It’s been a strange year. Lockdown 1.0 was so foreign, and so novel, it was bearable. I mean, aside from the crippling anxiety that came from watching the numbers increase every day and thinking it would never end. But the weather was nice. So despite everything else, there was sunshine when we got up in the morning, and long evenings you could enjoy in the garden, if you were lucky enough to have one. (And a lot of positivity.)
Lockdown 2.0 came but somehow that didn’t feel all too surprising. The numbers had been rising again, and other countries had gone into national lockdowns, but Christmas was just around the corner. It didn’t matter that the days were darker and wetter, Christmas lights were going up and with any luck, we’d be able to see family really soon to exchange gifts.
And that’s kinda where it all went wrong…
Welcome to Lockdown 3.0. No Christmas. No nice weather. And January blues on top of it all. Right now, I feel in a better place than I have done in weeks. But for a while my mental health was in tatters. I didn’t want to get up, get dressed, do anything, or speak to anyone. In fact, all I wanted to do was curl up on the sofa in my cosiest PJs and read a book, or two, or three.
So that’s exactly what I did.
Mental health has been a hot topic in the last year, more so than usual due to the multiple lockdowns and self-isolation. And it’s an important topic to discuss.
But talking about it and then actually trying to protect or improve it can feel like two very different battles.
And so, I’m embracing the idea of ‘conserving energy’, which is my way of saying, I don’t have to feel guilty for staying in my PJs all day and reading a book. For those with children, or carer responsibilities, I can imagine this is a lot harder to achieve. But the important thing is to do whatever works for you.
There’s no right or wrong way on how to handle your mental health. Or how to carve out that ‘me’ time. Or even how to brighten your day. Sure, there are some general pieces of advice out there that might help but it’s all about finding your own rhythm and what works for you.
So here we are: a month into lockdown 3.0 with at least another month to go – this we have the vaccine to show a way out of this mess – and here’s how I’m protecting my mental health:
Being kind to myself
I’ve made the conscious decision to not feel guilty. If I don’t have the energy to paint the bathroom, I’m not going to. If I can’t be bothered to hoover the living room, I’m not going to. I know there’ll be a day in the not so distant future where I’ll feel more motivated, but I’m telling myself not to feel guilty for giving it a miss.
I’ve already mentioned this one but it’s still worth adding to the list. While reading is a great tonic, it can be easy to put yourself under pressure. I know a lot of people suffer from reading guilt, mainly because they haven’t had the inclination to sit down and read. And during lockdown, it’s probably because it’s the wrong book.
Recently, I’ve been focusing on light-hearted reads and it’s been the perfect escapism:
- Beth O’Leary’s books are brilliant, funny, light-hearted, and heart-warming.
- Sarah Peis’ books are hilarious, witty, fun and endearing (I may even re-read these)
- Nora Roberts’ books are cosy, sentimental and uplifting
It’s all about finding the books that give you the most joy.
DIY and little craft projects are incredibly therapeutic for the soul. During Lockdown 1.0, I spent a lot of time cross stitching and it was lovely. This time round I’ve been focused on wedding bits, nothing too strenuous, just little bits I can pick up here and there – like cutting out these castles from glitter card so I can make bunting.
I really hate exercise, especially during the winter. It’s cold and dark – who wants to go outside?
But with nowhere to go and nothing to do, going for a walk in the evening is about all there is to do – there’s only so much Netflix I can watch. And actually, it’s been quite nice. I go with Lee and it’s the perfect time of day to catch up and tell each other about our day (even if nothing all that interesting has happened).
The added bonus of this means we’ve started to notice the evenings getting lighter. It’s no longer pitch black on the little green at the end of the road and you can just about make out the playground – I’d say that’s progress.
Plus, the fresh air is good for my head. As someone who suffers from headaches frequently, especially when I’m cooped up in the house all day, it’s the perfect solution.
Virtual coffee dates
Okay, so this one isn’t something I’m good at when I’m feeling really low, because – quite frankly – I don’t want to speak to anyone, best friends or not. But as I’ve found the pressure on my chest loosening, I’ve started scheduling in virtual coffee dates with my girlfriends. And it’s been the perfect mood booster.
Taking a social media break
I try very hard to maintain a positive space on my social channels. I only follow accounts I feel are authentic, honest and kind. Anything toxic is blocked. But no matter how much I control the messaging I see, sometimes it’s not enough. And I think we could all benefit from taking a step back every once in a while.
This time, I took a full month offline. Initially I’d only intended it to be a few days, but that wasn’t enough. And so a few days turned into a few weeks. And then a few more. And that was okay too. I slowly eased myself back into Instagram life without putting pressure on myself to show up and post something – and that’s okay too.
No matter how hard we try, these are trying times. There might be hope on the horizon but that doesn’t always make things better. Whether you’ve felt like this or know someone else who has, I feel you. It’s rubbish, it’s crap and it’s hard. If anything, I hope this post helps.
And if you’re really struggling, there are some wonderful charities who would be more than happy to help: