As we prepare to enter a second national lockdown, one writer reflects on the lesson she learned about taking control of personal wellbeing during the first one.
“Screw it.” That was the attitude I had when we first went into lockdown eight months ago.
“I’ll over-eat and drink wine most nights to comfort my constant anxiety and fear. I’ll keep doom scrolling at 2am because I want to know every single horrific detail of this pandemic. I’ll spend money I don’t really have on dresses I can’t wear anywhere because I just want to pretend I’m going out in London again. I’ll say yes to every video call even though I hate them because I feel alone and don’t know when I’ll hug a friend again. I’ll cut my fringe because I’m really bored with my split ends and nobody will ever see it IRL anyway. I’ll start baking because everyone else is. I won’t bother doing that YouTube workout because what’s even the point anymore?
Like most people blindly going through a pandemic for the first time, I just wanted to get through it but didn’t know how. I had no idea how long we’d be in lockdown, I didn’t know how worried I should be for my friends and family, and I felt helpless as the world descended into chaos. It’s like I completely forgot the fundamentals of caring for my mind and body – eating well, exercising daily, working comfortably, managing news intake, meditating and being careful with finances – because I didn’t know what the hell was happening.
Everything in my life just felt so out of control. I couldn’t even concentrate on doing the things that usually relax me: reading a book in the bath, working on a novel, switching off to watch a film. But, with time and more understanding of the pandemic, I started to get back on track and navigate a new normal (even though I was reluctant to accept that everything would now be different).
While I certainly don’t regret the money I spent, the extra stone in weight I gained or the fringe that I have since grown out – I know that I want to take more control of the second national lockdown when England is put under it on 5 November. I’ve spent some time reflecting on Lockdown 1.0, which has left me with many learned lessons, as well as some reassurance and clarity. And so I feel a lot more in control this time around because I’ve realised I am the only person in control of myself.
I’ve found new ways to work and exercise at home. I’ve learned that excess food and drink don’t make me feel better in the long run. I know I’ll see my friends and family again (and will be making use of being able to walk outside with one other person). I won’t be engaging with every single coronavirus headline. I don’t feel that same early panic that made me buy things to give me a dopamine hit. I feel calmer and can relax really easily with the pile of books waiting on my bedside table. Instead of feeling helpless, I understand that staying in really is the best thing to do for other people and the NHS.
These may seem like small ways of taking control, but they make the world of difference in lockdown. And although the future is still unpredictable and there will yet more boring and frustrating days, we are already so much better adjusted to a short lockdown life than we were the first time.
I know I speak from a privileged position and there are so many pitfalls that come with lockdown, like the closure of small businesses and large families crammed in small flats. But if you can take control of one small thing that makes you feel better about the crappest year ever, you’re already winning lockdown two.