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21 Wellbeing Tips for Surviving Pandemic Lockdowns

In my last blog post about my goals and projects for 2021, I wrote about how useful meaningful distractions and personal projects can be in getting through the awfulness of these pandemic lockdowns. In the UK we’re in our third full national lockdown and (even worse) we don’t know when it’ll end. Finding ways to distract yourself from news notifications and reclaiming your time for something purposeful and even productive can help break through the monotony of lockdowns and give you something to look back on, preventing the regrets that come with feelings of ‘wasted time’.

Beside the goals and projects I’ve picked out personally, there are little tweaks to routines and habits that can also help keep your chin up during the pandemic. I love reading about other people’s survival strategies and picking up new tips and ideas to try myself. So in this post I’ll share the 21 tangible survival strategies that are working for me, and I hope they may help you too!

My 21 Survival & Wellbeing Tips for the Pandemic

Working from home:

  1. Take walking meetings when you don’t need to have a camera on (even in the rain) to get fresh air and protect your long-distance sight. More and more people are reporting deteriorating eyesight from WFH full-time and it’s because we’re not focusing on long-distance objects enough, we’re not blinking frequently enough, and we’re too glued to screens, so try to schedule in screen-free time every day.
  2. Invest in a proper desk chair, laptop stand, external monitor, keyboard and mouse and take care of your posture – even though your workspace may not look particularly gram-able or it may clutter up your living room. Your spine and posture are so precious and essential for longevity and good health later in life, so prioritise them.
  3. Clean your windows (inside and ideally also outside) to let more natural light in, especially in winter to maximise Vitamin D and ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Some people even use specific SAD-lamps to ward off feeling down.
  4. Re-position your desk or working space from time to time for some variety if you can, and get as close to a window as possible to maximise the daylight you get. My sister and I have a weekly rota for the office room we’ve created in our flat, and changing up our workspaces does at least give a change of scenery.
  5. Acquire a few house plants to purify the air and watch them grow over time – it’s bizarrely satisfying. Especially if you’ve no garden or are city-bound, greenery is proven to be beneficial for lowering stress levels.
  6. Shift your working hours to suit your ‘chronotype’ (aka body clock, whether you’re a morning bird or a night owl) and look after your circadian rhythm (how much sleep you need and get). For example, I’m not a natural morning person, so I now officially start work at 9:45am and I finish later too, which gives me more of a morning to prioritise my own wellbeing before starting work.

Staying at home:

  1. Move your body (yoga, stretching, a HIIT workout, a run, walk), shower and dress every single day without fail. Staying in pyjamas is a recipe for a bad day! If you prefer to exercise in the evenings, then at least do 5 minutes of ‘chair yoga’ during the working day to protect your posture.
  2. Dress up one day or night a week and make an effort to plan a treat of some kind (a nice meal, special wine or a film/book you’ve looked forward to all week). Mine are Friday evenings when I log-off work, get dressed up, my boyfriend arrives and we celebrate the start of the weekend.
  3. Find reasons to celebrate and reward yourself (no matter how small) and go all-out, to create milestones and awareness of the passing of time. When you look back, it’ll help you fathom what happened when and where the time went.
  4. Focus on your ‘social health’ just as you would do your mental health. This means scheduling high-quality contact with friends/family/colleagues and it includes video/phone calls and socially-distanced walks, but it excludes social media and Whatsapp, as these platforms don’t provide the meaningful connection needed for your social health. These online equivalents do provide a short dose of addictive feel-good hormones, but they don’t last as long as meaningful contact nor do they lift your mood in the same way.

Form and stick to healthy habits:

  1. Use a daily grid to tick off your key wellbeing musts. The categories on my grids have flexed throughout the pandemic but currently include: noting down 3 goals/tasks for the day, exercise, fresh air, real-life social contact (a video/phone call counts, but social media and Whatsapp do not), foreign language practice (usually a quick podcast), reading or podcasts, something fun, and micro-journalling. The ‘tick’ in the box releases a certain feel-good hormone and the process helps you reflect on what made that day positive or unique among the ground-hog day nature of lockdown.
  2. Reward yourself when you tick big items off your to-do list. I write a fortnightly list of achievements to plot and reflect on what I physically did, and the process physically releases happy hormones. At the start of my 2-week trip to France in September, I sat down and read through all 13 of my fortnightly lists of achievements of the previous 6 months of pandemic and felt mind-blown by just how much ‘stuff’ I’d done despite being locked away for much of it. It was hugely satisfying, rewarding and is something I’ll definitely take with into the post-pandemic world.

Re-claim your morning to get more daylight:

  1. Learn to get up early, even if you don’t need to. My alarm now rings at 6:30am (it was earlier in summer!) which gives me 3 hours before work to: write this blog, tackle my to-do list, exercise, do housework / chores, read or listen to books,  tackle emails, so I start the day feeling productive.

Find a creative distraction that requires your full attention:

  1. Immerse yourself in a 1000-piece puzzle – I did this over Christmas and it is impossible to dwell on negative thoughts during a puzzle
  2. Take up painting (if you’re a beginner, why not start with a Paint by Numbers kit) or life-drawing (with a Zoom life-drawing class) or find a craft you like (knitting, jewellery-making, stained glass painting, etc.) – whatever grabs you
  3. Learn to play a musical instrument or return to one you last played in school (I have a clarinet hiding at the back of a cupboard somewhere, but I haven’t yet taken the plunge to re-learn…)
  4. Start a writing project (short stories, non-fiction, poetry, or even a novel!)
  5. Start an online course to learn something new. I’m going to resume my French lessons virtually and for free courses, I really like Future Learn

Digitally detox from time-to-time:

  1. Schedule screen-free days, or even just social-media-free days, where you turn off or put your phone on airplane mode, or log out of the social media apps that squander most of your time. You’ll realise how much time you actually have in a day when you’re not lost in a spiral of memes, emails and notifications!
  2. Turn off news notifications, so that you only consume news when you want to. This prevents unexpected bad news from throwing you into a mood or distracting you from something more positive.
  3. Set daily limits for the time you spend on news & social media apps, and take notice of the screen time metrics on your smartphone. This is easily done in the settings on iPhone (under ‘Screen Time’, then ‘App Limits’ and ‘Downtime’), and I’m sure Android phones have a similar function.

I’m an optimist by nature but it does take work at the moment to stay positive, and these are the go-to tricks I use to preserve my wellbeing and happiness. You probably already do a number of these things yourself, but hopefully there are some new nuggets in there that will help you survive the pandemic with your wellbeing intact.

Share this with a friend, relative, colleague or anyone in need of a wellbeing boost. And which other tips would you recommend adding to this list?

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