Living through lockdown

We are grieving the life we have lost. We face stresses of an even more uncertain future. All has and will change radically.

Yet this virus has shown us that we can stop the machine, instantaneously, and we can cooperate globally. This is an opportunity for the changes many of us have long known are necessary for our planet and people to survive and thrive. We are having to re-orientate ourselves, personally and metaphysically. Lockdown is a pause during which we need to consider what is essential.

How do we do this with courage and grace? Here are some of the things I have learned, changes I made at the beginning of lockdown when all was very quiet, and disquieting, and others more recently as we start to venture out and reconnect with family, friends and communities.

Routine really helps. Waking to meditate, write, yoga and exercise. Keeping my space clean as I go with a big clean on the same day every week are part of this. I reorganised my living space to accommodate my solitary and active lifestyle. I shop once a week and cook twice a week. I read and learn after lunch, the first and biggest meal I eat, and dance alone at sunset, eat a light meal and catch up with family and fascinating people and materials online.

Daily focus on these five core actions helped me get through the isolation and the associated apprehension and anxiety.

  1. Connect with nature. This is proven to build our immune systems and contributes greatly to our sense of wellbeing. I planted pots of herbs and vegetables which I now eat daily and am delighted by. I spend as much time as possible outside reading in the winter sunshine, riding my bike along the seaboard, tempting the waves to spray me, and when possible just lying on the grass looking at the sky.
  2. Exercise daily. The days I do not move are my lowest. In the early days of lockdown I started climbing 8 flights of stairs in my building 10 times. After a few weeks my son figured how many kilometres I had climbed into the sky and I love that image. I listen to podcasts and webinars, or music as I go. I do this still on rainy days, but am now grateful to be able to ride whenever possible. I found gentle yoga online to be a welcome, mindful, healing and regenerative time to bring body, breath, mind and spirit together on the mat every morning and set an intention for the day. I use bands and small weights combined with inspiration, e.g. from the New York ballet’s warm up and other online routines, for new moves daily. I have not been this fit in years and am told it shows.
  3. Perform at least one act of kindness for another. This takes many forms like the Community Action Networks that have sprung up, many making sandwiches to feed the homeless, contributing money, clothes and other items, the sharing of herbs, tools and baked goods that happened in my building during level 5 lockdown, a caring conversation with someone struggling or simply an empathetic smile. Like exercise, kindness releases feel good hormones, builds immunity, and eases anxiety and stress.
  4. Avoid focussing on negative news and limit social media. I have friends who report the daily infection and death rates, Trump or whatever sensation the media is spouting. I refuse to pay that any attention. It does not serve my wellbeing nor anyone else’s. So I choose to watch, read and listen to uplifting and humorous movies, books, webinars, podcasts, thought leaders and the incredible variety of offerings available online now.
  5. Being grateful. Here I am, still alive, and it’s another glorious day. I find pleasure in the small things. Here are some I listed a few weeks ago: showing up on the yoga mat every day, savouring delicious coffee chocolate I got for mother’s day, removing mould from the shower was exciting, clean space and clean sheets after active housekeeping, tighter legs and glutes, processing buckets of olives gifted, riding out in the dark sometimes foggy dawn accompanied by seagull shrieks, the scent of incense that floats up from the flat below, picking homegrown greens at sunset, hot tea and ginger biscuits in bed, laughing, breathing, and entertaining diversion to end the day.

The one thing that cannot be taken from us is our freedom to choose how we respond and act. May you find your balance and your joy.

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