So here we go again. Both Scotland and England announced full national lockdowns yesterday, and I'm sure that wherever you are in the United Kingdom, you are this morning feeling a sense of deja-vu. Remember this, we did get through the last lockdown and we made it to the end of a pretty awful year, and we will get through this again. How do I know this? Human spirit.
The biggest takeaway for me from the last lockdown was the sense of community, neighbours looking out for one another, armies of volunteers being mobilised across the country, the pride in our front line workers and all the millions of remote conversations that took place over Skype, Teams and Zoom as people checked in on one another. Remember you are not alone in this, and if you're feeling deflated, you're not alone in that either.
So how do we all get through the next 6 weeks? Let me first off say this; each and every one of us will be faced with a different set of personal circumstances. Some of us will be home schooling, others will be shielding, and many more will from today be logging on from their bedroom or kitchen table. Everyone has different living arrangements and also different support structures. So please remember that there will never be a one size fits all solution, your experience of the next 6 weeks or more will be unique to you.
For many, this was the lifeblood of the first lockdown and indeed the whole of last year. Keep that going. Continue to reach out and check-in on family, friends, team mates and colleagues. For both your benefit and theirs. Not everything needs a video call; sometimes just a text message, a WhatsApp or even a quick voice call can make all the difference. I also know there are many people living alone without the support network within reach. Please remember that if you ever need someone to talk to, there are amazing volunteer services around the country that are accessible over the phone or via text.
Samaritans 116 123
Text SHOUT to 85258
There are also further services available, click here to download a contact card (.vcf) with all the numbers filled in so you can save directly on your phone.
A number of peer support and drop-in groups are also springing up all over the country, Talk Club and Talk for Health are just a few examples. Anytime you decide to join one of these groups, make sure that you feel safe to do so, only share what you are comfortable with and as a general rule, don't give out personal details.
In all of this, don't forget your own needs. Even though you may have responsibilities to elderly parents, young children or you may be caring for or supporting someone else, in order for you to do so, you have to be mentally and emotionally fit enough. You can't pour from an empty cup.
Even if it's for small periods in the day, make sure you do something nice for yourself. Spend time doing the things you enjoy, listen to a favourite playlist, watch something funny on TV or online, make time to engage with one of your hobbies. Whatever it is, make the time for it, make time for you, and schedule this it into you daily calendar just like you would any other activity or meeting.
A large part of prioritising yourself, is letting others know what you need. If you live with someone, tell them you're taking this time for yourself. Let your boss or your colleagues know you won't be available, and set your phone or computer to 'Do not Disturb'. Before you can be the person others need you to be, you need time to be the person you need yourself to be.
TIMEOUT AND SLEEP
You may be finding right now that every time you log into social media, you are bombarded by messages selling productivity, 6 weeks to learn a new language, how to discover the new you in the next month. Remember, doing stuff is great, but we also need to rest. Daytime recovery is just as important as night time recovery. Plan your routine at home, so you get little pit stops in between activities to rest and recharge. If you've just spent an hour or more on a remote call, take 5 or 10 minutes away to get a timeout from your screen. Both your brain and your eyes will thank you for it.
If you find yourself with a natural pause in the day, take it, don't try to fill it with something from your to-do list. Those lists never end, because things are continuously being added to them, so instead of thinking what do I need to do now, take that timeout, and once you're satisfied you've had a rest, then get on to the next thing.
Breathing exercises are a great way of taking some timeout, there are many online resources including a number of videos on YouTube and Vimeo. Look for things like box breathing techniques or purposeful breathing techniques. Stay within what you feel able to do.
Night time recovery is key through good sleep, but many will be struggling with this right now, so if your sleep isn't great, don't panic but just get what you can. Try and establish an evening routine that you can stick to, this is a way of signalling to your brain that it's time to quieten down and turn in. Avoid screen time late into the evening and stimulating activities that wake the body up instead of encouraging it to rest. The NHS website has lots of information on good sleep hygiene, so definitely check that out.
