I thought 2020 couldn’t get any bigger than 2019. I was wrong.
But not in an exciting, terrifying, moving-to-a-new-country way. 2020 has been big in a what-the-actual-fuck-is-happening-to-the-world kind of way.
A month ago I was living in Glasgow. Covid-19 was an escalating but distant threat. Scotland was coming out of a 6-month long winter, and I tell ya, I was looking forward to taps aff weather. Life was looking, actually, pretty damn great.
And then the world changed overnight.
My Australian flatmate flew home as fast as she could. New Zealand closed its borders to all but citizens. Airlines were grounding their fleets. And I was faced with a choice; pack up and go home. Or stay and risk months of unemployment as the TV industry died an instant, painful death. With no access to public funds on my visa, I knew I had to go.
I packed up my flat in a day, moved my flights forward and left. I didn’t get to say goodbye to any of the friends I’d made over the last year. There was no time to process leaving Scotland, a country I’d fallen hard for and didn’t feel ready to leave.
And now, two weeks after arriving home, I’m feeling the whiplash of uprooting my life so violently.
New Zealand in Lockdown
New Zealand is now almost halfway through it’s 4-week lockdown. Though New Zealand hasn’t seen anywhere near the number of cases as China, Italy or the UK, the lockdown was a preventative measure to try and stop the community spread of Covid-19.
Lockdown, for many, is this weird period of nail biting boredom and anxiety. Being housebound for some may look like learning Greek or painting watercolours of daffodils, but for others it’s this gut wrenching fear of what comes next.
For me, a girl who needs to feel in control, I’m feeling wildly out of place in this new world we’ve been thrust into. And as I struggle to deal with feelings of hopelessness and anxiety, my usual coping mechanisms are, for the most part, not an option. I can’t hug my mum or hang out with my friends, or even spend a day at the beach.
If you’re in the same (self-isolating) boat, you’re not alone. Well, physically maybe, but we’re all in this together. While you can’t hug your mum or hang out with your friends, there are things you can do to help your mental health during this crazy time.
10 Ways to Cope With Lockdown Anxiety
1. Limit Your Time on Social Media
My last days in Scotland passed in a blur of cleaning, tears, wine and a panic attack on the way to the airport. Any moment not spent furiously cleaning was spent furiously scrolling on social media, and it wasn’t long before I felt totally overwhelmed.
My news feed was filled with stories about the global pandemic. Mounting death tolls, countries closing their borders, hospitals running out of space. Film & TV Facebook pages were inundated with people worried about how they, as freelancers, would survive.
And it’s not just the negative stuff that affected my mental health.
The shiny, happy people of social media have taken to Facebook and Instagram in swarms with messages about how this is the time to start a business. How we should all relax and think. How the world is recovering without human interference. Yeah it’s great that the canals of Venice are marginally cleaner, but when am I next going to be paid, Karen?
So whether you need a little space from the negative news, or you just can’t face another Karen telling you to look on the bright side, it’s ok to take a break. Social media is a valuable tool for staying connected during lockdown, but it can also be an overwhelming place. Try and stay off your phone before bed, charge your phone in another room, or get an app like Moment to try and reduce your screen time.
2. Get Outside For a Walk
When I’m feeling anxious leaving the house can feel overwhelming. There are days when I just want to stay home and play the Sims and eat gluten free chocolate chip cookies.
But when you’re faced with 4+ weeks of being forced to stay home, it’s important to get outside and get some fresh air. If you can, try and make a 30-minute walk part of your daily lockdown routine. The exercise, fresh air and sunshine will do a lot for your mental health, and help a little with that cooped-up feeling we’re all experiencing.
While out for a walk keep a 2-metre distance from other walkers, and remember you can only go for a walk with others in your bubble.
If getting outside for a walk isn’t possible where you are, try and find other ways to make sure you’re getting some vitamin D. Try having a picnic lunch in your backyard or on your balcony, or even just open a window to let some fresh air inside. Trust me, Sims and chocolate chip cookies can only get you so far.
3. Call a Friend
Humans (even introverts) are social creatures.
While you may not be able to physically hang out with your friends, technology has made it easier than ever to stay connected. Beat lockdown anxiety by making a point of calling a friend every day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.
If things are feeling heavy, talking to a friend or family member can really help. And remember; your feelings are valid, no matter what anyone else is going through. You’re allowed to grieve what you’ve lost, even if it doesn’t feel as big as what other people are experiencing.
But don’t do it alone. Pick up that phone and get a virtual hug from a friend.
4. Bake Those Damn Cookies
Not gonna lie, in the two weeks of lockdown so far my house has looked a little like The Great Lockdown Bake Off. I’ve made banana bread, chocolate chip cookies, beer bread, scones and crumbles. Hell, I even got a little wild and made a chutney. Nana would be so proud.
It’s time to embrace your inner Mary Berry and bake those damn cookies.
For me, baking has always been one of the tools I use to combat anxiety. There’s something soothing about the physical nature of using your hands to create something. Hopefully something delicious and edible, but hey, it’s about the process.
And when you eat those damn cookies, please, please don’t worry about gaining weight. Diet companies are one of the few businesses not suffering with Covid-19, because hey, it’s really profitable to make people scared of gaining weight during lockdown. It’s ok to gain weight at any time, but if you happen to put on a few kgs during the weeks you’re shut inside, don’t freak out. It’s not the end of the world.
