Can’t face even more weeks of lockdown? Here are Trish Murphy’s 10 ways to cope

Focus on the simple things, and be kind to yourself and others, says our advice columnist

Lockdown: we’re about to start week eight of living with coronavirus restrictions. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Lockdown: we’re about to start week eight of living with coronavirus restrictions. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

We’re about to start our eighth week of living with the restrictions that the coronavirus crisis has put on our lives, with no clear idea of an end point. How can we get our heads around that fact and find a way to keep living in lockdown, even if the Government decides later today that it’s safe to begin to relax some of the rules? Trish Murphy, who writes our Tell Me About It advice column, has this advice.

  • Focus on the simple things that contribute to our mental health: good sleep is massively important, and to get that we need to exercise, and to get out in the air in whatever way we can. We also need to eat reasonably healthily. Everybody knows these contribute to our mental wellbeing, but it’s good to repeat it.
  • And routine: I can’t tell you how good it is for us. Find a routine where you’re sleeping in darkness and getting up with something to do – and eating at regular times. A routine can sustain you when it feels like you’re losing the plot a bit.
  • Social contact is important for all of us: people are really lonely, and that’s getting slightly harder. Online contact is fine, but you can’t have the same intimate conversations in four-way chats on a video platform. Phone calls are one to one.
Try not to worry about the future – your mind going off endlessly worrying won’t help you. Sit and plan things every so often, but don’t allow yourself to be endlessly distracted by planning, because it will have a negative effect
  • Don’t put things off: if you’re cracking up or your relationship is under huge pressure, or you’re dealing with depression or high levels of panic and anxiety, do something about it sooner rather than later: all research shows early intervention is the way to go. Consult your GP or seek telephone counselling.
  • Remember, we are human, and we are only slowly coming to terms with the length of the crisis, of the lockdown and of their impact. We might not have been able to take it all in in one go. Our minds can be dangerous places. For most of us, four hours on our own will lead our minds to think the most negative things about ourselves and our futures. We need to give our minds something to do or they will naturally rewind the same negative stuff. Give your mind something to do when you feel yourself spiralling: cooking, baking, learning something, gardening, or engaging with someone or something that otherwise occupies your attention. You can train your mind as well as your body. And then your intelligence can kick in.
  • Try not to worry about the future – your mind going off endlessly worrying won’t help you. Sit and plan things every so often, but don’t allow yourself to be endlessly distracted by planning, because it will have a negative effect.
  • You need to know what’s going on – listen to or read the news once a day, and take it in – but set some boundaries. Don’t focus on it all day, every day. Otherwise you might absorb a sense of panic and negativity, which won’t do you any good.
Remember, it’s totally acceptable to have really off days, and people need to be kind to each other when this happens. It’s okay to be irritated or edgy: we’re only human. We need to express that and not feel we always have to fix it
  • We find it hard to deal with uncertainty, but this is what we’re facing during the crisis, and we have to do the best we can with it. We may be disappointed by news that the shutdown is continuing. But disappointment is great, because it means we had positive ideas about what we were expecting. We need those ideas, because we need ultimately to get back to that positivity. We need hopes and aspirations. It’s okay to feel disappointed so long as we don’t go into an immediate spiral. Lots of things in life won’t happen as we want them to.
  • Remember, it’s totally acceptable to have really off days, and people need to be kind to each other when this happens. It’s okay to be irritated or edgy: we’re only human. We need to express that and not feel we always have to fix it. Be understanding with yourself. How do we keep going? In most conflict situations, thinking of the bigger picture leads you to take better actions. If you’re fighting with your spouse, thinking of what’s best for your family helps you to gain equilibrium and make better decisions. In this situation, what helps us is to go to the bigger picture – to ask what is best for our country, our society, our older people. The answer to that is pretty obvious. So although we may feel pretty disgruntled, and sick of lockdown, looking to the bigger picture helps us to make our decisions.
  • As individuals, we have the right and the capacity to refine the Government’s requests about how we should behave during the crisis. But we shouldn’t do that just for the sake of it. Whatever we decide for ourselves is what we’re effectively allowing for everybody else, too. A reasonable approach to how we decide to behave is to ask, If everybody did this, what would the consequences be?