Psychologist and yoga teacher Suzy Reading says: “We need to make the distinction between self-care and crutches…. self-care makes tomorrow easier, crutches not so much. “We need to get creative and brainstorm a list of nourishing swaps for caffeine, comfort food, screens, online shopping and booze – meet your needs but in a healthy way.”
Jeweler designer Lucille Whiting @goldfingerprint says that a lot of chronically-ill people live in a kind of permanent lockdown and it’s been surreal watching the rest of the world catch up. She has a permanently inflamed and ulcerated bladder, which means that she’s been living with pain for the last 20 years and has been working from home for much of that time.
“I have five children, I’ve had nine miscarriages and I homeschool my youngest child who has life-threatening anaphylactic allergies. We nearly lost him at Easter, right before the whole family caught Covid,” she says. “I’m very used to dealing with the impossible. I know that each new day could very easily bring upheaval and the totally unexpected. I’ve learned to lower my expectations.
“But I am quite a positive person. I plan everything meticulously, with the understanding that these plans can change and everything can be moved forward if the unexpected happens. I focus on what I know I can do well and what’s right in front of me – What I’m working on right now, making sure it’s perfect. Providing the very best customer service to my clients. And my children – their care and education. In addition to the journals I keep for my day-to-day activities, I also keep lists of aims and dreams. I make these a priority. Things I’d love to do and love to learn just for me, with no other purpose other than giving me a sense of achievement and giving me something to look forward to.
“Difficult days come and go. Getting past them means keeping calm, looking forward and knowing that everything passes eventually.”
It’s very important not to put too much pressure on yourself either. Productivity expert Marina Newington (@PowerSystem_ on Twitter) says you should try to avoid doing too much. “As a mum of four in lockdown juggling a business, it’s essential to not overcommit and this is the secret to real self-care! We need to stop beating ourselves up about not being able to do it all, so we can focus on doing what matters,” she says.
“During lockdown, I took my own advice of committing to doing just three tasks a day and this really is life-changing. Guilt goes, overwhelm goes, and peace comes with the simplicity of this. Our brains need focus then they deliver, otherwise they fight against us with stress.”
Digital editor Zoe Williams @thetinycrafter has quite a busy job and two young children, so her days in lockdown can be both very intense and very repetitive and it’s rare that she gets five minutes to stop and relax for long chunks of time.
“During lockdown I have really struggled with the lack of alone time and headspace (I dearly miss my commuting walks along the river!) and for extra impact I like a lot of natural light and outdoor time, which is now harder to enjoy coming into winter,” she says.
Zoe has found that spending time outside has really helped her mental health: “In the morning I have a half hour window when my partner takes the kids to school and I have the house to myself. During winter lockdown I have developed a morning ritual of going out into my back garden and taking a minute or two to breath in the fresh air, feel the cold on my skin and look around the garden at the signs of the changing season. It really centres me and calms me and acts as a mental boundary between the different parts of my day (parenting and working).
“Chaotic prep for the school run every morning can be quite exhausting and this means I recharge mentally before I get stuck into my email inbox/power up for work. I then curl up on a sofa near our garden door inside and work under a blanket with the door open, silently, for half an hour before my partner gets home and usually before other colleagues start work so I have a little project hour first thing. I am doing it now and can hear the leaves rustling in the breeze and hear the low level background noise and it is a little treat to myself every day.”
Lucille finds that spending time connecting with others online helps her to relax and feel less lonely. “Keeping in touch is incredibly important for your mental health,” she explains. “I speak to family and colleagues on the phone several times a day, I speak to people scattered around the globe via Instagram whenever I pick up my phone, from Israel to Romania, and I speak to like-minded people via online membership communities.
“Just recently with the onset of the pandemic, Zoom has opened up a whole world of communication possibilities. I am thoroughly enjoying the positive aspects of the work from home revolution.”
She also recommends spending time looking at positive social media posts and taking the time to discover your tribe online: “Whoever you are, whoever you like to socialise with, and whatever you’re interested in, your people will be online somewhere. You just have to know where to look. Start with Instagram and reach out to people via hashtags. As an example, use the search bar to search for local, regional hashtags, seasonal hashtags or just things that appeal to you: #CreativeHappyLife, #DaysOfSmallThings, #ChooseHappiness, #MotherhoodThroughInstagram, #TheHonestLens.
“Facebook groups can be harder to find, but once you find one or two you like, the algorithm with notice and start suggesting others, plus it will suggest paid for courses and membership communities.”
It seems as though lots of people have discovered the benefits of walking during lockdown. Confidence and mindset coach Lorna of @EsTeam_Coaching says: “Getting outside for some fresh air, exercise, an opportunity to breathe and a change of scenery from my 4 walls has been such a beneficial part of my routine throughout the pandemic.”
Dr Lily Canter @lilycanter has found running helpful too: “If I couldn’t run outside I would be an emotional wreck. I have run 1,771km to date this year and trained for my first trail marathon during lockdown 1. Back on the same plan now.”
While social media is a great way to connect with friends and family, it can also be very stressful – especially when there’s a lot of bad news. Freya Parr @freyaparr says that deleting social media apps from her phone has helped her to stay calm during lockdown. While Shilpa @shilpatv recommends a total social media detox at the weekend.