I know what you’re thinking, this would have been way more helpful at the start of lockdown, and it seems irrelevant now since things are slowly getting back to normal. But, it’s never too late to form healthier productive habits, so I thought I’d share my experiences with this incredibly unique situation in the hopes that it would help you, due to the uncertainty still up in the air – as you may still be out of work, unemployed, currently waiting to go back to university, or just in a rut.
Firstly, let’s talk about mindfulness. What is mindfulness? “Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment – free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them” (Headspace, 2020). At first, being in quarantine was extremely hard for me, I felt anxious over how long it would last and how I would deal with being stuck at home every day. Having this mindset over situations we cannot control, won’t change the position you are in. But, what you can do, is shift your perspective. So, I decided to view this as an opportunity to do all the things I’ve always wanted to do but ‘never had the time to’. You can practice mindfulness in many ways such as meditation, yoga, and journaling, which I did a few times a week until I had the motivation to implement these into my everyday routine. I found these were helpful for me because writing down how I felt and what I had to be grateful for, was a good way to release negative emotions and remind myself of the things I was taking for granted. Also, giving myself a bit of time each day to meditate and do yoga allowed me to slow down, be present at that moment and relax, which was a good way to create zen in my life during the ambiguity of quarantine.
Socialising (when possible)
Human beings are social creatures. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, human needs can be depicted by five hierarchical levels within a pyramid – half way up the pyramid there is ‘belongingness and love needs’ which is one of our psychological human needs. Examples of this include friendship, intimacy, affection, and acceptance, which are essential to motivate our behaviour. I know this may have been difficult for those who live alone, aren’t close to their family or have friends that moved back home during the summer. But, any sort of social interaction, whether that be a video call with a friend, speaking to the cashier in a store, a socially distanced walk with a loved one or talking to random people on the internet. Social interaction can help us feel connected to those who understand what we are going through. So, keeping in touch with my friends and spending more time with my family was really helpful for me during this time, because it reminded me that I have people who care about me, that are going through the same exact situation. There’s nothing worse than isolating yourself from the world ~ especially during ‘self isolation’.
Focusing on My Hobbies
This is the perfect time to focus on something you love doing because you may not get another opportunity with this much free time on your hands. If no hobbies spring to mind, then you could always take up something new. It could be reading, learning something new, learning how to cook or a new sport, it could be anything, it could be a mixture of activities, as long as it’s something that brings you joy and it doesn’t feel like a burden to do. According to Delta Psychology, 2016, hobbies help you cope with stress, as they help you unplug from what is bothering you and escape from a mundane routine of everyday life. And we all know how boring lockdown became at times, so having a few hobbies can be beneficial for your mental health, especially if you’re unemployed or currently out of work and university. During this time, I tuned into my creative side, I was painting much more often and went on long walks with my camera to take some scenic shots. I even started dancing, reading tonnes of books and doing some online courses. This was my way to escape and keep busy, which was an important part of how I stayed sane during lockdown because without doing the things I love and keeping busy, then the days would have seemed meaningless and dull.
Exercising & Getting Out
I know we all had those days where we wanted to stay in bed watching Netflix all day with the curtains closed. But, in reality, this will only make you feel worse. Even if you push yourself to go on a 15-minute walk, do a short workout at home, or even sit outside for a little bit, anything is better than nothing. I made the habit of walking my dogs with my mam every day for an hour, starting my day this way always lifted my mood, and I began to cherish the moments I spent with my family over lockdown. For those who live alone or became irritated by your family or flatmates, you could always go on a walk alone and listen to music or make plans with a friend now that social distancing measures have eased. Throughout lockdown, I tried out a few forms of exercise, such as skipping, cycling, dancing, weight lifting with some dumbbells I had at home and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)– as of now, following dance workout videos have been my favourite because they aren’t as daunting as a mundane routine. I won’t lie, I’m still not as consistent as I would like to be, but on average I do around 2/3 workouts a week alongside my long walks every day, which is what I aimed for before lockdown too (but going to the gym instead). Staying active is an important part in keeping a healthy mind and body. This is shown in a study by Sports Medicine in 2000, where 43 hospitalised and clinically depressed patients were exposed to a vigorous exercise routine over a nine-week period, after this, there were significant reductions in their depressive symptoms, which shows how physical activity is an effective treatment for depression and depressive symptoms. So, next time you’re feeling blue with nothing else to do, why don’t you try going for a walk or do something a bit more intense if you’re up for it. If you’re feeling anxious you could try something more relaxing to do at home such as yoga or pilates.
