4 Tips for Staying Mentally Agile During Lockdown
As stressful and frustrating as they can be, most of us welcome the complex demands of daily life and find that they keep us sharp. All the planning, decisions and rich in-person interactions add up. So what happens when you take away many of those demands? That’s the situation we find ourselves in as the COVID-19 outbreak rages on and the resulting lockdown continues.
It certainly doesn’t help that so many people have lost their jobs, some temporarily but others permanently. Couple a lack of work-based routine and broad anxiety about everything from health to money and you have a recipe for a damaging sense of listlessness. And even those among us who’ve been able to keep working have had our lives change significantly.
Given that it might be many months before life returns to anything approaching normalcy, we need to do what we can to protect our mental health. To that end, here are four tips for staying mentally agile while mostly confined to your home:
Find projects to occupy your free time
Whether you’re out of work or continuing to work remotely, you probably have more free time than you’ve had in your adult life: time that would otherwise have gone towards commuting and social activities. You need to fill that time with projects that require you to problem-solve, or else the lack of challenge in your day will start to erode your ability to think.
As for what projects you should pursue, it depends on what you enjoy and what your long-term goals are. If you want to get much physically fitter, you could start a punishing workout regime. If you want to make some money, you could open an online store. If you want to improve your chances of getting work in the future, you could create a professional portfolio.
Establish a sensible daily routine
We can easily forget how importance contrast is to getting the most out of life. When you work all day and feel exhausted, the free time that follows it feels so much sweeter because it’s finite — and when you’ve had a relaxing weekend, your return to work on Monday can offer quite an engaging and rewarding experience. A balanced routine is both comfortable and healthy.
You may be tempted to spend an entire day watching TV, for instance, resolving that this is a difficult time and you might as well indulge your impulses. I don’t recommend it. Watch TV, by all means, but remember the law of diminishing returns: you’ll feel much more satisfied by watching a few episodes then doing some chores than you will by watching so much TV in a day that you get sick of it and feel disgusted with your slovenly behavior.
Stay in touch with friends and family
Humans are social animals: we like to gather in communities and share stories about our lives, but of course that isn’t a good idea at the moment. That doesn’t mean you should just sit at home and quietly wait for the opportunity to see the people you care about once again. You might not like video chats very much, but they’re far better than nothing at all, so use them.
And don’t just talk about what you’re doing. Find activities you can share remotely. Play online games together. Watch shows together through services like Netflix Party. The more time you spend talking to people you know, the easier it will be to spend time in solitude, and the more you’ll be able to learn from their methods for getting through lockdown.
Exercise well on a regular basis
I mentioned the notion of starting a punishing workout regime if you want to get much physically fitter, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t exercise at all if you lack such a goal. Regardless of the extent to which you care about your physical fitness, you need to exercise because of the impact it has on your mental health.
Strenuous exercise releases endorphins that make you feel better in general, and it’s really hard to overstate how much this matters. Consider the ripple effect: when you exercise, your hunger levels become more accurate, leaving you less likely to eat when you’re bored (or refrain from eating due to frustration). By looking after your fitness, you’ll preserve your self-image — and by getting outside for solitary walks, you’ll remember that the world is still out there.
Staying mentally agile during this outbreak doesn’t require you to spend every day reading or solving puzzles: you just need to focus on taking sensible action to challenge yourself, maintain a solid schedule, communicate with others, and stay physically active. If you can do all of these things, you should eventually be able to come out of this terrible situation without too much difficulty.