Staying Sane in Lockdown
I’m Claudia, an Escape Alumna from back in 2013. Like all of you, I’m stuck indoors.
I found this situation overwhelming at the start. My chronic anxiety was taking over. Two weeks ago I found the strength to sit down and write up a Staying Sane Indoors Strategy and it made a huge difference to my mood.
I went from spending the whole day obsessively checking the news, to being productive at work and pivoting Nobody’s Watching, my silent disco side-business, to online dance parties.
I still have ups and downs, which is normal in these unsettling times. But overall the difference has been night and day.
I turned the questions I asked myself into this worksheet so you can build your own Staying Sane Indoors Strategy. It’s based on these 5 key points.
1) Take care of your mental and physical health
If this is the only tip you take up from this list, you’re doing great. This crisis impacts all of us, but it does so in different ways. For some, this is the perfect opportunity to roll up their sleeves and get stuck into a creative project. Others will find that just taking care of themselves is the most they can do. If that is you, that’s ok, just keep doing it.
Here are some useful resources to take care of your mental health:
- Coranavirus Sanity Guide from 10% Happier: free guided meditations, podcasts, blog posts, and talks specifically tailored for this crisis
- Managing mental health during the coronavirus outbreak by Sanctus
- WHO advice on managing stress
Key takeaway: all of these resources highlight the importance of setting boundaries on how often and at what time you check the news to avoid getting sucked into the anxiety of the news cycle.
For your physical health, it’s essential to stay active, even from indoors. Get an accountability buddy to help you stay on track if you don’t trust yourself to do this. Check out the quirky exercise class tips in the worksheet to add some jazz to your indoor workout routine.
2) Find your people
In these times of uncertainty, staying in touch with people and supporting each other will make all the difference. We have the luxury of technology and apps like Zoom.us and Whatsapp that can help us stay connected virtually.
I’ve received many messages from people I haven’t seen in a long time, wanting to check in and have done this myself as well. It’s nice to reconnect with people, giving everyone the same amount of “staying in touch” time will drain you. My recommendation is to focus your people-energy to avoid getting sucked into a whirlwind of screentime.
Who are the people you care about the most? Who are the people whose company you enjoy the most? And who are the people who need your support the most? Actively seek out time to focus on them. Think about activities you could share with them that go beyond a video call or cohabiting as usual. Make it special. Here are some examples of creating special time with loved ones:
- My mum lives in Rome and she loves opera. The Royal Opera House has opened a digital streaming programme so we’re having a virtual opera date on April 10th to see one of her favourites, Così fan tutte. We’re going to dress up, have a glass of wine on zoom, and then watch it from our own homes. When it’s over we’ll have another zoom call to discuss the opera.
- My friend Francis visited a virtual museum with his friends. They all looked at it separately from their own laptops and they talked about what they saw on a video call.
- My friends from the Yes Tribe did an indoor campout last weekend. People set up a tent in their balconies, gardens, living rooms. They spoke via zoom and it was fun.
- If you want to organise a virtual games night, I recommend Drawful and Fibbage from Jackbox Games. Perfect for 5 – 8 people.
3) Take action to prevent the “day blur”
We’re spending every single day in the same house; for some, in the same room. Your days have probably started to blur into each other and you might find yourself unsure of what day of the week it is and whether you watched that Netflix movie 2 days or 2 weeks ago.
Take control of this in the following two ways.
- Separate your weekends from weekdays by making certain food, drinks and activities weekend-only: For example, I’m keeping crisps and wine for weekends. Pancakes are my weekend breakfast. Every Sunday, my boyfriend and I take turns to plan a surprise activity for each other (you can do this with someone remotely if you’re self-isolating alone).
- Treat your days like the title of a Friends episode and start writing it down in a notebook: What made your day memorable and different? Even the smallest thing works, it doesn’t have to be extraordinary to be memorable. Examples: The one with the homemade bread gone wrong. The one where I finished my book. The one with remote games night.
- Use space to separate time: In this blog post, CEO of Memrise and Grand Memory Master Ed Cooke explains why living in a confined space can mess with our sense of time, and feel cramped and stressful. Once we understand the science behind it, we can hack that science. Using our space with creativity and intention can trick our brain into thinking it’s visited different places, thus breaking the day blur.
4) Do more of what you love
Think about what boosts your mood, what you enjoy doing and how you can make more time for it indoors. For some, it will be a matter of filling long empty days, in which case I recommend working on a long term project (see worksheet).
For others, days will be packed with homeschooling or a busy workload: doing more of what you love means trying to carve out time to do something to help you take a mental break.
If what you love usually requires going out and other people, think about how you might be able to do it differently from indoors. For example, I love dancing. Dancing always boosts my mood. My online dance parties are helping me, and others with me, continue to break out into song whilst we’re stuck indoors.
5) Build a routine with flexibility and accountability
A routine is essential to staying sane in lockdown. But when you start thinking about your routine, remember to build it with flexibility and accountability to avoid setting yourself up to fail.
You’ll need flexibility because this is no normal routine. You’ll need to leave room for having a bad day. What are the things you want to be doing every day? How can you do a shorter version of them if you’re having a bad day? For example, if you want to meditate every day, on a bad day meditation is just a one-minute guided breathing exercise.
For weekly activities, plan how many times a week and for how long you want to do them next to, or instead of, an exact day and time. This way if you’re having a bad day, you know that you can just do it another day and still hit your 3 times a week goal.
You’ll need accountability because relying on your self-discipline alone will make it harder to stick to a healthy routine. Who are the people who could help you stay on track with your creative, exercise or work projects? Are there online groups you can join that can help build a regular habit?
For example, my exercise buddies at Project Awesome are doing zoom workouts three times a week. I’m doing a weekly writing club on Tuesday evenings with colleagues at work. A 1-1 accountability buddy also goes a long way. The smaller the group, the more noticeable it is if you don’t show up!