Last night, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, announced unprecedented measures to stem the spread of Coronavirus. All non-essential workers must work remotely and we must only leave our homes for essential items such as food and medicine. Exercise outside is limited to once per day, and must be alone or with the people we live with. Over the past few days, many have been flouting the recommendations to keep distance between themselves and others, so now the lingering threat of official enforcement hangs over us. The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games are almost definitely not going ahead this summer, and athletes across the globe are resigning themselves to the fact that this is far bigger than sport and, right now, their focus must shift from honing their six pack to isolating with the rest of us.
For most of us, this still feels a bit surreal. It’s day one of official lockdown, and we’ve been assured that this will be the situation for at least three weeks, with the potential of it lasting a lot longer. For many people, this will be the longest they will have spent in their spouse’s company since their honeymoon thirty years ago. With schools and extra-curricular activities closed to all but the children of key workers, many families are grounded, thrown headfirst into the minefield of home schooling and home entertaining alongside their own jobs.
We’re going to be doing a lot of reading and a lot of scrolling over the next few months and I want to bring a bit of fun to what is, otherwise, a rather bleak situation. I therefore bring to you the ‘Lockdown Blog’; a collection of short thoughts, ideas, stories and anecdotes to keep you entertained for at least five minutes on your morning commute (the journey from your bed to your living room, or wherever you’ve set yourself up for daily working).
To start us off, I’ve compiled my top ten tips for lockdown:
- Routine is everything. When you don’t have structure from travelling, work, school, meetings, organised sport and social activities, it’s easy for the day to blur into one. For the next few days have a play around with what works for you and your family, make sure everyone is on the same page, and then stick to your routine going forward. Create a weekly timetable and stick it on the fridge—it will be unimaginably important for those feeling anxious right now. Have a house meeting once a week to discuss adjustments, changes, what is working and what isn’t. If you have kids then try and allow them some autonomy in their routine—it makes a huge difference to motivation if they’re accountable for at least some of their daily structure.
- Exercise. Keeping active is more important than ever, especially if you’re used to getting your steps in on the way to school or work. My activity (not related to intentional exercise) increases by about 80% when I’m out in offices working with clients, versus when I’m working from home—that’s a pretty significant decrease in movement that we’re faced with right now. Set structured time each day to get some activity in—a walk, run, bike, yoga session, stretch, or HIIT session in your living room. Time to dust off that Davina McCall exercise DVD and treat your neighbours to a feast of Lycra-clad lunging…
- Social Media is both our best friend and our worst enemy in this situation. It’s great for connection when we can’t physically interact but it can be anxiety inducing. There is, understandably, a lot of noise and conjecture circulating online, making it increasingly difficult to discern real facts from trusted sources. Ensure that any information sources you follow are legitimate, and that any updates come through official channels (Piers Morgan’s twitter feed doesn’t count). Check in with the news once a day or assign a partner/friend to keep you updated on any ‘need to know’ changes that affect you. Check in with kids to make sure they’re not getting anxious by the messaging circulating online.
- Get Outside if you can. Within the current guidelines, we’re allowed to exercise outside (alone or with our household) once a day. Make the most of that opportunity. Even if the restrictions do go further, open windows and get out in the garden if you have one. Don’t forget what it feels like to have the sun on your face.
- Socialise in a safe way. We are being forced to physically distance from each other but don’t shy away from connecting with others—it’s now more important than ever to be chatting by phone, instant messaging, email or post with friends and loved ones. Especially important if you live alone or have members of the family who are elderly or high-risk (and for whom this period of isolation may be longer).
- Make your own rules when it comes to lockdown life in your home. Kids learn best early morning and then watch a movie over lunch whilst you work? Fine. The key thing right now is keeping everyone happy and healthy and doing your best with regards to learning and activity. You are not a teacher, so don’t feel guilty for not knowing the entire GCSE maths syllabus. There are loads of great educational online resources for keeping kids busy, but you’ll also be able to teach them invaluable ‘life skills’—finance, time management, DIY, cooking, household chores etc. Even how to use the washing machine is an important skill to learn! Empowering youngsters to do some of the household tasks will also take the strain off parents, even if it does result in a couple of initial laundry incidents involving some white shirts and red socks…
- Have some boundaries. I actually find it harder to leave work alone when I’m working from home, because there isn’t a defined time to end the day or leave the office. Of course, if an emergency call comes in late at night then jump on it, but the majority of ‘out of hours’ comms can wait. Separate yourself from your phone/laptop at least a few times a day. If you can, have a defined space for working and keep this space as tidy as possible—nobody needs the added stress of frantically searching for notes on an important call because your desk has become the family ‘dump zone’!
- Make time for yourself. We’re suddenly faced with the prospect of being in incredibly close quarters with whoever we live with, which will lead to inevitable tensions if we don’t define our personal space. Don’t feel bad about needing a time-out from family life—a walk by yourself, a yoga session in the spare room, or just having a daily hour of ‘quiet time’ for everyone can make a huge difference to our mental wellbeing.
- Control the Controllables. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all of this, yet most of us have little control over the situation other than following the guidelines and being sensible when we do have to be out and about. Focusing on the things we can control—daily routine, health and wellbeing, connections with others, being kind—help us centre ourselves and can alleviate anxiety about the bigger picture.
- We’re in this together. Physical isolation is surreal and scary, but this won’t last forever. Parks will again be filled with people laughing and hugging, cinemas will be packed tightly for the showing of new releases, gyms will be full of sweaty bodies jostling for space on the lat pull down machine. Be kind, be sensible, reach out to those who need help, and together we will beat this.