Opening up while staying inside
During lockdown, I’ve come to a very simple realisation: I really don't mind it.
You would think that being somewhat introverted, lockdown should have been a walk in the park for me (literally) from the get-go, but that hasn’t been the case. The pendulum has swung between me barely noticing* that lockdown is happening, to craving to be more social than ever before and joining all of the zoom calls.
At the start of lockdown, the social conversation (aka my inbox) was shiny and optimistic – from Duolingo requests to ‘Stay motivated at home’ to invitations to ‘Immerse yourself in good vibes’ (Indaba Yoga Studio). I guess that wasn't a bad start, right? It's good to have goals.
But, why was there this innate pressure to make lockdown the most goal-driven, self-improvement led, hobby-filled time yet? I’m not saying it’s a bad thing if that fills your cup, but would I have failed if I didn’t achieve anything miraculous by the time lockdown was over? And that's when the self-doubt crept in: as runners took to the streets, friends pulled fresh loaves from their ovens and endless pub quiz invites came flooding through.
Was I working out enough? Should I be joining more social calls with friends? Why haven’t I hosted a quiz yet, or learnt French, or run another half marathon, or written my first novel, or baked sourdough from scratch? Ahhhhhhh!
Luckily for me, this rather unhealthy mindset shifted quite quickly. And for the better.
Being in a long-term relationship with high anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, dealing with uncertain times is my jam. I know the rhythm of how I deal with them – I stress out, compare myself to others, then relax, talk to people, and take it slow.
So I set myself a new lockdown goal: take care of me – physically and emotionally. Because until I did that, I would be of no use to help anyone else. That’s it.
No French. No sourdough. No extreme fitness (although I did manage 10 continuous burpees one time without dying – I won’t lie, that was a pretty great day). So, whatever I felt I needed: food, exercise, therapy, quiet time, gardening, more zoom calls, less zoom calls, reading, eating lunch outside – that was my focus.
My realistic goal-setting was helped along by two other key events during this period:
1. The social conversation shifted:
Uber-confident social media celebs shared how they felt ‘not okay’ on any given day, and also how they deal with it. Personal trainers pushed forward the benefits of lower impact fitness, holistic wellness and a healthy mindset towards movement. And friends and family that generally ‘light up’ around others, and experience accomplishment from being constantly busy and social all the time, told me that lockdown has been challenging. Difficult, even. So I listened.
2. On a global stage, things shifted too:
The World Health Organisation insisted that we should shift from ‘social distancing’ to ‘physical distancing’ – insinuating that while the obvious physical distance measures should of course be respected to slow the spread of COVID-19, it was important not to socially distance ourselves from others. Instead, we should be connecting in safe, virtual ways to prevent social isolation – enter, Zoom (and every other video conference call app/platform that’s booming right now).
Now, I will never revel in anyone else's discomfort, but I was relieved. And here’s why.
Finally, everyone was slowing down. Taking a moment. Recognising and acknowledging what they were feeling. And most importantly, sharing it with others – with strangers online, with friends and with family. So it got me thinking: what if your biggest act of kindness or achievement during this period was as simple as checking in on friends/family/neighbours?
The significance of this cannot be underestimated – particularly for people that find social interaction unbearable or draining at the best of times. Therapist Donna Lancaster summed it up perfectly for me in her recent chat with Bryony Gordon. She explained that we are in a period of grief... but we are in this together. What we are going through on an individual level and a collective level is significant. And it should be acknowledged.
And while I hope your lockdown journey (if that’s even a thing?) has allowed you to read more, move more, try more hobbies, laugh more with your families and friends or whatever you enjoy doing, I also hope that you have discovered the benefit of something else: talking about your not-okay days. And I can only hope that we continue talking about them long after lockdown eases.
Because when we talk more about them, it means we are all closer to accepting that it’s okay to feel not okay sometimes.
For more information and support about managing mental health, please visit: mind.org.uk
*Disclaimer: It’s important to say there is plenty to dislike or even hate about this situation: I appreciate that I am extremely fortunate and safe to be in my current situation but will be equally happy when restrictions start to lift. And I am in no way disregarding the enormous, tragic impact this pandemic has had and will continue to have on many individual lives.