As we come up to the one-year anniversary of *the L word*, I think it’s hitting a lot of people pretty hard. All we can do is watch as a year of our lives slips past, a year without hugs from friends and family, a year of isolated workspaces and a year of barely daring to venture beyond our county.
It’s been rough all around and even now, when we can see the end in sight with the vaccine rollout happening, it can be hard to keep our chins up when lockdown still seems like an endless cycle of limited release before being cooped up again for months. It can be easy to lose hope, which is why mental health has been in the spotlight the last year. The isolation and loneliness are getting to people, but what’s becoming a major problem now, as the year marker comes up, is lockdown fatigue.
It’s not like this time last year. There’s no uplifting viral videos of concerts on the balconies of Italy, there’s no novelty to working from home in pyjamas, all the sourdough in the world cannot fix this boredom and if the words ‘Zoom Quiz’ are whispered anywhere within a hundred miles of us, we flinch.
Which is why it’s time to check in with yourself.
We’ve all slumped into a routine by this point – wake up, throw on sweats, trudge to the home office, try not become a zombie staring at a screen for the workday and wait for the weekend to come around only to discover there’s not much to do then either – if this sounds like you, we get it. It’s hard to summon enthusiasm for anything right now. But the only way to beat the slump, is to break the cycle.
There are some key areas to check in with to begin this process.
We know, we know. You’re sick of being told to go for your daily walk. You’ve seen every inch of your 5k that you could possibly have seen and it’s no longer diverting. Some tips to switch things up a little is to count your steps, listen to a new podcast or arrange to walk with a friend. Counting your steps will give you a goal to work towards and hopefully motivate you and meeting up with a friend will be social incentive to follow through and a good chance to unload a little. Try some new yoga routines or some fun online dance classes if the weather isn’t good enough to walk – ask your friend’s what videos they like, and work from there! Exercise and being outdoors is so important, because it affects everything else in your life – your sleep schedule, your appetite, your concentration levels – it’s all connected!
Create a strict routine
No, not the one you’re currently in. A strict and relatively busy, but achievable routine. If you’re getting out of bed just in time to get logged in for work, that’s probably not a great idea. Humans need to routine, it creates purpose and structure, two things we like. Think of getting up early to get dressed properly and having a nutritious breakfast as favours to your future self. You won’t feel as burnt out later or overeat and be sluggish at lunch. You’ll feel a little more organised and better about yourself because of it. Incorporate cleaning, laundry, exercise and hobbies into this routine to keep you occupied and structured.
Check in on your diet
What and when we eat can also completely alter our lifestyles. If your making quick, easy, not-so-nutritious meals recently, and have gotten into a habit of it, try to break out of that cycle. I heard great advice the other day that went something along the lines of ‘there are no good or bad foods or meal. Some just have high nutrition count and others have a lower nutrition count,’ which I think is a good way to look at it. If we can balance these throughout the week and be happy with the ratio at the end, then we’ve done well. Healthy doesn’t have to be an overhaul on your fridge – just a few extra veggies and fruits thrown into the mix each week.
When we eat can also hugely affect our day to day. Eating too late means we don’t sleep well and not making to time to eat breakfast throws off our appetites for the rest of the day. Try not to rely too heavily on caffeine getting you through the day – your breakfast should set you up just as well.
Check your stress levels
Our go-tos right now are our phones, more than ever before. It’s our link to the outside world, our replacement for chats at work and catch ups with friends. But spending too much time scrolling through our feeds or ‘doomscrolling’ can lead to heightened levels of anger and apathy, leaving us enraged and frustrated at our lack of ability to effect any change in this global problem. Try to take a step back a little and consciously limit your time on the phone by finding something to replace it with. Something low effort and relaxing, like meditating or going for a walk and listening to music or reading. You’ll be surprised how quickly it will change your mood.
Keeping hydrated is something that should be easy when we’re working from home, but surprisingly, a lot of people find it more difficult to keep on top of their water intake. With other distractions at home, whether that’s kids, chores or housemates, our attention is divided between managing our home and work life. So, often, something we would normally do at work like get our two litres of water in, gets overlooked in all the chaos of two worlds colliding. But not getting enough water could be what’s making you feel sluggish, triggering your headaches or affecting your sleep pattern. Incorporate it meaningfully into your day. Maybe try to set alarms to remind yourself to refill and drink up!
We know. You’re consumed with work and just keeping it together some days. But instead of falling from your work desk to your couch to watch Netflix, try spicing things up. If everyday feels like the same day, then you need to actively make a change in your day. The human brain craves novelty, which isn’t exactly something that’s abundant right now. But trying something new has never been easier with everything having to go online. Always wanted to try out creative writing, fashion design or learning a new language? Look up an online course with clear, achievable goals and exercises to occupy you and learn something new. Always said you’d come out of lockdown having achieved the thing you always talk about? Do it! There’s literally very little excuse not to right now.
Switch things up and give some of these a go – it’s not easy to break the cycle, but you’ll feel so much better if you do. For further help and information about mental health services, see here.