Scarlett Curtis is an activist and author; Grace Campbell is a comedian who has just finished her first book, and they are best friends. Ahead of their talk at Stylist Live this weekend, both women share what worked for them during the first lockdown in March and how they are coping with this one.
How was the first lockdown for you and what were the biggest things you learned about yourself during it?
Scarlett Curtis: It was OK. I was very lucky to be able to lockdown with my family which meant I could help my mum out looking after my three younger brothers and my 94-year-old grandmother. I think I learnt that I’m more able to adapt to change than I thought I was. I find change terrifying but when it’s forced upon you the human brain has an awe inspiring ability to adapt.
Grace Campbell: Writing my first book during the first lockdown gave me purpose and helped me get through. Especially as I’d lost stand up. It was really good to have a creative outlook and a routine. Also I knew I had to get it done so that was good! I spent it in London with my boyfriend. It was challenging but there was a sense of camaraderie with the first one that I don’t feel this time. I think the main thing I learned is how resilient we are.
How do you feel now, in week one of lockdown part 2?
SC: I feel (like most people I think) very apprehensive. I miss my life and my friends and I think this one’s going to be harder because of the cold weather but I do feel more resistant now and I know that we will get through this.
GC: I think we have all accepted things are getting cancelled now but it does feel hard this time, because we are having to do it again is almost feels like ‘will this ever go away?’ And it’s winter so it gets dark early. It’s going to be a challenge.
Are either of you planning to tackle this time around differently?
SC: I want to get a dog!
GC: I already speak French but am thinking of taking it up again to improve this lockdown, I need something to get into and relax me.
Looking after your mental health
What helps you look after your mental health during lockdown?
SC: I think it’s really important to recognise which of your coping mechanisms have been taken away by lockdown and try to find a way to replace them. Whether that’s online therapy or counselling or finding a way to adapt your workout routine, make sure you have those things in place. I’d also just mostly say do not put pressure on yourself. These are incredibly hard times and all you really have to do is stay alive right now. I spend a lot of time in the bath or watching TV or playing a game on my phone – just trying to get through the days is enough.
GC: Yoga is my life line. I feel so connected with myself when I do it, that and being in constant contact with other people.
You two are close, so what about looking out for loved ones and mates?
SC: I’m a big fan of long walks and phone calls. I like to go on a huge walk everyday and call a few friends who I know need a chat. I get very overwhelmed by texting so I prefer a proper phone call every now and then. I’m also a big fan of ordering people surprise Deliveroo’s or presents delivered to their house. I’m also a volunteer for SHOUT, a 24-7 crisis text line and I’ve found this has helped me feel connected to the world and not so helpless in the face of so much pain.
GC: I’m always leaning on other people, I’m happy to rely on people to help me and do the same for them – checking in on friends family and making sure no one is struggling alone. I need my support system so I make time to have good conversations on the phone with people.
Have you found friends and family a comfort to you over the past few months?
SC: I really have. Lockdown’s been pretty traumatic for me as I was very unwell for most of my teenage years and this has all felt a bit to similar to the years I spent in my bedroom during that time! The one thing that’s really got me through is knowing that we are ALL going through this together. As our lives become so much smaller, the people in our lives become so much more important. I didn’t think I could be any closer to my mum or my friends but after this year I definitely am.
Self care that works
What do you read, listen to or do that helps your good mental health?
SC: There’s a big difference between the things I do to try and sustain good mental health and the things I do to look after myself when my mental health gets bad! Every day I try to exercise, talk to friends and do something that brings me joy and I’m still doing online therapy once a week. I’m also still swimming in the North Sea every morning which is incredible for mental health. But, when my brain is in a bad place the only thing that gets me out of it is watching TV or listening to an audiobook and playing Candy Crush on my phone. I’ve gotten very into old American procedural dramas recently (don’t ask!) so I’ve been watching The Closer, Damages and lots of Law and Order SVU. I’ve also been reading the Vera books by Ann Cleeves which are the closest thing I’ve found to the comfort of Miss Marple books. I listen to a lot of news so I like to have podcasts in my arsenal that are totally distracting. Who Weekly is one of my favourites and I also love Call Your Girlfriend. I’ve also been reading Grace’s new book, which I can’t recommend enough!
GC: Schitt’s Creek, I’m rewatching Succession and I loved Sarah Pascoe’s Out Of Her Mind and Catherine Ryan’s Netflix show The Duchess. Also I loved Insecure with Issa Rae and I May Destroy You. I also binged all of the Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills.
What’s your favourite thing to do on a dark lockdown night for rest or relaxation?
SC: Watch TV, cuddle my cat, have a bath! I’m in lockdown in a small village and so the only takeaway remotely available is fish and chips. I’ve eaten a lot of fish and chips over the last few months.
GC: I love to get into bed ridiculously early and eat food and not move!
To anyone struggling with mental health at the moment or worried about lockdown, any advice?
SC: Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. No one is thriving right now and it’s okay if you’re just getting by. Also please reach out for help if you need it - SHOUT is an amazing, free anonymous resource and you should never ever be afraid to tell your family or friends that your struggling. We’re all having a tough time right now but that doesn’t mean that your mental health should be ignored.
GC: Having a routine is so important to me. and being really kind to yourself, not stressing out about how much you have done. Just be kind. If the concept of doing something is stressing you out, don’r feel obligated to do it. Then also, talk to a doctor if you need to. I’m on medication for my anxiety which really helps.
Tell us about your new books?
SC: My latest is called It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies). It’s full of inspirational people, from Emma Thompson to Yomi Adegoke, opening up and being honest about their mental health.
GC: My book is called Amazing Disgrace and its a book about shame. It’s part memoir part manifesto about shame and overcoming that shame, shame around sex masturbation, social media and mental health.
Tell us about what we can expect from your panel at Stylist live, are you looking forward to it?
SC: I’m so looking forward to it. Stylist Live is one of my favourite events of the year and I’m so glad it’s going ahead. I think you can expect a really honest chat from our panel. Me and Grace chat for hours everyday so I’m hoping we can go in really deep.
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