10 ways to get through the last weeks of lockdown
The sun is out, the sky is blue...there's not too much longer left until I can see you... We're nearly there, just a few more weeks and that quick coffee in the garden (which is still better than nothing!) can turn to that cosy sense of being able to relax again in each other's company.
So how do we keep our mojo strong so that we emerge from lockdown with a sense of hope and positivity for the good times ahead? Try these ideas:
Top tips to get through the last weeks of lockdown.
1. Begin to explore and set your goals for the second half of the year. While you may be tentative because our recent experience is “anything can change”, having a focus, with flexibility or alternatives, means you have something to work for, and look forward to. Try writing down your aims, and then breaking down those goals into smaller steps – some of which you might be able to start right now.
2. Cherish the positive influences surrounding you. Good friends, supportive colleagues, opportunities...it's not just about writing them in a gratitude journal – what got you through lockdown? Actively appreciate their efforts with some in return.
- Arrange a "date night" – without distractions!
- Drop a line saying "I'm thinking of you"
- Simply work on your own self growth so that you are the best you can be when called to action (if you haven't already volunteered it yourself).
You do best for others, by looking after yourself. No matter how small, do one thing to nurture yourself today!
3. When it comes to effective Self Care, work out your “yin and yang” of pleasure.
- Recognise when you are enjoying something.
- Decide if that activity energises (yang) or relaxes (yin) you.
- Decide which you need (remember when you are down, you may benefit more from an energizer, and when you are feeling overwhelmed, then a relaxer may be best) – and pick from the list of things you know you enjoy.
Habitually you may hear “self care” and think “spa day” or “meditate”. But whatever energises or relaxes you best (at the time you need it) is going to be the most effective for you. Being consciously aware of it, means you get there faster. Work this out now, and as your commitments grow, you’ll know what will give you the energy – or the calm – in order to embrace them and even thrive.
4. Remember, your physical health can affect your mental wellbeing.
Eat, sleep and exercise. Over-indulgence can result in feeling guilty and perhaps excess weight and that leads to a cycle of negativity that benefits no-one. Conversely, undereating and a lack of sleep can result in an inability to focus or feelings of anxiety which can hold you back.
Getting out daily (while dressed suitably for the weather!) can help you get more Vitamin D increasing feelings of happiness and counter things such as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Further, the biophilic nature of humans means that the outdoors is rejuvenating.
5. Emotions are instinctive, CHOOSE your response.
This last year will have brought a multitude of emotion – positive and negative. Be mindful that emotions evolved to keep humans safe. Feeling them – especially negative ones – are simply a “warning light” (like the petrol indicator) that something needs to be dealt with, but it is a FEELING. What you do and when you do it is a conscious, chosen response.
If you feel your emotions becoming overwhelming try this:
- Recognise your trigger situations or events and note your emotional reaction.
- Write down a statement, or an activity that will help you regain balance when a negative emotion throws you off kilter, for example, “Listen to a positive TED talk”, or “Repeat the affirmation “Even if I cannot control anything else, I can control my breathing” or “Have a cup of tea.”
- Use that list to enable you to choose an effective behaviour rather than let an emotional reaction run away with you. This keeps you empowered and in control of your actions.
6. Keep a mental social distance! Ask yourself before taking something on - IS THIS REALLY MY RESPONSIBILITY?
You cannot save people from themselves. If it is within your power, you can signpost them, and be there should they need a cheerleader, but solving their problems stops you from working on your own, and can teach them to be dependant on you.
- HOW can I best help you?
- What would you like me to do?
- What have you tried?
- What are you trying to achieve?
These questions offer support, because you can then more effectively target your response while also returning the power back to the person asking. …and you can channel the saved energy from not getting involved in their psychodramas, into your own goals.
7. Always make time offline!
Switch off, go out into the garden, or at least open a window. Get some time away from the glare of the screen (and all the lighting you might be using to work your “on camera” look). Take a moment to be informally mindful:
- Listen to the birds
- Feel the warmth of the sun
- Breathe deeply
- Read (a book rather than a download), Sing, Draw – do something away from a screen
- Enjoy a cup of tea (or your choice of beverage) – really enjoy it
- Use an eye mask to get some rest.
Just because in principle being online means you don’t have to physically go from A to B – if you don’t allow yourself to do so mentally, all the efficiency you believe you are saving, will soon be spent. Plus, soon people will be seeing the real you (which is much nicer than the “soft focus filter version” anyway)…so put at least the same amount of effort into yourself “IRL”.
8. It’s ok to edit your life
Your friendships may have changed during lockdown…it is not uncommon for people to admit that with the pandemic revealing a range of reactions and behaviours, they are less sure whether they really want to maintain some old ties. So how do you let the right ones in?
- Write down the names of 3 – 5 people you love in your life
- Write down the things you value about them
- Work every day to demonstrate those values yourself: We often, albeit unconsciously, teach people how to treat us and if you are surrounded by takers, you might need to ask why you are giving so much. While you may recognise that “generosity” is a trait you love – perhaps what is of value in the person you admire is that they are discerning with their gifts.
- AND opt to spend more time with the people whose names you mentioned, and you might find that the more exhausting people are “squeezed out” (or you have a little more energy to manage them)
9. Maintain the routines you have in place
If you have already got into a routine, then try to fit it around the working day prior to returning to work. If you haven’t got a routine that will fit within the return to the office times, then start making those changes bit by bit…it’s like setting your watch to the time zone you’re travelling to…you are preparing for it now.
If you are worried about having to make up excuses to incorporate your wellbeing rituals, consider being honest with people and explaining what you are doing – you might even inspire them!
10. Reflect on the “little wins” of the year. Perhaps you didn’t achieve the big goals you had set, but maybe you got to see some milestones of your children which you might have otherwise missed. Perhaps you had good intentions to learn to play the guitar, but instead you contributed to your community through volunteering. Recognise the gains as well as respecting any losses.
"Secret bonus tip": The ideal me - If you have had time this year to reflect and make the changes you'd like to maintain, be clear on who that "ideal" you is, and what your "ideal" life is like...then keep that motivation going by consciously making sure that this behaviour leads me towards my ideal (rather than away from it.)
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author with a specialty in the "how to take action", rather than just giving explanation and advice. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience.