Lockdown rules are constantly changing as the governments struggle to control the spread of Coronavirus. This means that we are having to rely on our inner resources. It is a tough and testing time for us all, and how you approach it will decide how you experience it.

Of course there are limitations to being stuck at home and it feels as though something has been taken away. But there’s a lot you can do to help keep a sense of control and so bolster your morale. 

Our freedom is at the top of the list of things in life we take for granted.

Well, maybe not right at the top because most of us take our health for granted, at least, until something goes wrong with it.

But right now Freedom is the concern on most people’s minds. Or rather, lack of it, or so it seems because many of our usual freedoms are being taken away. 

Depending on where you live in the World you are either under lockdown, or it could imminent in your area. This measure has been inflicted on us to help protect our physical health and that of the community. But it might seem that our mental health and wellbeing could now be put at risk by enforced confinement.

But it doesn’t have to be. There are several steps you can take to keep yourself occupied, emotionally stable, and even on a positive track to self-improvement.

We still have control

Of course, there are limitations to being stuck at home, and it feels as though something has been taken away. But there’s a lot you can do to help keep a sense of control and so bolster your morale. 

Your mental balance will be protected if you focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t. Rather than seeing the changes as restrictive, look for the possibilities they present, use the time wisely, and you can become psychologically stronger and more resourceful.  

Even though being told to stay at home means some limitations, there is also the opportunity to invest in yourself. By taking care of yourself and those around you, for example, learning something new, catching up on some of the things you ‘never have time to do’, and self-improvement.

Your choice

You can spend time worrying about your situation and sharing stories on social media about going stir-crazy, or you can realise that you do have control of the most important part of all this – you.

Here are some suggestions as to how to go about it:

1) Perspective

One of the main ingredients of emotional resilience is your attitude in a crisis. The ability to see things as they are without dramatising and exaggerating helps preserve emotional energy and shields us from worry. That is easy if you are a natural optimist, but what if your normal outlook is more negative?  

Optimists and pessimists

It’s been said that there are two types of people in the world – optimists and pessimists. This is over-simplified, but it makes the point about an important difference in how we interpret events. Whereas optimists see possibility, pessimists tend to see the limitations.

Whichever way you lean, learning to think like an optimist is a possibility for everyone. Even if you cherish your negativity and want to hang on to it you can still use optimism selectively.

There is no right and wrong about this. Both ways of interpreting evens have their good points and their drawbacks. For example, though optimism helps to keep your spirits up, taken too far it can become delusion. For pessimists, while expecting the worst helps them prepare and cope, if pessimism is not kept in check it can lead to over-thinking, worry, and even depression.

Avoid scare-mongers

Whatever your outlook, protect yourself. Stay away from scaremongering and catastrophising. This means avoid negativity in all its forms. You need information, but keep it to a minimum. This will mean avoiding the news, some people, and above all, be very selective with social media.

If you begin to find yourself feeling anxious during lockdown, takes action to combat it early and learn to control worrying with these seven steps.

You are careful about what you eat and drink, apply the same caution to what you consume through your eyes and ears. What you take in can be just as toxic and damaging as an unhealthy diet.

Structure and routine

Structure and routine can help you feel more in control during lockdown. They help you manage your mental space because they reduce uncertainty and feel more confident. Structuring your time into both daily and weekly routines can establish healthy patterns in your life. Focussing your time like this leaves you less time to worry about things you can’t change. 

If you are working from home you already have a partial structure. Stick to it with regular work/break times. Be disciplined about this, and respect your timetable.

The same applies even if you are not working. In either case, get up at a regular time each day and wash and dress as if you had to go out and face the world

2) Sleep

Sleep is vital for wellbeing and routine is a must so stick a regular bedtime and get up at the same time each morning. This applies to weekends too because ‘sleeping in’ or binging on sleep will disturb your sleep patterns. If your sleep is disrupted by lockdown, there are steps you can take to improve it

While your weekend timetable might be a little different from the weekdays, you shouldn’t need more sleep. If you feel you do, then make bedtime a little earlier to catch up so that you wake feeling refreshed.

3) Exercise

Now that you can’t go to the gym, but there’s plenty you can do at home to keep yourself in shape and even improve your fitness. One of the positives to come out of lockdown is how many great coaches and instructors have stepped in to offer online classes to help keep us fit.

Exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous. Regular Yoga, Tai-chi, aerobics and dancing are all beneficial. If you are allowed out then walk or run if that appeals to you.

4) Relationships

Relationships need to be kept in good shape too. 24/7 living together can be stressful if you are not prepared for it, and stress can threaten even the healthiest bonds.

Harmonious and tolerant relationships don’t happen by accident, you need to work at them. Talk to your partner, and do nice things for each other. It’s easy to become preoccupied with daily concerns and to overlook those you love. 

Establish shared routines for chores (you don’t both have to do the same things, but there should be a balance which both of you think is fair). Give each other space – say, different rooms/ activities for a certain time each day

5) Eating

Take time and care in planning and preparing your meals. Regular mealtimes – preferably, sitting up at a table – are better for relationships, your digestion, and your mental health.

6) Learn something new

Develop an interest or hobby. One of the great things about our connected world is that the possibilities are limitless. Many universities offer free courses and there’s currently a boom in online learning. 

If this sort of study sounds too formal to you, then consider improving your practical skills like cooking, art, or writing. If you have a particular talent or skill you might even launch a course of your own.

As with other activities, schedule regular learning sessions just if you were attending classes. This helps shape your day and also aids the learning process. Short, regular sessions are more beneficial than longer or more intense ones.

7) Stay connected 

Arrange virtual dates, meetups, book-groups, or study sessions. Planning these at a regular time each week will help others, as well as you. Ask around, then organise it. Take charge and make it happen. If you are not confident enough to do it by yourself then partner up and plan together.  

We are a social species and lack of contact will be hardest for some people. Plan to avoid isolation by scheduling regular contact with others. Reach out to others, and offer support to anyone you may feel is becoming isolated.

8) Play

Make time for fun! Board games, card games, playing music (or learning to play a real or virtual instrument). Think of zanier things like hide-and-seek, a general knowledge quiz, a poetry contest, or dancing. If your imagination isn’t up to creating your diversions, there is no shortage of conventional entertainment; stream a concert or plan a movie evening.

9) Look ahead

This enforced lockdown may be terribly inconvenient but it doesn’t have to be all bad news. We will all be changed by this global crisis but the restrictions offer time for reflection, insight and even planning for some of the things you told yourself you would do ‘one day’ or ‘when I have time’. 

This may be a good time to reflect on how your life could be improved for the better, once this is all over. Things may never be ‘normal’ in the same way, and now might be the time to learn from experience and to begin planning how you would like your life to be once freedom is returned to us.

I’m a psychologist, coach, and therapist. All my work is aimed at enabling people to improve personal aspects of their lives and work.