to make the most of this summer!
I always notice a difference in my mood and general well-being on the days that I forget to go outside – I start to feel sluggish and a little miserable without my daily dose of sunlight! As humans, we need that connection to the living world for both our physical and mental health, so it’s important that you carve out a little slice of nature during lockdown.
Limit the news
I know how important it is to keep up with the latest developments in our battle against COVID-19, but there can be too much of a good thing.
Personally, I find the news incredibly stressful. At the beginning of the pandemic I was glued to my phone, constantly refreshing The Guardian and checking for new updates. It’s no coincidence that my anxiety was at an all-time high during that time!
I’ve found that setting aside half an hour in the morning to look at the news helps me to stay informed without feeling overwhelmed. There’s no sense in checking multiple times a day – all that did was raise my stress levels and I really wasn’t learning anything new.
I also stopped tuning in to the government’s daily briefings at 5pm, as they left me too stressed to enjoy my dinner!
Get enough sleep
Sleep can be a fickle friend – it can turn on you when you least expect it, leaving you wide awake at 2am and struggling to function the next day.
Now that many of us have less responsibilities in the morning, it can be easy to slip into the habit of going to bed way past midnight. But you must resist!
Sticking to your usual eight hours of shut-eye will be a lifesaver during this time. Everything seems scarier and more overwhelming when you’re tired, and it can be difficult to find the energy to face the day when you’re running on less than seven hours of sleep.
But what if you just can’t fall asleep? Practicing good sleep hygiene can go a long way in ensuring a good night’s rest, as well as following some of the other tips in this blog post. If you wear yourself out with exercise during the day and clear your mind with meditation before bed, sleep should come easier to you.
I highly recommend the book Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. It’s a game-changer!
Learn something new
I’m a firm believer in constantly learning and adding to my skillset, particularly as our economy looks to be on the verge of a possible collapse.
Since the start of the year I’ve been working on getting to grips with Final Cut Pro, and hope to publish my first YouTube video at some point during lockdown! I’ve also recently discovered Just One Cookbook, an incredible resource for Japanese recipes. As a result Elliott has been enjoying pan-fried sea bass with ponzu sauce, sunomono salad, homemade vegetable gyoza and traditional Japanese curry.
If there’s a specific skill or hobby that you’ve been meaning to pick up, such as knitting or blogging, there’s never been a better time.
If you’re a regular reader then I’m sure I sound like a broken record at this point, but I can’t stress the importance of a healthy diet enough.
It’s now more vital than ever that we make our health a priority and strengthen our immune systems, and food is a great place to start.
I completely understand that it can be tough to source fresh, nutritious food at the moment. In times like this we need to work with what’s available to us – can you find dried fruit in the baking aisle, a forgotten bag of potatoes, vegetables from a friend’s garden?
Making the effort to eat as many fresh, whole foods as possible during this time will help you to feel stronger and more able to cope with the stress and uncertainty of a global pandemic. It will also give you a better chance of fighting off the virus – a win-win, in my eyes!
Prioritise your mental health
As the weeks roll by with no sign of improvement on the COVID-19 front, I’ve been growing increasingly concerned about how this lockdown will impact our collective mental health.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a stable job, no financial worries (touch wood!), a therapist who is always available for FaceTime calls, a spacious apartment and a wonderful fiance to keep me company throughout this time. I am so incredibly grateful for what I have, but I know there are millions of people out there who aren’t as fortunate.
In fact, my mental health has actually improved during lockdown! It may sound a little odd, but I feel like I’m thriving as well as I can given the circumstances. I credit this partially to the blessings listed above, but also to the fact that I’ve been making my mental health a priority.
During my last trip to Japan, we stayed in a Buddhist monastery on top of a mountain surrounded by fiery autumn leaves. It was just as magical as it sounds! That night we attended a meditation session with a Japanese monk, who explained the importance of clearing your mind and finding peace in silence. He meditated with us for around half an hour, and I can’t describe the relief and calmness that I felt after leaving the session. Since then I’ve made it a habit to meditate at least four or five times a week, and it really helps to ground me when I’m feeling anxious.
Similarly, journalling three times a week has been a great way to get my thoughts and emotions in order. It also serves as a ‘quarantine diary’ which will be interesting to read back over in years to come!
These two simple practices have done wonders for my mental health, both before and during lockdown. It’s now more important than ever to safeguard our minds and prevent ourselves from spiralling into a pit of despair.
As a self-confessed introvert, I’m living proof that it is possible to have fun from the comfort of your own home. You aren’t doomed to spend every day cleaning or watching TV!
Like most of the general population, I’ve recently fallen in love with Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It’s the most enjoyable way to waste a few hours, tending to my little island and selling fruit in order to pay off my debt to a raccoon. Simple yet satisfying!
Can’t sleep? Try stargazing – the pollution levels over London have reduced dramatically since lockdown began, and on a clear night the sky is dotted with stars. I love using Sky Guide to identify constellations and learn about each twinkling light – it even shows satellites, rockets and space junk! A few weeks ago we used Elliott’s telescope to take a closer look at Venus, and I dug out my beloved Wonders of the Solar System and Universe in order to delve a little deeper into the beautiful world of space.
There are a myriad of ways to have fun and stay entertained without leaving your home. Play to your interests and think outside the box, and you’re guaranteed to come up with something!
While the impact of COVID-19 has been incredibly devastating, it’s also given many of us the opportunity to put down roots and ease into a slower, more simple way of living. Little things that I once took for granted now bring me so much joy – the sun on my face, the wind in my hair, a Tesco delivery slot…
I hope that once this is all over, I can carry this newfound gratitude with me back into my regular life. Until then, I’ll be following these tips to ensure that I emerge from hibernation as a stronger, more resilient version of my former self.
Will you be joining me?