By Deano Parsons.
“Even under the most difficult circumstances, you can have creative flexibility.” – Anne M. Mulcahy.
Lockdown can make you feel like you are going stir-crazy. Well, there are some simple things to remember, that will make each day at least bearable, while the lock-down is in place.
Follow this simple 5 point approach:
- Create structure. Put a few things in place that create a routine and a new ‘normality’, so that there is something definite about each day. Not having something as a definite and structured activity may leave us feeling as though we are lacking structure and, therefore, lacking purpose. We need to feel motivated about the day ahead and we need to feel a sense pf accomplishment at the end of each day. A simple example would be to timetable three meals per day; breakfast, lunch and dinner. Make it a requirement that all members of the household come together to participate in and share this sociable activity. Forming structure will help fulfill the intellectual need for organisation and order, that many people feel a need for. This can only be good for emotional well-being.
- Keep moving. Whether you have access to a garden or not, it is vital to keep moving. From cardio-vascular exercise through to muscle building fitness regimes, there will be a way that you can simply increase your physical activity. That may be counting your steps with a pedometer through to just going out and walking or running; within the terms of the lock-down, of course. It may be that you can walk up and down stairs a certain number of extra times per day or that you will spend 15 minutes stretching. Whether it is some ‘on the spot’ dancing while you clean your teeth or wash dishes or whether you will use home gym equipment. The choice is yours but do set some dedicated time for exercise into your diary. These type of activities will help fulfill the physical needs of those taking part, for our bodies do need to burn off excess energy.
- Enjoy a hobby or interest. How many times do we usually say that we do not have time for the things we really want to do? Well, now that lock-down is giving us that time, it would be a good idea to plan even just 15 minutes into each day to practice a hobby or pursue an interest. Arts and crafts have become a very fashionable hobby and there are so many videos on sites such as You Tube where people have posted helpful videos about how to start or develop art and craft projects. We can also, subject to available funds, still have equipment and materials delivered to our homes and so whether your desire is for something creative, like painting, knitting or model making or whether you are keen to read books, decorate or make home improvements, there is something for everyone. Many people are, for example, using this time for the opportunity to buy in and learn how to play a musical instrument or take a course; such as learning a new language. The possibilities are endless and this type of activity will fulfill the creative and playful side of those taking part.
- Communicate. This may seem strange, given that we are in a situation that is all about being socially isolated. Whether you live on your own, with one other or with a house-full, communication is vital to being able to cope with lock-down. It may be that you are alone at home and, if so, your experience of lock-down may feel like an incredibly long and arduous one. This is when picking up the phone, sending an e-mail, engaging on social media, making video calls and even texting make a world of difference. Yes, we are isolating away from the company of others but we still have a need for social interaction. It is so important to reach out to at least one other person each day and just keep some conversation going. This is about connecting. This is about relationships. This is about all of the good things that come from communication. For example, the sharing of wisdom, the sharing of humour, the offering of optimism and kindness. It is about validation and it is about being able to express yourself. If you are at home with at least one other person, what better opportunity than to talk a little more with each other. When an experience becomes a shared experience, it can have so much more meaning and depth. It is fundamental to most human need to not feel alone. Planning in time to communicate with others, in your structure for each day, will fulfill that need. Many people are now ‘meeting’ friends and loved ones in video calls. Some are sitting and chatting with loved ones, via video calls, over a glass of wine or a cup of something warm. It can almost feel like popping round to someone you care about and enjoying a chat together. I would urge everyone to find a method of communicating and build that into each day. Please also remember that you have something to offer those you hold dear, too. The person you contact may gain a sense of reassurance and comfort from hearing from you, so thinking of communication as a gift to other can be a helpful perspective.
- Life laundry. My final suggestion is to seize this difficult time and turn it into an opportunity to review life. There are many ways you can make great advantage of this. You may, for example, decide to plan some time to tidy up a cupboard or drawer unit. You may decide to review your clothes. Here’s a way to do this. Go to one room with a pad and pen and look at the room through eyes that are assessing and reviewing. Take a look around and think about what annoys you, stresses you, what gets in the way, what doesn’t work and what just makes the room cause you a negative emotion. Is the decor how you want it? Do the furnishings meet your needs? Is there floor space? How much clutter is there? How does the room make you feel? Come up with a list of all of the things you would like to change and then apply this technique to your storage spaces, too. Then, you will need three boxes or piles. One will be for ‘rubbish’ going to landfill. One will be for ‘recycling’. One will be for the ‘charity shop’ and you could even add a pile for ‘to sell’ and a pile for ‘giving to people.’ Then, from your review of your room, you may have things to put into these piles/boxes. Work this system through your home and you can apply it to your garden or outside space, too, if you have any. Another meaning for ‘life laundry’ is to review aspects of life. For example ‘lifestyle’, ‘relationships’, ‘work’, ‘health’ and ‘finances’, just for starters. Review aspects of your life and simply create two columns for each subject, on a sheet of paper. List down the positive aspects of one subject in one column and then the negatives/challenges/difficulties in the other column. Then, create a plan that will help you make some changes that will lead to reducing down the negatives you identified. Finally, once you have tackled all of this, you can start looking ahead. Review your future. Are you heading in the right direction? Do you have in place things you are going to want or need in the short, medium and long-term? Are you where you want or need to be? This type of review could help you get ready for when Coronavirus has been resolved and we get our freedom to live our lives back. Others may find themselves struggling to get back to ‘normality’ whereas you will not only have reviewed your life but you’ll be ready to kick start that great future you have identified. Teaching your children to review all of the above will serve them well in life.
These are just five areas that I would suggest that we all build into our lock-down experience. Of course, there are many more but I believe that getting these five aspects embedded into life as we go through this wholly unusual experience, will serve us well in the present and for the longer term.
As humans, we value a sense of being in control. We value a sense of good order and we value having life work for us, not against us. We are vibrant beings and we have active minds. As a retired psychotherapist, my almost twenty years of supporting people with mental health has often led me to teach people to build these five components into their lives. Taking control of life and living creatively, in good order and with physical outlet, while staying connected with others and keeping on top of life by reviewing regularly are the best possible ways to free yourself from stress, anxiety and even depression.
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Please feel free to comment, below. I would love to hear from you with your views and experiences. You might try these five actions and then leave a comment about how you benefited from trying this?
Stay safe. Stay vigilant. Stay well.
(C) Dean G. Parsons. 2020.