3 tips for surviving the COVID-19 lockdown

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6 April 2020
By Lynda O'D

Someone once said that it's impossible to say the word "bubble" in an angry tone. Up until recently I would have agreed.

As time goes on, tensions will undoubtedly be building inside your household bubble like they are in mine. There are plenty of tips for looking after yourself in a practical way during this time: Get out for a walk, call a friend and, of course, wash your hands. But we've got to keep our thought-life healthy as well.

Here are my top pointers for staying mentally healthy while stuck at home.

Top 3 tips.

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1. Keep track of the days.

If you are on lockdown, with nowhere to go, the days can all blur into one. Ten days in, and I already find myself asking, “What day is it?” While this can be a lovely way to spend a holiday, it can be a disconcerting way to spend a lockdown of several weeks.

I encourage you to keep up your weekly traditions, in a revised form. I have friends who continue their Friday night family movie night, even though any night of the week is technically not a “school night.” In our family, Sunday morning is always set aside to go to church. Now that church is online, we still make sure we’re in our living room ready to watch at 10am. We've also continued our tradition of Saturday morning pancakes, even though we could have pancakes any day of the week now. There is something reassuring about keeping our regular routines to mark the passing of each week.

Could your sports practice happen in the backyard on the usual night? Could you use Skype or Zoom to bring your friends around the table for games night? I know it’s not quite the same - but nothing about this season is the same. All we can do is manage the factors that are in our control.

2. Accept that this is not meant to be easy.

In a bitter irony, petrol prices are at an all-time low in a season when nobody's driving anywhere. In the same way, we are given a month at home when we could complete our renovation projects, but the hardware stores are not open.

This is a frustrating time.

People tend to fall into one of two camps during the lockdown - You are either bored to the point of insanity, or you are overwhelmed with too much to do. Either way, it's hard. And it’s okay that it's hard. This is not a holiday.

Plus, it's hard in different ways for different people. For those of you working from home, the novelty of being able to wear your pyjama pants probably wore off on about Day 2. For those of you homeschooling your children, their enthusiasm will have run out by now. And if you are working from home AND schooling your kids, well, that is a whole new level of impossibility!

And then you see your friends’ daily adventures posted on social media while you are stuck working - and you think This just isn’t fair!

If we focus on how easy somebody else has it, that only makes us feel worse. So, instead, take a deep breath, and acknowledge that this is unfair. Some people have free time, but have lost income. Others have a stable income, but are struggling to get their work done at home. And many people are continuing to go to work, in spite of the risk it poses to themselves and their family.

Nobody is winning in a lockdown. But we will all win as a result of the lockdown. We are doing this to protect our communities - and that comes with a personal sacrifice. No matter your situation, you are playing your part every moment you just stay at home.

A woman sitting on a couch with a coffee looking out the window in an apartment

3. View social media lightly.

Finally, let’s have a chat about social media. I don’t know about you, but I find myself caught in the social-media-envy trap. As a mum of two (very busy) preschoolers, I’m finding it hard to just contain the crazy and manage the toilet training every day -- So when I see Facebook posts of mums doing beautiful craft activities with their kids, I feel like I’m not doing enough. (Especially if those kids actually have pants on.)

But I’ve learned to remind myself that the photo I’m seeing on social media is not the whole story. That activity may have only taken ten minutes of their day. It possibly ended in a mess of tears. Or it was happening under a weight of worry about the future.

But all I see is that one snap, and envy a life that seems to have it all together.

We need to bear in mind that one picture does not tell the whole story.

A day is made up of many moments. Social media is only going to show you the good ones. You would have had good moments and hard moments today, and so would everybody else. But all you see of their life is one snapshot.

To help me navigate social media, I like to remind myself of one simple thing: “That was one moment in their day.” Just one moment. It does not tell the whole story.

If it helps, take a break from social media completely for a while and focus on your own bubble. Just don’t worry about what everybody else is doing. They’re struggling too, even if you never see it. Whatever you are spending your days doing in your bubble is good enough.

Final thoughts.

When you find your thoughts heading in a downward spiral, catch them before they take hold of you. Do a normal weekly tradition, even if it has to be adjusted. Acknowledge that this is a sacrifice and is not meant to be easy. Reframe the way you look at social media.

We will get through this. One day we will be released back to “normal” life again, where supermarket queues are at the checkout, not the entrance to the store, and 5 o’clock traffic becomes a reality again. When those little irritations reappear, we will remember this season of lockdown, and hopefully we will smile as we suddenly come to appreciate those simple things for the first time.