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Life through lockdown

Lily talks about how lockdown has affected her mental health and shares with us the ways that she has coped.

Lily talks about how lockdown has affected her mental health

We’ve been in lockdown for a large chunk of this year. It hasn’t been easy for any of us. When the lockdown was first announced I was devastated, as I’m sure many of you were too. I lost my peer support group – the only support I had outside my home.

But this post is to talk about the little things I’ve done, to keep going, despite the many crises I’ve experienced. I’m by no means ‘okay’… whatever that even means anymore… but I hope sharing my experience with you might give you some ideas, or some hope. We all need a little bit of that.

Maintaining your wellbeing is important. Sleeping, eating, exercising, routine… it’s all good. It’s the ultimate goal if you’re able to do that. But some of us were on very unstable ground before losing our support network. Some of us have taken a harder hit to our mental health than others. Some of us are just surviving and I want to assure people that that’s okay. That’s more than okay. That’s fantastic. 

You have to do whatever it takes to just survive this and come out the other side. You don’t need to put pressure on yourself to achieve things.

If you need extra sleep on some days and don’t get up until 11am then great. Do what your body and your mind needs. If you can’t go out for a walk, just open the curtains at least. If you can’t get dressed or wash, simply praise yourself for getting up at all and facing another day.

My ways of coping have included continuing the journals we used to do in the support group each week. Every Tuesday I’ve written the things I’m grateful for, the thing I struggled with most, what I learned from it, and the things I’ve achieved. I posted them on my blog every week since… to maintain that feeling like the group still exists, even if it’s only me in it!

I set up Skype so I could connect with my brother online. I’ve spoken to a work friend on the phone a few times, as she lives alone and is in her 70s, so she’s been self-isolating for the past few months. Speaking to people on the phone – people who are on their own so need the support – that helps to make me feel better… like I’m doing a good deed… even though I hate using the phone. 

Helping other people can often help you too.

I bought myself a Nintendo Switch and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. This game is a life-saver for me. For anyone who doesn’t know, basically you have a character, you’re on a deserted island and you build up a town – making furniture, tools etc… you fish, catch bugs and dig up fossils. It’s a wonderful escape from reality. It’s relaxing and gives me something to look forward to when I wake up.

If you have family around you then I recommend board games. But if not then online games are good too.

I’ve been growing sunflowers with my family – having a competition. Bit of ‘gardening’ in a sense… something to look after. It all helps.

Walking is good if you’re able to. My anxiety of encountering people who have no regard for social distancing has put me off of it a bit, but I’ve still set myself smaller walking goals each month.

Listening to music, playing guitar and singing (though not well I might add!!) have all been useful. It’s good to make noise and get pent up feelings out into the world through sound.

To start with I took part in challenges on Twitter. Someone set photo challenges every day, of four different things to photograph. So I’d try and think outside the box to capture artistic photos and post them on Twitter.

The biggest thing that’s helped me during lockdown has been using my creativity. 

I bought some fineliner drawing pens and experimented with pointillism, which I hope to get back into. I’ve been drawing. I also started to crochet at the end of last year, making all sorts of things, from fine lace doilies, to NHS frontline bears, to baby cardigans and even a triangular shawl. 

But creating music, art, any kind of craft, writing poetry, writing in general…. it’s all useful for getting through times like this. Pour all your feelings into something productive, so you can have something at the end of it, that you can be proud of.

The other thing I find helpful is listening to ASMR videos on YouTube. I’d describe it as sound therapy. Gentle noises that are meant to calm you and help with relaxation and sleep. I often end up falling asleep watching these videos. It’s become a staple in my wellbeing diet.

There are many things you can do to keep well. But just getting by is enough. Whatever it takes. You’re doing the best you can. 

And one day I hope this will all be a shared memory, and we’ll be together again, living life again, and recovering again. For now surviving is the goal.

Stay safe, keep well and do whatever you need to in order to get through.

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