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I’m taking this opportunity to be candid with you – I am really struggling with this lockdown.
In so many ways I am blessed. I’m not sick nor am I vulnerable to the virus (though I live with someone who is) and though our financial situation isn’t ideal, we have enough to survive and we have a really strong support system.
In so many ways, it seems like it shouldn’t be hard for me. After all, I’m a die-hard introvert, staying in and not talking to anyone is my favourite way to spend an evening! But I am having increased levels of depression, anxiety and anger, and last night, with the help of my perceptive husband, I worked out why: I am mourning the loss of my routine.
If the idea of “mourning” a loss of routine seems extreme, it isn’t.
Many people in society are experiencing feelings of mourning for the loss of important milestones: weddings, funerals, graduations and exams. For those who have been laid off due to the outbreak, they are perhaps mourning for their industry that may take a long time to recover. For those who are self-employed, they might be mourning the momentum of their business. Many freelancers are feeling this way, as our hard work in building our own income from various sources has suddenly disappeared.
Why We Need to Mourn Our Routines
For those of us with mental health conditions, our routines are the ways we survive. For some of us, our daily life will include treatment routines such as 12-step programmes, group therapy or support groups. But for all of us, routine outside of those things are important too and when we fall out of those routines it can feel like we’re falling towards a relapse, downward spiral, or bad episode.
This is why mourning is important.
Mourning helps us recognize what is important to us, which is vital for our well-being.
But it isn’t enough to simply carry on living with the remains of our old routines – we need to create new ones and be pro-active in rebuilding our wellness routines to support this new way of living.
So whilst it’s okay to feel sad and angry and to acknowledge the impact the change has on us, it’s also important to choose to look for joy moving forward.
Looking for Joy: How to Build a New, Mentally Positive Routine
So where can we find joy when we are overwhelmed by loss and change? How do we build a routine with joy in it?
It will be different for everyone, but here are some things that help me.
Embracing New Exercise and Work Routines
I was really sad to lose teaching my dance classes in the pandemic, but this morning I started teaching my husband yoga and it was really fun!
We might not be able to do the things in our old routines that we treasured like going to the gym or playing sports with friends, but there is a joy to be found in the new ways we learn to exercise! I was originally anxious about my husband and I sharing the worktable in our one-bedroom flat, but there is a joy to be found in working alongside each other, learning more of each other’s business and routines.
There is joy in this surprise togetherness.
Witnessing the Breathing Planet
We live in the city centre on a main road. There is no doubt that in just the last few days we have heard more birds, seen more bumblebees and witnessed the natural world flourishing. This is an opportunity for us to really hear, see and smell nature around us, even if it’s just through our window! There is tremendous joy in this, and relief in the realisation that nature is infinitely wildly and deeply resilient.
We can be too.
There is joy to be found in the abundant creativity and inspiration of the world around us, and even more joy when we take time to build it into our routine. So, notice the flowers outside. Put seed out for birds and take time to watch them eat. Bring ‘witnessing’ into your routine.
Taking Plenty of Time for Reflection
It’s the thing we never have time for, isn’t it? Maybe just a six-minute lie down at the end of a yoga class or the few minutes before you fall asleep at the end of the day? We are a nation of do-ers not reflectors, and when we do it, we usually do it accidentally!
For many people, their accidental reflection time comes when they are moving – commuting on the bus, driving the kids to school, walking to the shops. Without this accidental reflection time, we might start to feel pent up, full of thought.
This is the perfect time to practise some intentional reflection. There is a simple joy to be found in slowing your mind, recording your thoughts, taking some deep breaths, meditating, praying – they are all variations on the same theme: take joy in simply being. Build this time into your daily routine to care for your mind.
Strengthening Our Connections
I have never felt so connected to my friends and local community than I do right now. There is such joy in having a skype call with someone who you don’t know too well and just getting to know them better. There is such joy in having people to check up on and having them check up on you. There is so delight in having a zoom call/party with a group of friends and just giggling over silly things!
Yes, the reason behind these connections is scary, but the point is these bonds of friendship and community and love are being strengthened, not weakened, by this pandemic. Build intentional connection into your daily routine – skype a different friend every day!
There is joy in surviving something together.
I have been delivering groceries for some people in our community who are vulnerable, and I have been finding such joy in that part of my new routine, but also in being part of a huge community across the country who are choosing to spread kindness in little ways.
It’s shouting to your neighbour from the garden and checking they are okay. It’s the supermarket worker I met today who is putting aside a loaf of bread every day for an elderly customer who comes in at the same time. It’s all of us spreading love, friendship, and encouragement online.
There is such joy to be had in making a routine of kindness; a daily caring action to another person.
We Are Here, and It’s Okay
So, I might have lost my routine. I might be feeling mentally vulnerable and need to put in some more work to protect my mental well-being.
We all may be somewhere we never could have imagined at Christmas time, but we’re here. We’re here and we are finding joy where we are.
Please share with us different ways you are finding joy at the moment! Tweet us, comment on Instagram or Facebook. Let’s support each other!
For further reading on coping with sadness, grief, and discomfort during this transition, we highly recommend Harvard Business Review’s latest article on grief.
About the Author: Emma Hinds
Emma is a writer living and working in Manchester. She is a mental health advocate and has been blogging about mental health for the last ten years. Emma has a history of eating disorders and is currently living with a diagnosis of OCD and chronic depression. She has been working specifically with young people struggling with their mental health for the last four years and is now supporting the Lily Jo Project’s On Track follow up schools programs. You can see Emma’s work and follow her mental health blog here. You can also follow her on socials here: twitter@EmmaLouisePH and instagram@elphreads.