Many of us around the world are currently in some form of lockdown or staying home to keep ourselves and others safe. No matter where we are in the world and what our exact circumstances are, this can be an extremely stressful and anxiety-inducing time. How can we better cope with our situation? Here are 6 tips to help stay positive and productive while on prolonged “lockdown” in our homes:
1. Meditate and Breathe
Almost every article you read on this topic will tell you to try meditation or controlled breathing. There’s a good reason for this – it works. Mindful meditation broadly refers to a process of focusing your attention on a particular thing (e.g. your breath or a sensation), and bringing your attention back when your mind drifts away. Meditation can improve our focus and concentration, reduce our anxiety, and support overall mental well-being.
It’s easy to get started, and there are tons of free apps and online videos which offer guided meditation sessions. Just set aside 2-3 minutes every morning for a short meditation, and aim to sustain this practice daily (you can build up to longer sessions as you improve) – it’s a good habit to keep even after the lockdown is over.
2. Load Up on “Indoorphins”
Exercise can be tiring and strenuous, but we always feel great after we finish. This is because exercise releases neurochemicals and neurotransmitters in our body, like endorphins and serotonin respectively, which help to bring about feelings of well-being and euphoria. This process helps our body “practice” responding to stressful situations, thereby enhancing our ability to deal with future stressors (like the stress of staying home for prolonged periods).
While many gyms and fitness studios are now closed, you’ll find many free workouts online and on social media, which are designed for exercising at home so you can take advantage of those “indoor-phins”. Our tips: follow a livestream workout to get the same support you normally would from a group class; or if you’re short on time, opt for a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout to get your heart pumping in just a few minutes.
3 – Enrich Your Mind
Many of us may have treated the first few days of staying home like an extended weekend – waking up at midday (or later) and indulging in our worst habits. Unfortunately, such activities are a form of “hedonistic happiness” that only brings short-term pleasure. It’s important to also focus on things that bring us “eudaimonic happiness”. Eudaimoniacomes from the Greek words eu (good) and daimon (spirit), and “eudaimonic happiness” refers to the joy and satisfaction from pursuing things that fulfil our potential and give us meaning and purpose.
Take the opportunity while staying home to enrich your mind and pursue new endeavours you never had time to before, such as signing up for an online course or learning a new skill from digital tutorials. There are a whole range of free or discounted online courses and tutorials, which will enrich your mind and bring you longer-term satisfaction than that bottle of wine.
4 – Physical Distance Not Social Distance
We’ve all been told to practice “social distancing” but this really means “physical distancing” – keeping away from others and avoiding physical contact. Human beings are social creatures, and social connection is crucial to our development, health, well-being and survival. So even as you stay home and keep a physical distance from others, be sure to stay social. With the range of digital tools now available, it’s easy to text / call / Whatsapp / Facetime / Skype / Zoom / Instagram / Facebook (and so on) our families and friends; and if you’re continuing to work from home, a videoconference with your colleagues can help maintain a sense of social connection in the virtual workplace.
5 – Schedule Your Day
It can be difficult to keep on track when we’ve lost our sense of routine. For some, this means continuing to get dressed each day (i.e. changing out of pyjamas) or continuing to put on make-up or styling their hair in order to maintain routine and structure their day. For us, however, the most useful tip has been to make a schedule or plan for each day, and try our best to keep to it.
All you need is a notebook and pen (or just the calendar on your mobile). We suggest an hourly plan (e.g. 9am – breakfast; 10am – read a book; 11am – work; and so on), and making sure to get in a mix of practical (e.g. cleaning and cooking), productive (e.g. work and workouts) and pleasurable activities (e.g. self-care practices like taking a relaxing bath). Keep your schedule realistic – leave some buffer for unexpected distractions like a phone call from a friend or an urgent work assignment, and/or pencil in some breaks. Your day may not always go according to schedule but keep planning anyway, and adjust your plans as you go along. In times of significant uncertainty, being able to control a small piece of the puzzle – like our day’s schedule (or even a task like re-organizing our closet) – can help to make us feel more steady and grounded.
6 – Be kind. Not just to others, but to yourself.
The situation we face at the moment is not normal, and it’s okay to feel stressed out. Show support and kindness to others and to yourself: Celebrate small wins – whether it’s the completion of a work assignment, a 10-minute workout or even a 3-minute meditation; Take each week as it comes – try not to think about how the situation might drag on, but focus on each day or week, as smaller-sized pieces of a challenge can feel more manageable; Practise radical self-acceptance – acknowledge your efforts, make adjustments and try again if you need to, but accept and be compassionate to yourself.