There’s nothing more annoying than some self-professed wellbeing expert telling you how to live your life in the middle of a government-enforced lock-down. Especially when it’s threatening your livelihood and riddling you with anxious visions of a summer spent in a darkened room spooning jam into your mouth under your face-mask because all those people you called idiots for stock-piling food…stock-piled all the food. It’s hard enough finding the motivation to work out, eat well and do other healthy things during normal life, let alone when everything is so uncertain and apocalyptic.
Besides, you’re probably burning loads of calories just trying not to strangle everyone in your household.
Fortunately for you I am not a self-professed wellbeing expert. The least I can do for you all is not have rock-hard abs. So while this post does contain 5 wellbeing tips, they are basically just things I have been doing for myself, and you can take them or leave them. I haven’t gone mad or killed anyone yet so they must kind of be working.
1. Freestyle dance like an absolute maniac every morning
Dancing like an absolute maniac has become a very important part of my daily routine since being furloughed from work. Every morning before my ‘proper’ workout, I throw open my French doors, crank my music up loud and dance around my living room with abandon for 20 minutes or so. The key to dancing like an absolute maniac is to really let loose. Don’t worry who can see you or what they’re thinking. Despite usually being quite a self-conscious sort of person, I have decided that during lock-down, anything goes. I think people in the street can see me. I didn’t realise quite how clearly they could see me until the other day when my Amazon driver threw me a thumbs up from the street, and I was pretty deep into my flat, probably dressed in one of my weird isolation ensembles (jazzy trousers, silky robes, like an eccentric Aunt). But people have got bigger things to worry about.
Benefits of dancing like an absolute maniac:
- It gets the endorphins (happy hormones) pumping
- It’s exercise disguised as fun
- You can listen to your favourite music
- You move your body in ways it doesn’t usually move (your hips don’t lie)
- Enjoy the hilarity of how ridiculous you look
2. Hide your goddamn phone
Sorry, I’m reading Catcher in the Rye and everything is goddamn this, goddamn that – it’s got into my head a bit. But hiding my goddamn phone is something I need to do myself. I’m a BIG procrastinator so my phone can be my worst enemy sometimes. I’ll pick it up and before long an hour has passed and all I’ve done is read 5,000 memes about social distancing. The nice thing about phones at this time is that really they’re our only portals to the outside world, and a vital link to our friends and families. I’ve spent quite a large chunk of every day chatting to people on Watsapp. That’s been lovely and I would probably feel a little lost and lonesome without it; however, it’s bad when I’m on Instagram or looking at the news instead of doing the things I want to do but for some reason chronically avoid, like writing, painting, decorating, making yoga videos, or upcycling the TV table.
Benefits of hiding your goddamn phone:
- You have more time for cool real-life stuff
- You don’t start to feel anxious from all the bad news
- You don’t start to feel anxious because you know you should be doing something else but can’t seem to put your goddamn phone down
- You don’t torment yourself with photos of adventures past, wondering when you’ll next be allowed to go to the pub
- You give your eyes a break!
- Better chance of existing in the moment
3. Go outside, and middle finger anyone who tells you to stay home
Okay the middle finger bit was mostly a joke. What’s struck me over these past few weeks though is how many busybodies there are in my town. In my mum’s words, these are the kind of people who’d snitch you out to the gestapo. The point of the stay home rule is to prevent the spread of the virus – so it’s very wise not to get too close to other people at this time. Don’t go and have a picnic right next to another family also having a picnic, for instance. Don’t go to Sainsbury’s if you’re feeling a bit phlegmy. Don’t go wandering around all day smearing your grubby hands on everything you see. By all means go for a walk or run and enjoy the spring weather. But if you find yourself being yelled at (or being left ‘polite notices’ explaining that a photo of your car has been sent to the police, as I experienced the other day), don’t let it scare you or stop you from getting your daily dose of oxygen and vitamin D.
Having the freedom to go outside (within reason, doing your best to keep a safe distance from other people and listening to your body) is going to be so important for keeping boredom and madness at bay over the next few weeks/months of lock-down.
