March 16th, 2020 marks the day it all began. Once-bustling towns sit eerily quiet, Zoom quizzes suddenly replaced our nights giving our livers a kicking up the boozer, and something as innocuous as popping to see your grandparents had to be strategized with military precision.
Over 300 days later, and we’re still in the same boat – seemingly sailing out to sea without knowing when we’ll next touch the ground. You might blame government ineptitude for not quashing the virus in its tracks. You might want to pin it on to traditional British stubbornness flouting the rules and generally acting as a giant pulsating middle finger to the regulations. Hell, you might think this shit is way overblown and we need to venture back out there.
Wherever you sit on the issue, one thing remains certain – the effect it’s having on our society and mental health is palpable. The worst part is it’s been so long that you might be completely numb to the change.
Under normal circumstances, it’s important to look out for yourself – every once in a while, taking the time to recover, reset and put your own needs first. But these aren’t normal circumstances…
How do we take care of ourselves when everything we need to do so either has its doors locked or its windows boarded up? As you’ll see, it’s all about the finer details, looking for the silver lining, and viewing it as an opportunity for change.
Lay off the booze
As fun as it to wrap up a working week polishing off a bottle of Southern Comfort before plastering yourself up against the wall of your toilet, in a botched attempt to make sure you don’t miss, take a second and think about the next day.
It’s a well-known fact – or at least a common adage – that alcohol is a depressant. Waking up feeling like death is made so much worse when what’s there to greet you is a traditional British overcast and a grimy room brimmed with empty beer vessels.
To inject some intellectual credibility back into the piece, a hangover is just as much to with physical dependency as it is to do with dehydration. Essentially when you drink, you feel the effects similar to that of an addict, giving you that sinking feeling of anxiety and depression. If these are a common problem for you daily, it’s best to watch your intake as booze will only exacerbate the problem.
Very rarely do you wake up from a ‘lockdown session’ thinking “phhwooaarr, that was worth it” so bear that in mind when you reach for the bottle.
As much as getting drunk might be a return to normalcy on the weekends, try to leave it out of your routine. At the very least make sure you’re having a laugh with it, preferably with friends, family, and wholesome activity.
Breaking the overthinking cycle
If you’re anything like me – a serial overthinker – lockdowns for you have most likely been nothing short of agonising.
No matter how mentally resilient you think you are or how tough you pride yourself on being, staying locked in a box with nothing but your own thoughts can be crippling. For some – myself included – it can more serious and be the final straw that sets off panic attacks.
Whether it’s the stress of your future, stewing over people you’ve wronged, or fulminating over past decisions and things that meant things haven’t/aren’t going your way, it’s important to break the cycle before you spiral.
The sadness that’s caused by overthinking is always down to not being able to find a way out and your brain simply can’t rationalise that many things at once. Start by jotting everything down. When I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING that’s doing your nut in.
When it’s all out in the open, it’s far easier to dissect the problems, see them for what they actually are, and start formulating your plan of attack for each issue giving you grief. These will then be your anchor points, the saving-grace points of reference for when you feel yourself losing control.
Confide in a friend. As I’ve learned since moving out, a second or even a third opinion does wonders for getting fresh look on a situation you’ve likely over-analysed.
Some of the solutions will inevitably come down to prioritising your needs over others. As the old saying goes, “you’re in charge of your own happiness”, and sometimes that means saying no, or letting go.
All about the little things
With our fat weekend benders, festivals and family motives relegated to a tame night in with a beer or wine and a Louis Theroux re-run, you should look to prioritise the little things as best you can.
Whatever your situation may be, whether you’re fortunate enough to be in the situation I just outlined or have been affected far more heavily, look for your points of focus in the week that you can savour when the time comes.
This can be a catch up with a loved one, a walk at the end of the day, or even a takeaway, as is the case with me when I smash my weekly Shake Shack order.
“But Danny, how can I enjoy my life when everything I love is closed?” To that, I’d say:
- That’s a fucking good question…
- Try to assess the situation…
… we live in a different time, the things we love to do – like neck a Stella in the pub, whack out a hefty set at the gym or go all-day-brunching – we can’t do. But dig a little deeper, and we can all find things we can enjoy beyond that.
Trying new things and picking up new skills, whether it be taking up exercise, reading or sampling a new e-learning course, can be a good way to grow, hit your goals and achieve that self-actualisation human-beings crave. The opportunities to better yourself are there for the taking. They may be hidden, but they’re there.
Lending a helping hand
If we’re able to find joy in this time, we should aim to spread it where we can. Anything from gassing up the mandem on their Mad-Max style lockdown barnets to letting the girls know you love them on a prosecco-fuelled Zoom bender, a simple compliment goes a long way.
However, it’s also a time for compassion for understanding. While most step-up communication when they’re locked down, some isolate off and opt for a state of reclusion, not usually by their own choice.
If a friend is renowned for ‘airing you’ (guilty!) then slap them a message anyway as they might be bogged down. They’ll likely appreciate the effort – I know I did!
It’s still good to get out, so where you can, meet up (within the regulations, before I get labelled a COVID-19 conspirator) for some fresh air or a walk.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to talk to people. Your friends and family are the people tuned best to you as a person, so don’t be afraid to lean on someone during this tough time.
At the risk of this last comment not aging very well, the end is at least somewhat in view and lending a hand can guide so many over the finish line.