Being in lockdown has been an absolute rollercoaster. Going on 17 weeks of being predominantly confined to my little London flat has been interesting to say the least… I work in theatre, and so haven’t been able to work since the end of March, meaning my days haven’t had the structure that so many have been fortunate enough to keep by working from home.
I recently completed a survey regarding mental health during the Lockdown, and it got me thinking A LOT about my own mental wellbeing, and some things that I have learnt about myself during these 119+ days. I have had some really tough and low points during lockdown (not limited to bursting into tears while washing the dishes for no reason), but also some really interesting and dare I say enlightening moments as well. So, I thought I would share some of my discoveries, both good and bad, from the Lockdown.
- I am terrible without structure to my day or something to do.
Yes, for the first few weeks of lockdown, I relished the sleep-ins and the days of having no responsibilities, but ultimately, I know that I am someone who needs to have a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day. As the first few days/weeks passed, I felt my mental health dipping and my sense of purpose disappearing. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything with my time. Speaking to a friend about my struggle with a lack of structure led her to suggest creating to-do lists for each day. It sounds simple enough, but she also encouraged me to add activities on these lists that were purely for my enjoyment and self-care. Things on my list ranged from cleaning the bathroom or organising my wardrobe, to finishing a puzzle or eating a cooked breakfast. By being able to tick things off my list that were simple, easy and enjoyable enabled me to feel like I had had a successful day. Even now, 17 weeks later, I still create a list every night before I go to bed, to complete the next day, so I know what my day will loosely look like. Something to do each day makes the days feel more worthwhile.
- I really enjoy running as a form of meditation (strange I know).
It started out as something to do for exercise, and to escape my flat for a bit most days, but now I genuinely go running to make myself feel better and clear my head. I had signed up to a half-marathon that was supposed to take place in mid-May, which was obviously cancelled. However, I set myself the challenge of still training and completing the race on the same date as something to aim for (refer to point above about having something to do!). I was running 4 times a week, anywhere between 5km and 12km to work on my fitness, and also give myself some alone time and fresh air. Race-day came, and I absolutely smashed my previous PB, running around my local area for 21km. Last time I ran a half-marathon, after race day, I didn’t run again for almost a year, but this time, for some reason, something was different. I finally had started to enjoy the freedom of running, and the mental clarity it gives me. Even now I am still running (although I am now doing crossfit classes during the week, so not running as often), and I love how it makes me feel. The brain fog disappears, and it DEFINITELY lowers my anxiety/lifts my mood. Who would’ve thought I would ever be that person….
- I am learning to love slowing things down.
Before lockdown, I was always someone who kept busy. Working full-time as well as taking on freelance projects meant that I didn’t give myself a lot of time to chill out. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I enjoy the work that I do, but Lockdown has made me really relish a slower pace and being able to be more in-the-moment. I am making myself a proper breakfast each morning, which I have sitting in the living room rather than whilst multi-tasking getting ready for work. I am going to a park and reading or listening to podcasts rather than scrolling through facebook mindlessly, and I love how much more mindful it has made me. I never thought I was someone who enjoyed down-time, or having little to do, but I think I have proven to myself just how much I enjoy having the time to slowdown, and focus on the moment, rather than thinking ‘What’s next?’
- A good cry can make you feel so much better.
I have had my fair share of tears during lockdown. Sometimes I have cried because I’ve felt sad or lonely, and other times I have literally cried from watching Mamma Mia 2. The lockdown has been such an emotionally taxing time for everyone, for so many different reasons, but I truly think there is something so therapeutic about a good, proper cry. It’s as if it’s a huge release of tension, stress and built up emotions, and once that weight is momentarily let go of.
- It’s okay not to be doing anything, creative or otherwise.
This last one has been a pretty big thing for me. Working in theatre and amongst some brilliantly creative minds is something I love. However, during lockdown, I haven’t had really had any urge to be creative, to watch theatre or to engage in any way. On twitter, I have seen people write plays, create zoom productions, teach kids drama games and so much more. This is such a fantastic and creative release, but for me, this hasn’t come naturally AT ALL. I was struggling with this for quite a while, thinking that maybe it was because I wasn’t passionate enough about the arts, or I wasn’t creative enough to think about how to make work during Lockdown. Speaking now, I don’t think any of this is true. I think my mind just needed a break and this lockdown has been a forceful way for me to stop and reflect on my craft. By disconnecting myself somewhat from theatre for a little while, I have been able to understand what I love (and hate) about my industry and my career, and what I want moving forward, which I think has been more valuable to me than anything. As an extension of this, I also think it’s okay to not be doing anything! This lockdown and pandemic is something unlike what most of us have ever experienced. So, if all you did was get up each day and breathe, that is enough. If when people ask what you did in lockdown and you have no sourdough bread, newly written novel or knitted jumpers to show for it, that’s okay. Some days, all I did was get out of bed and go for a walk. That is enough. You do not owe it to anyone to have been the most productive you have ever been with all the new found ‘free-time’ (which by the way is definitely not free-time as we know it).
This is by no means an exhaustive list of things I have learnt over lockdown, but just a few thoughts that have been bouncing around. Now that the lockdown is easing, and things are slowly returning to a new normal, I think it is important to remember and reflect on our time in lockdown and what we want to leave in the pre-covid era, and what we want to bring forward into this new post-world. for one will definitely continue to bring things like mindfulness into my new routine, but might skip past emotional breakdowns over the sink… Maybe?