Weathering the storm - 3 tips for not letting lockdown take you down
Change is an essential part of our lives, there's just no getting away from it and as a counsellor, it’s a common thread that runs through my work. Often a client is seeking counselling to elicit change in themselves or their situation but what’s stopping them is their relationship with change, and it’s this that forms the basis of the work. So, after working as a counsellor for a number of years now, you think I’d be a dab hand at change myself, and being honest, I thought so too, but that was until the lockdown in Leicester got extended.
2 steps forward 1 step back
If you're not aware, in late June, the government, having identified a surge in cases of Covid-19 in the east of the city, extended the lockdown in Leicester and a number of outlying areas. It happened quickly, announced Monday and implemented Tuesday, with the main message being stay in your home as much as you can. I think it's fair to say that the fallout of this decision was felt by everyone in Leicester and the surrounding areas. In some cases, there was a feeling that we were being singled out and in others, a sense that the rest of the country saw us as pariahs. My own emotional response to the extension was an overwhelming sense of anger and frustration, specifically at having to take an enforced 1 step back after a very much needed 2 steps forward, (out of county trips were planned, my mother was due to visit that weekend). In addition, I also started to catastrophise that things might not improve and we might never get out of lockdown. Of course, I knew that these responses to the change weren't 'mature' or 'rational', but they were real to me and so there was a need to address and try to overcome them.
Nearly a month later, I have found the following three ‘tips’ to be the most beneficial in coping with life in extended Leicester lockdown:
1. What can you change?
In terms of my anger, I identified what I could actually change about the situation myself. Alas, government decision making is out of my control, as is whether someone else chooses to break the lockdown and go on holiday, but what I can do is commit to reducing my negative feelings through regular exercise (yoga and walking) and regular instances of self-care (journaling and cooking comfort food). I also consciously decided to talk openly within my social circle about how I felt and admit that I was unhappy. The release of these thoughts and feelings was met with empathy and made the ‘load’ feel a lot lighter.
2. Dial it down
I made the decision to turn my back on the profusion of lockdown related news, updates and social media that had previously kept me up till the early hours. I'm not an expert on virus transmission, so why was I feeling the need to know everything? What purpose was it serving other than overloading me with unnecessary information? So I dialled it down, took a step away from the town square and instantly began to feel much better for it.
3. Take the smooth with the rough
Lastly, rather than dwell on what I thought I was missing out on due to the extension, I started to refocus on enjoying the benefits of lockdown again. The ‘threat’ of having to do a commute and return to an open plan office for one of my roles, was no longer there. The money I would usually be spending in bars, pubs and cafes is still in my bank account and so for the first time ever July and August are not coming in wildly overbudget. More lie-ins, more Netflix, hello Disney+, more times with the family and now that the school summer holidays have begun, no need to try and dredge up the memory of what a quadratic equation is. You might think I was naively looking on the bright side, but in making myself try and turn the lemon that is lockdown into lemonade, I feel able to keep going, keep working and carry on until the next announcement.
Everyone is different of course, so I realise that some of these tips might not work for you. However, I do think that starting to develop your own healthy coping strategies, for when more inevitable Covid-19 related changes happen, will be time well spent. That way, you won’t be caught on the hop like I was, without an umbrella.