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How to keep calm in lockdown stress

Updated: Nov 5, 2021

The beginning of the lockdown here in Canberra felt very easy. We hadn’t been in a lockdown in 2021 at all and the numbers looked low and containable. The lockdown was initially forecast to be a week; it got extended relatively early which felt fine and do-able. The weather had changed from persistent rain to some sunshine and the general feeling was one of calm.

Fast forward nearly two weeks, the weather’s been wetter, the numbers haven’t settled into a trend so it’s difficult to know what the outlook is, and home schooling is less of a novelty. We can look across borders to other states and start to wonder exactly how long this will last for.

But don’t worry. This is a great time to take stock and think about how we can arrange our lives for better calm and increased resilience, no matter what happens in the outside world.

Start the day with contrast

What does most of your day look like? If you’re surrounded by family, make some time for a solo activity. If you’re on your own throughout the day, see if you can make a breakfast zoom/phone date with a friend or family member. If you’re active, try some stillness. If you’re sat a lot, get that body moving!

Although we rationally know that mixing things up makes the days more interesting and is healthier for us, at the end of the day, we’re often out of the energy to make the effort. Doing this at the start of the day sets us up better. Our brains respond well to novelty. Doing different activities alters the way we perceive time to pass, which is why vacations tend to feel faster than our usual day-to-day living. If you’re always doing the same thing, you will perceive time passing by more slowly which isn’t what we’re usually aiming for in a lockdown situation!

Plan, plan, plan

Because lockdown simplifies our lives, it’s easy to ditch healthy habits such as meal and workout planning. It feels like it’s easier to just pick from what we have in the cupboard or pick an online workout as and when we need it. But planning generally means that we get more variety (in both our diet and our movement) AND we’re more likely to do as we’ve planned and committed. As much as we want a bit of novelty in our lives, stick to the healthy habits that get you through your regular life.

Schedule movement

I’m not going to lie. My steps are SERIOUSLY down. Not only am I not doing the walking commute to school and the gym, but I’m also not going out and meeting clients or just popping down to a local café. Only being allowed out once a day (even if it is for an hour) will mean that most people are going to be less active. Which is understandable. But we can still commit to movement. Whether that’s a ten-minute walk around the house followed by a stretch every two hours or a dance around the kitchen at the end of the day, you will never regret getting that movement in.

Understand yourself

What is your biggest pain point? Here are some common ones:

Not having enough space. Maybe you physically don’t have a lot of space in your home or maybe you’re just sharing it with a lot of people. Get your family together and work out a way where you all get some time in your own space. That could look like everyone else going out for a walk once a week and you get to stay in or booking time in the bath/lounge/kitchen that no-one else can get in on, or a long lie in at the weekend.

Not having enough social interaction. Ok, video fatigue is a real thing and if you spend most of your work-life on video, it doesn’t make you want to interact in that way in your down time. But phone calls, emails, text messages or writing letters are other ways of interacting. If you’re in a single household, most regulations allow for a bubble or exercising with one other person. If you’re ok with video calls, think about just having dinner or lunch with someone, a chat while you’re cooking, or video workouts. One of the reasons we can feel a bit done in with zoom is because it generally requires a level of focus that we can’t always maintain when we’re tired. When we combine it with something else then it feels less tiring and more ‘natural’.

Feeling bored. Let’s be real. If you’re used to doing a lot of different things outside the house, being in lockdown can feel boring. And although it is also a useful time for doing those jobs we keep putting off (like re-organising the pantry or deleting the 234 004 duplicate pictures on our phones), they’re not necessarily very interesting. And we don’t always have the energy to take up a new hobby. But we can combat boredom by doing things that we enjoy doing but that we don’t always have the time for. Swap book, film and music recommendations with others. Listen to a new podcast whilst cooking dinner. Do a bit more of that project that you only do occasionally. Get out board games, puzzles, card decks, the old Wii/whatever console, painting things, whatever you have. By getting supplies out and into your eyeline, you’re more likely to do those things than just flop in front of the tv. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m all up for a bit of flopping when the occasion calls for it but doing the same thing all the time is what feels boring!)

Feeling unsettled, irritated, insert other negative feeling here. There’s a lot going on in the world right now that feels just downright awful. Your balance of feeling connected and up to date yet not overwhelmed will look different to other people’s. Understand what yours look like and when you need to disconnect. Schedule particular times in the day for news checking so you don’t succumb to the urge to be looking at the news all day long.

You can also work out how you can make a difference to the things that matter to you.

Whether it’s unfolding tragic events from afar, or the lockdown on your doorstep, there are ways you can get involved. It may be contributing dollars, or it might be being able to help out in other ways. The feeling of taking action – no matter how slight – not only makes us feel better because we like helping others, but it helps us to feel like there is something we can exert control over. Many of our feelings of anxiety and being unsettled can stem from feeling uncertain about the future and that there are many things out of our control. By doing something to exert some control, we reduce that feeling.

Adopt some mindfulness. Like any other on-trend thing, it's easy to feel like you know enough about mindfulness to know if it doesn't work for you. However, there are many different ways of creating mindful space for yourself and not all of them look the typical way we think of mindfulness. I often enjoy a mindful run (the free Nike Training App has a great mindful run pack in their guided run sections). Here are 9 mindfulness exercises that will help you manage COVID stress. Let me know how you get on with them, how you’re getting on if you’re in lockdown, or any tips/hints you have if you’ve been in lockdown and are currently out of it.

Sending you all good vibes! Angharad x

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