Last week Melbourne went into its sixth lockdown. It happened to be on my birthday, meaning dinner that evening was cancelled as was the camping trip we had planned for the weekend.
Going back into lockdown plunged me into a pretty miserable mood. It was like all the frustration and fatigue from lockdowns past had hit at once (I’d managed to remain fairly impartial to the lockdowns that had come before).
The change in plans. Inability to visit loved ones. The cold weather. Watching the rest of the world go about their business as normal. I know I am privileged to have not experienced any real hardship from coronavirus, but I felt bitter and tired and could have found a problem with anything.
Anyway, I realised this resounding bitterness wasn’t going to change anything (or make lockdown bearable for those around me - sorry Ben) so I decided it was time to crawl out of the rut and transform both my headspace and actions.
I’ve made a couple of changes that have already got me feeling better, though I wanted to also research ways to protect our mental and physical well-being in lockdown… To build a toolkit for if, and when, that frustration and fatigue creeps back in.
Ben and I are fortunately permitted to attend our Seek Solitude warehouse each day to pack orders, but many do not share these freedoms as work is confined to the home. In the earliest days of coronavirus we, too, were working from home and found the boundaries between work and life dissolved completely. Important for anyone - but especially those working from home - is planning and adhering to a daily routine.
Deborah Serani, PsyD, professor of psychology at Adelphi University writes
“Studies in resiliency during traumatic events encourage keeping a routine to your day... This means eating meals at regular times, sleeping, waking and exercising at set times, and maintaining social (socially distant) contact. Unstructured time can create boredom, spikes in anxiety or depression, which can lead to unhealthy patterns of coping.”
This week Ben and I have set an intention of leaving home everyday by 6:45am. That means we’re rising earlier and fitting in a walk before work. It’s early days (let’s see how we go by Friday) but so far we’re feeling less foggy, energised by watching the sunrise, and finding ourselves crawling into bed earlier each night. Plus Lazlo gets a proper walk first thing in the morning, meaning he snoozes most of the day while we work (win, win).
Though it’s probably helpful, I don’t think we need to schedule every second of every day. Maybe just choose one or two things to commit to at a consistent time and see how it makes you feel after a few weeks.
Following our first point, scheduling time for physical activity each day will impact your headspace. In fact, Black Dog Institute suggests that even just an hour of exercise a week has been proven to lower depression and anxiety.
At the moment in Melbourne we’re allowed two hours of exercise outside each day… a considerable block of time to get moving, breathe fresh air, and feel the warmth of sunshine on your skin.
You may have heard of the benefits of Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing, but even in the heart of the city there’s still opportunities to immerse yourself in nature. Wattle, magnolias and blossoms are bursting and in Melbourne there’s plenty of green spaces and walks along the Yarra and its creeks. We’re grateful to be based on the Mornington Peninsula where beach and bush walks are always close by.
When the weather isn’t great there’s plenty of classes online to explore. I’ve been trying a few pilates classes on the Keep It Cleaner app (using my Seek Solitude yoga mat), but there’s also classes on YouTube and plenty of local yoga studios who have transitioned to online.
Trust me, I’m no athlete and I’ve always been one to prefer a face-to-face class. It takes a bit to muster the motivation to start and finish, but I always feel and sleep better after I’ve done something.
When we experience lockdown lethargy meditation may feel like the last thing you want to do, yet it’s one of the most powerful ways to shift into a calmer, more balanced space.
It’s also an important tool to support our ongoing mental health and resiliency - not just times of personal crisis. As Perpetua Neo, Doctor of Clinical Psychology writes for Mind Body Green, you don’t wake up one day with anxiety or depression “It takes a pretty long time for that to set in. Mental health really runs the spectrum from "doing awesome!" to "feeling a little blah!" to "not doing well" to "mental health distress."
Lately I’ve struggled to achieve consistency with my meditation, however a small commitment everyday can have profound effects. I’ve found that, again, scheduling a set time each day and creating a routine around the practice makes it more likely to happen.
For me this looks like finding a quiet moment after dinner, placing my meditation cushion next to the fireplace and listening to a guided meditation on Insight Timer or doing some breath work to low, soothing music.
See our article How to make meditation a habitual part of daily life here.
I’ll keep this point fairly short because most of us are well versed in the rationale and results of gratitude. Sonja Lyubomirsky, author and professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside said
"It's hard to feel envy, greed, or bitterness when you're grateful”.
Last week I was marinating in so much bitterness that I chose not to acknowledge any of the good things in my life. Though I felt resentful about the return to lockdown, I had plenty to be grateful for also.
By practicing gratitude and thankfulness, studies have shown that our happiness can increase over the short term which is especially useful when you’re feeling in a rut. It helps to reframe our current circumstances by reminding ourselves of our blessings.
So, what are five things you are grateful for today?
Our headspace and mental health will fluctuate so long as we remain in lockdowns. Though I feel better than I did last week, I know there will come another time when I wonder why on earth I live in Victoria and envy others who are living elsewhere.
If, like me, you found yourself in a lockdown lull I hope there are some tips in here to inspire positive change. Though in the context of this article these actions are reactive, we should really implement these behaviours all the time (even when life is blissful) to build resilience and strength for the challenging times.
If you have any tips of your own I would love to hear what you have found useful. Send us a message below or connect with us on Instagram.