We stand on the threshold of Lockdown 2.0 in England. Ironically timed to begin on Guy Fawkes Day, it is a bonfire of the liberties as our lives become ever more restricted once again. In Lockdown 1.0, I learned a few coping strategies. Eternal optimists may wish to look away now.
So here it is, we stand on the threshold of Lockdown 2.0 in England. Arguably the inevitable result of months of poor leadership, even worse decision making and the incompetent implementation of half-baked government policy.
Ironically timed to begin on Guy Fawkes Day (5 November), our annual UK celebration of the failure of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament in 1605, it is a bonfire of the liberties as our lives become ever more restricted once again.
Although I do not relish a month or more of being in lockdown again, I will admit to feeling an odd sense of relief that the fiasco of the unfathomable Three Tier COVID Alert system in England has been suspended with this decisive act.
I am also less worried about how I, and my family, will cope in the coming lockdown. In Lockdown 1.0 I learned a few coping strategies which I am going to share here. I’m not suggesting that these will be helpful for you, we are all different. Eternal optimists, in particular, may wish to look away now.
Value what really matters
Right now, the only things that really matter are your health, your family and your friendships. Prioritise these like never before and look after them, they are the most valuable assets we own in this pandemic. Nothing else really matters that much.
Lower your expectations
A long as this situation continues, we are just not going to be able to do the same things that we did before it started, so lower your expectations.
In more normal times we are always being told to ‘broaden our horizons’ and just ‘go for it’, but in this new reality having high expectations in life probably means you are just setting yourself up to fail and be more miserable as a result.
Just accept the fact that you will not be enjoying a big family Christmas this year, going on a foreign holiday without restrictions anytime soon, travelling beyond the confines of your district, shopping whenever and wherever you like and being able to socialise at will. Being realistic is a useful tactic to learn right now.
Now that the weather has taken a turn for the worst and the nights are drawing in, Lockdown 2.0 is not going to be the al fresco affair that much of the initial lockdown was.
Despite this, try and get outside at least once a day even if it’s chucking it down and freezing cold. If you’re soaked to the skin and your fingers and face are numb from the cold, embrace that feeling. It means that you are still alive and kicking, there are hundreds of thousands across the globe who aren’t because of this wretched pandemic.
Be a pessimist
I’ve been a committed pessimist all of my life and I’ve found that to be a significant advantage during this pandemic. I once read somewhere that life is just a process which involves having things progressively taken away from you, and I’ve never been able to forget it as it has often felt like that.
Having a bleaker outlook means that I am less likely to be disappointed and negatively affected when things turn out for the worst, and I experience a bigger high when things go better than expected.
I know that this one will be difficult for the eternal optimists to understand, but it works for me. I’ve never understood the rose-tinted glasses brigade.
Your job does not define you
If you are lucky enough to have kept your job so far, you might have found that it has become a more dominant presence in your existence, as the richness of the other aspects of your life have diminished because of the pandemic restrictions. If you are working from home like me, this has also probably intensified the omnipresence of work.
For years I let my job define me and my life. It was not helpful and it didn’t confer any advantages in helping me get on in my career or in life generally. A job is a means to an end, rather than the end itself. It helps you to look after those valuable assets I mentioned earlier.
For whatever reason, you may currently be like me. Effectively trapped by the pandemic in a role that is not ideal for you but which brings in some steady cash. In these sorts of circumstances, it is easy to default into thinking that your less than ideal job defines you and your worth. Particularly when you might see the rose-tinted glasses brigade telling the world how much they love theirs.
Quite simply and categorically, it does not. You are so much more than a job. Try and maintain a clear definition between work time, and time for everything else. A walk in the rain, at the beginning and end of the working day, helps me achieve that and keep it real.
Limit the news
Continuously exposing yourself to news media right now makes your life more of an ordeal than it needs to be. When the news has become overwhelming, I’ve limited my exposure to once a day. That is enough to remain informed. When consuming the news, I’ve also tried to adopt the mindset that I am not in control of what I am seeing and hearing and there is nothing I can do to influence it. I’ve found that being somewhat ‘detached’ has helped me to cope with it better.
Also beware of the incursion of more and more investigative and documentary style programming, which I have labelled ‘pandemic porn’. If it wasn’t already enough to have rolling 24-hour news pumping a deluge of COVID related bad news, loss and despair into our lives, we certainly don’t need any more of it, albeit in a different format. I will be avoiding this additional programming at all costs.
And also limit your time on social
Like exposure to the news, social can also be a corrosive influence if you spend too much time on it. Comparing your inside to everyone else’s outside during this pandemic can eat away at your soul. As Theodore Roosevelt once said ‘comparison is the thief of joy’. He wasn’t wrong, so I have got into the habit of regularly turning off my social feeds for a few days. I have found it to be most beneficial for my mood.
Reading is an ‘escape tunnel’ from the prison of our current circumstances. It is a gateway to other worlds, realities, places and times. We all need more escapism right now. My book consumption has risen during the pandemic and I have my reading list ready for Lockdown 2.0.
Nothing is forever
Think about what your life was like five years, ten years or fifteen years ago. Was it the same as it is now? Mine certainly isn’t (setting aside the impact of the pandemic) and this is testimony to the fact that however permanent your current circumstances might feel, they never are. Everything changes, and so will this current situation.
Ignore the prophesies
This pandemic will be over one day but no one, however clever and well informed they might appear, knows when. My final coping strategy is to ignore all the predictions of when this might end. All the suggested end dates have so far been wrong.
It will be over when it is over. Hanging false hopes on arbitrary end dates that are being plucked out of thin air helps none of us.
Good luck in Lockdown 2.0.