Benefits of being outside:
- Oxygen and vitamin D
- It’s beautiful out there
- Feel at one with nature
- Gets you out of the house and any strangling-related temptations
- Illusion of freedom
- Theoretically enjoy small social interactions like smiling and saying hello (although these sadly seem to be few and far between where I live)
4. Try something you’ve always wanted to try
Most of us have things we’ve been vaguely interested in but have never properly pursued because life gets in the way. For me it’s windsurfing, but this doesn’t help my situation in any way at all.
Hopefully your potential new hobby is more accessible from home. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try making a vegetarian wellington. Maybe you’re fascinated by the idea of cross-stitch, or of making small animals out of felt. Perhaps you’ve always been a little bit interested in yoga but have never had the motivation to put on a video and try it.
Don’t think twice about it. Don’t make it into a big deal (I do this and that’s when the procrastination kicks in. You sort of have to trick yourself – start doing it before you know you’re even doing it.) For instance the other day I was sitting on the sofa, feeling kind of paralysed because I couldn’t muster the energy to write, and out of nowhere I had this idea to try painting. I had to turn my flat upside-down to find my painting things, but I eventually did, and I lost myself for the next 4 hours in a painting of a waterfall in Costa Rica which allowed me to exist back in that happy, warm, exciting time just for a little bit.
If I’d thought too much about the palaver of finding my paints and mixing the colours and getting the perspective and light all wrong, and then cleaning it all up, I never would have got round to it. If the inspiration strikes, take action right away. Don’t pause, don’t over think it, don’t doubt yourself. Just goddamn do it.
Benefits of trying a new hobby:
- It absorbs you for a while
- Hopefully it ignites some passion and energy within you
- You might be really good at it and unearth hidden talents
- Create something you can feel proud of
- Take your new skill into post-lock-down life
5. Find a way to live in (and find joy in) the moment
Experiencing the moment, otherwise known as mindfulness, sounds like one of those airy fairy abstract things that newly-qualified yoga teachers talk about. It is and it isn’t. It’s actually a very normal, natural state to be in, living in the present. After all, the present moment is literally all we have.
Humans are tricky creatures though. We’re clever. We’re thinkers. Most of us have minds like massive swamps full of memories and projections of the future. Sometimes this creates anxiety, the questions of ‘what if’ that make it really hard to make decisions, or take action.
Living in the moment is about discarding those anxieties, those constant movements of the mind. There are lots of different ways of doing this. Yoga is very effective – both asana (poses) and pranayama (breathing) practice help me significantly with feeling alive and present.
Another trick is to find a quiet space and focus in on the things you can hear, taste, smell, feel, see. You can repeat mantras to yourself (positive affirmations like ‘I am OK’, or ‘I am worthy’ etc.), or count backwards from 100. Sometimes it’s nice to light a candle and turn the light off, to create a relaxing atmosphere that allows you to focus inwards.
Benefits of enjoying the moment:
- Stops you worrying – there’s literally nothing else but right now
- Slows and deepens your breathing, which relaxes your nervous system
- Helps you appreciate all the things you have
- Helps you notice nice things you might have missed before
- Become a more centred, stable, resilient person
So there we have it. Five activities that might help improve your wellbeing during coronavirus lock-down. Before I go, I do have some other more general tips that I hope will help some of you:
- Make lists and daily schedules to keep you busy
- Stay positive – seriously, recognise when your thoughts are taking a downward spiral and find your pick-me-up
- Eat healthily – loads of veg and plant protein to keep your immune system strong
- Exercise daily – even if it’s a gentle walk or stretch
- Keep smiling at strangers – we need you
- Take a moment every day to think about what you’re grateful for
- Think about what you can do to help – even if it’s just asking after a neighbour, or maybe something on a grander scale.
- Keep your sense of humour – watch comedies, send memes to every goddamn person on your goddamn phone.
- Don’t worry, we’ll get through this. We will!