EATING AND HYDRATION
We should all aim for three square meals a day, with healthy snacks in between as you need them. This is easier said than done, but do keep one eye on your eating habits during the lockdown. They are great not just for providing fuel for your body, but also help to naturally break up the day into manageable chunks. Mealtimes can also provide another natural timeout from work, home schooling and your screen. If you live with someone, shared mealtimes can also provide an opportunity for much needed human connection. If you agree on some shared timings, it can help create accountability within a household to make sure everyone eats.
Beware of comfort eating, boredom eating and late night snacking. Importantly though, don't give yourself a hard time if you do. Remember, this is about surviving lockdown, not coming out of it with a six pack and glowing skin.
The same goes for the types of food, its easy to say, as many nutrition resources will, that we should focus on varied vegetables, foods with lots of Omega-3 and cut down sugary foods. Remember, we are all in lockdown and supermarkets will be challenging places, online delivery slots will be gold dust and not all foods will be readily available. So again it's important to not give yourself a hard time, we are having a hard enough time as it is without adding to it!
Finally, stay hydrated, drink plenty of clear fluids through the day, avoiding too much caffeine, and if you drink alcohol, keep that in moderation too.
ACTIVITY AND EXERCISE
Again, do what feels right to you but try and do something every day. Whether it's a gentle walk outdoors, some yoga, a few stretching exercises or climbing the stairs a few times, try and fit in some form of physical activity that gets your pulse up.
The brilliant Joe Wicks, helped the nation through the first lockdown, but there are plenty of other guided routines available online. Remember to stay within the limits of what you find able to do and comfortable. An osteopath I spoke to after the first lockdown commented that the number of people they were seeing with injuries increased significantly, with many stating they hurt themselves trying to copy someone during a virtual workout. So please be careful!
If you can, try and get fresh air every day, if you are shielding and unable to leave home, sitting by a slightly open window while doing some stretching is a good option. A big difference between the two lockdowns are the weather conditions and the daylight hours available. Do try to get out if you can, but prioritise your safety and try and maximise the opportunity in the day. Rather than an evening walk, aim for a lunchtime walk. Conditions can be variable, with snow and ice in places, so be safe and careful when out and about.
Again remember, you don't need to smash any personal bests, aim for increasing your active minutes each day, without worrying too much about what you are doing, or how far or fast you are going.
This is super important and is useful in many ways. Primarily, it helps our brain stay alert, keep well conditioned and can also aid sleep. If our minds are engaged through the day, they are more likely to rest at night. Again, avoid late night mental stimulation when trying to sleep. Creativity is a great way of achieving this.
There are lots of ways you can get creative, playing a game, writing, through music, anything art based or making something. The latter can be anything from a new recipe to knitting, whatever takes your fancy!
Learning is another great way of stimulating the mind, but again nobody expects you to get a degree in 6 weeks, but there are plenty of free and paid online courses available. Even setting yourself a task of finding out some fun facts each day or researching a topic of interest can be a great method of learning about new things, which will help to keep your mind stimulated. Whatever you do, remember not to overdo it!
HABITS AND ROUTINE
This has always been a bit of a lifesaver for a lot of people. Establishing a clear routine and forming some good habits is key to creating much needed structure especially during times of uncertainty.
Early morning routines are often helpful, getting up around the same time, brushing your teeth, getting changed and whatever else you like to do first thing. Equally, as we have already said, evening rituals are great for many things including sleep. Try and turn some of that routine into a habit, when we do, our brains spend a bit of time on autopilot, which provides an opportunity for cognitive recovery.
Habits are best formed if it's something you want to do, and doing it with someone and creating shared accountability between you means you are more likely to do it. If you live alone, create a shared routine with another person if you can, and check in with each other remotely and even schedule some joint activities online.
Remember, this is about surviving the next 6 weeks and how we get through it and the things you do will be highly personalised and individual to you. We are all going to experience a huge range of thoughts and emotions and they are all valid. Above all stay safe, stay well and together we will get though this just like we did last time. If you do need additional help, there is support out there, so please reach out.
Please have a look around the website and do visit our Hub page where we have some free downloads that you can use to help you. If you have any questions or would just like some advice please get in touch with us via social media or contact us using the Let's Talk button at the top of the page. You can also sign up as a member of our community using the links there too.