Another lockdown felt inevitable in 2021, but that anticipation didn’t make the news any easier when Boris Johnson announced the third national lockdown on the first Monday of the year.
I have to be honest: as I face another lockdown living alone, in some ways it feels like the hardest one yet. The days are short, the weather is gloomy, Christmas got cancelled at the last minute, and many of us spent New Year’s Eve alone. In my experience January is challenging every year: things can feel bleak, our self-esteem can be low and it’s a long time until payday.
I’ve struggled with my mental health before Covid, and December and January have been hard for me before too. But these past few weeks, it’s been hard to shake some really low feelings and sometimes hard to get up, get outside and keep going. To put it mildly, my pyjamas definitely need a wash and my Tangle Teezer is feeling neglected.
I don’t know about you, but when I get to these low patches in my life, I often tell myself I’m back to exactly the same place again and feel like I will never get better. I’m also reminding myself that I, quietly, rise stronger every time I get through a dark patch.
So after a few days of attempting to shut out the world, I’m feeling brighter. With a vaccination rollout, I am holding onto the hope this lockdown is the final stretch.
“As someone who lives alone, I have to show up for myself and be my own best friend, and during a lockdown where we can’t really see our pals, this becomes all the more pertinent.”
In November, I wrote a survival guide particularly for people living alone in the second lockdown. There are some helpful tips and links in there that I will still be putting into practice, including remembering that “this too shall pass” and making time for escapism, but the strongest message I will carry over as I take on this new lockdown is self-compassion. As someone who lives alone, I have to show up for myself and be my own best friend, and during a lockdown where we can’t really see our pals, this becomes all the more pertinent.
For me, self-care isn’t a face mask and a bubble bath, although those can be nice. For me, self-care is getting out of bed and getting washed and dressed when it feels like the hardest thing in the world. It’s moving my body, checking in with myself and listening to what I need.
It’s making sure I drink enough water and eat nourishing food, and it’s making sure to go outside, whatever the weather, even just for five minutes, because I know in the long run that makes me feel better than hiding inside. It’s staying connected with friends, family and colleagues, and asking for help if I need it.
There are some things that have brought me hope in the past few days that I want to share with anyone who has felt like I do. My former colleague Jack Sommers, who also lives alone, tweeted his Living Alone Action Plan, which included: “Shower first thing, no more days in PJs.” It’s always nice to know you’re not the only one.
Joe Wicks is once again offering his free sessions this new lockdown. This is not a time to feel like we need to lose weight or get buff, but do whatever’s right for you. As Adriene ‘Yoga With’ Mishler puts it: “Find what feels good”.
“The days are getting longer, the weather will get better and there will be things to plan and look forward to.”
Selina Barker, coach and co-founder of Project Love, suggests committing to ten minutes of things that bring us nourishment three times a day (once in the morning, once at lunch and once in the evening) – much more manageable than trying to start loads of healthy habits overnight.
Doctor and presenter Radha Modgil advocates the ‘five Cs’: Control, self-Care, Continuity, Creativity and Compassion. For me – I can control what time I go to bed, how much I look at my phone and how I spend my day. I am very much focused on self-care, which includes sticking to a routine such as the time I go to bed and get up. My creativity is writing, singing, dancing and mindful colouring. And I love being there for friends, family and colleagues.
While limiting social media is something I would definitely recommend for good mental health, I’ve found filling my feeds with inspiring people and organisations very useful too. People like author and podcaster Giles Paley-Phillips, The Bridge Retreat co-founder Donna Lancaster, author and journalist Poorna Bell, coach Nicola Rae-Wickham and author Matt Haig are some personal favourites. And there are great resources for people who are single or living alone to be found through Nicola Slawson’s The Single Supplement newsletter and Francesca Specter’s Alonement podcast.
As we take on the next six weeks of lockdown, there will continue to be ups and downs. But the days are getting longer, the weather will get better and there will be things to plan and look forward to. Let’s focus on the things we can control and the little things that get us through – and keep on doing them.
Becky Barnes is audience editor at HuffPost UK. Follow her on Twitter at @BeckyBarnesB
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