Friday 10th April 2020
I have to be honest and say that I’m coping incredibly well with lockdown currently. That could of course change tomorrow and I’m not saying that to be smug, but because I think I can give some advice for those who might be mentally struggling.
A lot of the reason is because I was in a very similar situation 7 years ago. I got an infection in my leg, blew a hole the size of a dinner plate in my shin and was pretty much housebound for 9 months. Like now, it was a scary time – I nearly lost the leg a couple of times to subsequent infection, and I was so sure that my life had been royally fucked that I was really stressed out.
I made a choice. I could either be a victim of the situationor a survivor. It was a subtle switch in my head. I know some people don’t like war analogies, but they worked for me and I decided I would fight…not so much against the infection which I had no control over, but in how I approached it, and the actions I could do. The reason it was couched as a “fight” was because it wasn’t easy. Sometimes it would be hard and take a bit of resolve. Sometimes I would fail.
I could just about a manage a walk around the block. I was slow and it was incredibly painful – which given how much I loved to geocache at the time felt like a major restriction in my life. But I took what I could and religiously did my walk around the block.
I also kept my mind busy. I know a good box set, book or video game can immerse me for hours. During that time my head was in that world rather than the real one. It was my cocoon against the real world. I also had writing projects I wanted to work on to expend all that creative energy.
It’s tempting to withdraw a little when you can’t socialise with others, but this is a little different in that everyone is in the same boat. You can phone people, video call even if you need visual contact with another person. But I think so long as you don’t just disappear of friend’s radars, it’s OK to retreat a little for the sake of your mental health.
It’s OK to be unproductive, its OK to spend half a day scrolling through social media if that scratches your need for social contact. The only thing I’d be wary of is the news. Like most people I want to know what’s going on in a world I now feel so disconnected with. But it’s easy to get sucked into endless news cycles watching 24 hour news streams waiting for the next bit of bad news. So, I check in, but only a couple of times a day.
I’m lucky in that my experience 7 years ago gave me practise such that, I’m genuinely currently feeling happy. Sure, I still worry about the news, but it’s nothing I can control.
I’ve been kind to myself as well. Whereas, sitting around playing videogames all weekend would usually annoy me due to the lack of productivity, I’ve given myself permission. Likewise, I’ve allowed myself to eat badly to the extent that I now no longer want to. Yes, I am not good company as a result of the impact it’s had on my stomach, but I have a bathroom to myself and no need for air freshener.
I am conscious of my health though. I do try and get out the house once a day be it for food supplies or exercise. I’m guilty of sitting at a computer for hours at an end so I’ve made sure I do make time to get up, stretch and go do a household chore (or even just go to the loo). I’d like to get to being rigorous on my home exercise program, but I’m being kind myself currently. Mental health first, physical health second.
Being kind to yourself is key. Because I have allowed myself to be unproductive, I’ve found myself naturally starting a few projects (such as The Climb). I swear my brain can be tricked into productivity through procrastinating unproductive tasks!
These are exceptional times, and it’s OK to not feel OK. Likewise, it’s OK to feel OK. I wouldn’t go so far to say that I’m loving lockdown, but after a couple of stressful weeks I’m feeling good about myself and have plenty to keep me busy.
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