5. Exercise (If You Can/Want to)
Moving your body is great for your mental health, and if you can, a little exercise could greatly help with any lockdown anxiety you may be feeling.
While you can’t go to the gym (and dammit, now I can’t go I really want to), there are other ways you can get a little exercise into your lockdown routine. Whip out the old Zumba DVD, go for a run or find a home workout on YouTube.
One of my favourite home workouts is yoga. I adore Yoga With Adriene, a YouTuber who I honestly wish I could be best friends with. She has a whole library of yoga workouts for people of all abilities, and a yoga session with her will definitely put a smile on your face. She’s zen, man.
While I’ve banished most fitness influencers from my social media, Lucy Mountain is one of the good ones. Lucy’s feed is filled with infographics and no BS fitness tips. Plus, she’s got some great ideas for home workouts you can do during lockdown.
6. Get Your News From a Responsible Source
News flash; Karen who insists on putting a shiny, happy spin on things is not the person to get your news from. Neither is negative Nancy. And those fitness influencers who think celery juice can cure coronavirus? Stay. The. Hell. Away. After you report them, of course.
It’s ok if you want to stay away from the media. Consuming story after story on Covid-19 can feel overwhelming. It may be in the best interest of your mental health to log out of Facebook for a while.
But if you do want to keep updated on what’s happening, make sure you get your news from a responsible source. In New Zealand The Spinoff is one of my favourite news sites for easy to understand, factual information.
7. Get Up Before 9am
In the name of trying to introduce a little normality to my life, I’ve been getting up before 9am during the week. Oversleeping makes me feel worse, and if I can get up, eat breakfast and have a shower before midday it makes me feel a little more normal, and a little more in control.
During the lockdown your sleeping habits may be a bit out of whack. Not doing as much physical activity or general anxiety may mean you’re not sleeping well. Or, like me, you may feel more tired than usual.
So honour how you’re feeling. If sleeping in works for you, do that. But if setting an alarm and getting up at a set time gives you a sense of routine and ounce of control, that’s ok too.
8. Be Productive (Or Not)
Some people handle their grief, or anxiety, or boredom, by being productive. While I’m by no means saying you have to learn Greek or paint watercolours of daffodils, having something to occupy your time with may help your lockdown anxiety.
My sister has spent her lockdown weeding the garden because it makes her feel like she’s doing something. If you feel like being productive could help your anxiety, you could try organising the kitchen cupboards, or sort through old photos, or complete a task you’ve never had time for.
If you want to sit around and watch Tiger King all day, that’s ok too. I mean the show isn’t ok (it’s WILD). But it’s ok to not put pressure on yourself to be productive.
9. Keep a Daily Gratitude Diary OR List the Things You’re Looking Forward to
Keeping a gratitude diary might help with your lockdown anxiety. While it’s a scary, shitty situation there are still things to be grateful for; health, a roof over your head, food. Try noting down three things each day that you’re grateful for, and see if it helps with your lockdown mindset.
Honestly, though I am grateful for all those things, gratitude isn’t one of my strongest emotions right now. I go through the day feeling tired, angry, anxious, resentful and lost.
So rather than writing down what I’m grateful for, I’ve started to list the things I’m looking forward to once this is over. Covid-19 and lockdown won’t last forever, and there’s a whole heap of things I can’t wait to do. I’m excited to hug my mum. I will absolutely CRY when I get to see the friends I haven’t seen in over a year. Going to the gym might even feel like a treat.
If practising gratitude feels a little hard for you right now, try listing the things you’re looking forward to.
10. 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique for Lockdown Anxiety
You might be feeling pretty overwhelmed right now. Maybe you’re experiencing panic attacks, or maybe you’re kept up at night by the thoughts running through your mind. If that’s the case you could try this technique to help ground you in the present and calm your mind. Start by taking slow, long, deep breaths and then go through the following steps;
- 5. List 5 things you can see. It could be a pen, a mug or book – anything in your surroundings.
- 4. Acknowledge 4 things you can touch. Maybe it’s the ground under your feet or your head on the pillow.
- 3. Think of 3 things you can hear. Focus on things you can hear outside your body – a car driving past or bird singing.
- 2. List 2 things you can smell. Maybe it’s soap in the bathroom, or those chocolate chip cookies you baked.
- 1. Finally, what’s one thing you can taste? Gum? Coffee? Chocolate chip cookies?
Lockdown is an anxious time. While there’s a lot you can’t control, there are things you can do to ease lockdown anxiety and help your mental health. And if this list doesn’t help and you’re feeling completely overwhelmed, there are people out there you can talk to.
Hey friend, while you’re here, can you do me a favour? A lot of travel bloggers I admire have been affected by Covid-19 because, ahem, nobody is travelling right now. Still, these gals know how to roll with the punches and have come up with some great boredom-busting lists of things to do during lockdown. Check them out, ok?
Happy to Wander
Christina from Happy to Wander is my low-key travel blogging hero. She’s put together some great guides on travel-related things to do during lockdown, including this one on 10+ Travel Movies to Tide You Over Until Your Next Adventure.
Alex of Finding Alexx had to cut her 52-in-52 trip short to come home to New Zealand. But hey, she wrote this great article on 68 things to do during self-isolation to keep you sane. Check it out, will you?
Now is the time to get stuck into those novels you’ve always wanted to read! Not sure where to start? Sonja from Migrating Miss has a great post on 15 Book Series That Will Transport You To Another World.