Third lockdown! At least where I live. And while I know that other countries and regions have had worse restrictions, it is hard to avoid a cabin fever. We are all in the midst of a very difficult, unprecedented (for our generation at least) situation. And while the circumstances are more or less similar, our personal experience differs. Each of us is having their own COVID-19 nightmare, or discovery.
Somehow, the approval of the vaccine and arrival of 2021 lulled us (me, for sure) into optimism, and maybe that’s why I have been having hard time to stay positive. I have been writing, so at least this unwilling hibernation results in a book or two, but at the same time, I am feeling more acutely that there are no trips planned, no outings to be excited about, no destinations to discover. And when I indulge in a daily dose of news, well, you can imagine what happens down that rabbit hole.
In March last year (the longest year ever), I wrote my own survival tips. Feeling a bit low lately, I revisited them. Flipping through old diaries can be a time killer, but it can also be uplifting and freeing. I found out I am already a very different person. Imagine what I would discover if I read through the ones from a decade ago! But I digressed. Let me share with you my ten tips—they are a compilation of everything I read, discovered or experienced back when we believed that this would last two weeks, or months, at most. And my reflection on them ten months later.
- Stay healthy
Dah! Of course that is something we should focus on regardless of the situation. Trying to move and eat healthy is actually an amazing benefit of our forced isolation. Especially if you overindulged in the last few weeks. But this time, more than ever before, staying healthy is also an act of kindness. It’s no longer about our personal journey, but also about healthcare workers who have been overworked and stretched to their maximum.
- Help others
The best antidote for helplessness is helping others. Not that I was a selfish ass…e before. But this time I mindfully make choices that are beyond my own needs. For example, I no longer order dinner because I have no time to cook. I started ordering from specific local places, not to eat, but to support them. There are many other ways to act kindly from taking time to actively listening to your partner or kid to altruism. Focus on others (kindly not judgingly and you feel better instantly).
- Sadness is a source of energy
Okay, sadness is, arguably, far from a positive emotion. But it would surprise me if all of us didn’t go through a phase of sadness in the last several months. Often, we try to subdue it, push it away because we need to think positive, because we are the cheerleaders of the group, because we were taught to keep smiling. Well, I embrace my sadness and let her seep through me. And you know what? It disappears. I don’t know; I guess it feels heard and makes room for other, happier emotions. I am not saying it disappears permanently, but fighting it only makes things harder. Cry if you feel like it!
- Allow regrets
I let myself feel sorry that, for example, we had to cancel our big summer trip. I know that is insignificant in the grand scheme of the raging pandemic, but these are my feelings, so I party with them. I allow myself to regret because it opens up the gates of self-compassion—something we practice so rarely.
- Solitude heals
The paradox of isolating with family is that you’re never alone. Never, ever. And it is so easy to forget the most important person—you! As I write this, I wear noise-canceling headphones- not to listen to music, to literally cancel the noise. I need to carve out time to be alone and plan for it. I need to actively chose how to recharge, to clean my head. It’s not only the physical health that is important, our mental health has been under a pressure like never before.
- News only once a day
I am so guilty of breaking this “rule” consistently. And if I was to conduct a very non-scientific research into my well-being, I am pretty sure that every time I get sucked into the doom scrolling, I feel worse than before. I need to stop myself. And if there are tricks how to refrain that work for you, please do share.
- Read when I want
Remember all the sourdough, piles of books, new hobbies and projects people planned to accomplish last spring? It created a lot of collective pressure and I remember that I felt completely inadequate (besides all sorts of other depressing feelings), because I couldn’t get myself to read a book (in my case unheard of). I don’t pressure myself anymore. There is more time on my hands right now, but sometimes I just binge watch or do nothing. Without guilt! Love it! It propels me to an activity after a while, so I guess allowing yourself to be bored without guilt and judgment helps.
- Procrastinate lovingly
I guess this one doesn’t apply anymore. Not to me at this point. I couldn’t write in March and April. At all. It was hard. But I have been back at it now, and I must admit that diving into my work is the best coping mechanism. I sometime must stop myself (lovingly).
- Here and now
How to stay present, if the present is so awful? Well, I think that pandemic finally helped me understand mindfulness and the concept of “being in the moment”. When there is no external distraction, one learns to draw joy from simple moments—the scent of grass, warmth of fire, chicken soup’s smell, children crying. Tune in all your senses and enjoy!
- Prepare for twelve months
Okay, this one is probably the most controversial because none of us wanted to think the pandemic would last this long. We wished for the shortest “inconvenience”, but no one could have known. From the lack of timeframe stemmed the insecurity. When I adjusted my lifestyle, expectation and financial needs to a made-up one year mark, my mind switched from “when is it going to end” to “how to make the best out of the situation”. This attitude shift helped me sail through almost a year of restrictions. Not sure what to say now, because March is approaching and I only hope that my “one year” timeframe proves sufficient and there will be no further dramatic extensions. I may need another set of ten tips to survive😊.
How are you coping? Let me know in the comments below.