Keeping Your Mind Active
As we’ve previously covered, it’s important to keep our bodies active to obtain optimal mental well-being. But, in order to keep our minds healthy and sharp, we need to keep our brains active. We can do this by reading intellectual content, playing mind games, drawing, listening to music, writing frequently, learning a new language and through many more activities. During quarantine, I bought tonnes of new books (I’m embarrassed to say how many) which was my favourite way to keep my mind active because I learned a lot from a range of subjects such as sociology, self-care, psychology, and neuroscience. And because of it, I discovered more about myself and how to implement this newfound knowledge into my own life. I’ve also been trying to learn Spanish, paint, and discuss what I’ve learned with my friends and family. It’s important to challenge or at least engage our minds every day instead of solely going through the motions and scrolling through social media. As this can improve memory and our thinking skills in the long term – alongside good sleep and eating healthy, of course, but we all know that went down the drain as soon as this whole lockdown ‘thing’ started. Joking aside, not getting enough sleep or eating a well-balanced diet has been proven to have detrimental effects on our health and mental well-being. I know it’s easier said then done (speaking from someone with insomnia) but taking small steps in creating a better night-time routine and incorporating healthier options into your diet is a step in the right direction.
Clear Space, Clear Mind
Normally our living space reflects how we feel – “your desk is a mirror that reflects your inner mind”. When you’re feeling anxious, your room is usually cluttered and messy like your thoughts, so it makes sense that a messy room can also make you anxious, it seems to be a constant cycle, right? In zen temples in Japan, monks clean the temples every morning and evening, not because the temples are dirty, but because they believe cleaning ‘hones the mind’. I know cleaning and tidying my room has always felt therapeutic for me and my mind feels much clearer afterwards. So, during lockdown, I ensured to keep my room tidy every day (with the occasional inconsistency) and I sorted through all my drawers and boxes to get rid of anything I didn’t need or use – I either donated or sold my clothes and items, of course, to avoid the harm of fast fashion and ensure nothing went to waste. A lot of us have items we don’t really need or acquire new things that are no use to us, simple living is a key part to a clear mind, so why not try parting with old things before acquiring new ones – it can symbolise letting go of your attachments and burdens. I know that tidying your room can seem like such a daunting task, but that’s only when you let it get to a state that seems overwhelming. Spend a few minutes each day to organise your room, as it will create an environment that’s compatible with productivity. I’m sure many of you did this during lockdown because there was nothing else to do, but it’s an important habit to keep around.
To sum up…
The most important part is creating an efficient and consistent routine, such as when you will do your chosen activities and how long you will do them for. Some flexibility can be beneficial for those who don’t enjoy fixed routines, but you need to know when to differentiate between being flexible and staying in your comfort zone. After I slowly introduced these habits into my weekly routine, I created an everyday routine, which consisted of journaling, meditating, walking, doing yoga, Spanish and reading – with some leniency around how long and where I would do each task, because I couldn’t predict how I would feel each day. But, implementing what I learned, trying new things and sticking to these tasks every day was the key to how I stayed sane during lockdown.
I hope you enjoyed reading my experiences with quarantine and that you can take away something from this. I will leave you with a quote by Abu Bakr, to put all of this into perspective – “without knowledge action is useless and knowledge without action is futile”.
Headspace. 2020. The Science-Backed Benefits Of Mindfulness. [online] Available at: https://www.headspace.com/mindfulness [Accessed 20 July 2020].
Edgley, R., 2020. The Art Of Resilience. 1st ed. London: Harper Collins, pp.215-216.
McLeod, S., 2020. Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs. [online] Simply Psychology. Available at: https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html [Accessed 22 July 2020].
Forbes, J., 2016. The Benefits Of Hobbies. [online] Delta Psychology. Available at: https://www.deltapsychology.com/the-benefits-of-hobbies [Accessed 20 July 2020].
Paluska, S. & Schwenk, A., 2000. Physical Activity and Mental Health. Sports Medicine, 29(3), pp.168–170.
Keeping your mind active
Whitley, M. (2020) 10 Proven Ways to Keep the Mind Sharp as You Age, A Place for Mom. Available at: https://www.aplaceformom.com/caregiver-resources/articles/sharp-mind (Accessed: 29 July 2020).
Clear space, clear mind
Masuno, S. (2019) Zen: The Art of Simple Living. 1st edn. Japan: Penguin Books, pp. 24-28.