By Ben Norris
In some ways the four-week lockdown looming over England is more frustrating than the first round of restrictions and closures; there’s a pervasive sense of ‘here we are again’, without the good weather we enjoyed back in the spring to temper what promises to be a miserable November. It’s a similar story across much of western Europe at the moment. To try and keep spirits up I thought I’d make a list of ways to deal with a return to the days of isolation we’ve got coming up, inspired by things that helped me the first time round.
Keep in touch with your friends, family and loved ones
Particularly if you’re having a bum day, chatting with friends can be a great way to remember better days and keep up to date with what’s happening in the lives of others. Sometimes the awareness that there’re other people out there going through the exact same situation as you can be oddly comforting, if only because you don’t feel so solitary.
Follow the rules
Over the past six to eight months our government has shown itself to have all the competence, integrity and leadership of a pack of squabbling chimps. Don’t follow their example – listen to the experts, even if Johnson seems determined not to. The closer we as a nation adhere to the rules, the sooner this collective miasma will pass. We’ve done it before and we can do it again. Remember why these restrictions have been put in place, and why it’s so important that the NHS isn’t overrun; particularly in the approach to Christmas when it’s typically busiest.
Don’t take out your frustrations on the people around you
This is a pretty crap time for everyone. Your family/housemates/beloved pets will be going through the same waking nightmare as you are, and even if a simple conversation about appropriate use of the tumble drier threatens to turn into a shouting match, try to keep a level head. Find a productive outlet for your agitation, like painstakingly stitching a sock puppet of Michael Gove and then setting it on fire in your garden.
Keep some sort of daily routine
I try to get myself up and out of bed by quarter to nine each morning (emphasis on ‘try’ here); particularly if you don’t have a day-to-day agenda dictated by meetings or classes, giving yourself some kind of structure can be a big help. Having a distinct cutoff in the evening for relaxing and ‘socialising’ online can help to separate the day; making the effort to get dressed in the morning means you can get undressed in the evening, which can be rewarding even if you’ve not got anyone to get undressed with.
Don’t torture yourself by thinking about what you ‘should’ be doing
I’d love to be in the pub right now. You’d love to be in the pub right now. We’d all love to be in the pub, or on a weekend trip away to Cornwall, or making good on plans that were postponed by the first lockdown back in Spring. Nobody expected this year to go the way it has, and increasingly it’s looking like 2021 will give us more of the same isolation. Focus on what you can do instead and give yourself things you can look forward to – plan a film night with your family or housemates, arrange a group call with your mates or organise a virtual games night.
Exercise when you have the time and space to
Even if it’s just a quick stroll round the park after work in the evenings or a ten minute spell on the crosstrainer you’ve got in the spare room, getting some form of exercise will help – particularly if you’re like me and you find it difficult to switch off at night unless you’re physically tired. With this four-week lockdown there won’t be a restriction on the amount of outdoor exercise you’re permitted to take, so you can still make the most of the Stroud District’s green spaces as the autumn winds down.
If you find yourself in a bad headspace, take a step back
This may be a strange statement for a postgraduate journalism student to make on a local news website, but following the 24-hour news cycle too closely can really mess with your broader perceptions of the day-to-day, as can stressing about deadlines, productivity and your own wellbeing. Sometimes it’s good to deliberately switch off for an afternoon, particularly if you’ve been taking on other people’s demands and burdens. If I find myself in need of a slight pick-me-up I’ll make a coffee (decaf, depending on the time of day) or have a shave, just to give myself something to do that’s uncomplicated and easy to achieve.
Remember that this isn’t permanent
At this point we’re all veterans when it comes to staying indoors, even if we’re massively gregarious and outgoing under ‘normal’ circumstances. Nobody knows what Christmas will look like at this point, but we know from experience that restrictions will ease in time, and that although the next few weeks and maybe months will be tedious, they won’t endure in the long run. Look after yourself and the people around you, and take care.