I have had an uptick in subscribers this week, probably listeners of the You Have Permission podcast. Thanks for signing up! You have motivated me to write a blog post for the first time in a while.
Might as well address the most pressing current issue on this side of the Atlantic, American chaos notwithstanding: yet another lockdown. The UK is back in a March-style lockdown, except for the Scottish islands (lucky them). The measures are necessary, but that does not make it any easier to deal with. My poor mother has had to listen to my whinging all week.
I am in a privileged position compared to most; I don’t have any dependants to worry about and I can quite easily do my research from home. Adjusting to a massive change in routine will still be difficult though, particularly when most of my worldly possessions are on the other side of the Irish sea.
Here is a list of things which helped me stay sane during the last lockdown:
Getting out of the house
The last lockdown was the longest length of time I have stayed put in one place. Turns out I do not need to go halfway across the world to explore a new place; adventure can be found on my doorstep. It was remarkable how many beautiful green spaces I found within walking distance of my house, despite living in a capital city. When I applied the tourist mindset to my own area, I discovered things I had never noticed despite living in South Belfast for more than 20 years.
Maintaining some semblance of a routine
I am still disorientated from the utter lack of routine during betwixmas (the week between Christmas and New Year). My mental health is better when I feel I have accomplished something meaningful each day, such as working on my dissertation. It is also important to schedule in recreational activities to avoid burnout. I play Scrabble with my mother at least once a day!
I use an app called Tiimo to create a schedule for the day. It can be used on all sorts of devices, including phones, smartwatches and laptops. Tiimo was designed for people with ADHD/autism, but it would benefit anyone who struggles to structure their time while working at home.
There are some days which are utter write-offs, but that’s OK. You can pick yourself up and keep going the next day.
Fellowship by Zoom
Belonging to a community is one of the best things about attending church. It has been hard not having in-person contact with other believers, and I miss things like going to Evensong at the end of the day. Most churches are now broadcasting Sunday worship online, and some are doing prayer meetings/Bible studies on Zoom. Improvise, adapt, overcome! Attending these online meetings was a very important part of my routine last lockdown, both for the spiritual edification and a sense of being connected to the outside world.
Doomscrooling is a neologism that refers to consuming vast amounts of negative news each day (the scrolling refers to social media feeds). A certain amount of news is necessary to stay up to date with the latest restrictions, but too much will do nothing but cause unnecessary stress. It’s not even doomscrolling that I’m trying to avoid, it’s scrolling in general. I installed Twitter recently, and that was a mistake. I could scroll through my feed for HOURS. The same goes for Facebook and Reddit. I am not trendy enough for TikTok or Instagram.
If I actually want to achieve something during lockdown, then I either have to quit cold turkey or at least limit my social media usage. I do not want to quit altogether, because that would make lockdown isolation worse. I use an app called StayFocusd, which allows you to set time limits for certain websites. There is also News Feed Eradicator, which eliminates the scrolling element of social media, meaning you can only check your targeted notifications.
Keeping in contact with friends and family
I love it when people message me out of the blue. Most of the time it’s something like this: “I found this cute rabbit picture and thought of you”. It’s great. I also speak to relatives dispersed across the UK more during lockdown than I did before, which is really nice.
The lockdown has been particularly difficult for older people, who were already disproportionately isolated before the pandemic. I highly recommend Age UK’s telephone friendship service (formerly The Silver Line), where you can volunteer to speak to an older person once a week by phone. They are very good at matching you with someone who shares common interests; my telephone friend also likes travelling, so we spend every call whinging about being stuck in the UK. If you know an older person who lives alone, encourage them to sign up to this service if you think they would enjoy it.
In conclusion: get outside, stick to a routine, keep the faith, don’t faff about on social media, and stay in touch with family and friends. Hopefully that will keep me sane for the next few months.
What are some things you have enjoyed during lockdown? Feel free to comment below with suggestions.