It's rough being in lockdown right now. It doesn't get any easier – no matter how many times we've gone through it, we're losing track of what day it is, finding it difficult to focus, with tempers shot and nerves frayed. The streets are unsettlingly quiet, and there's a sadness on the air that you can feel when you can find the energy to go outside for a walk.
Times like this, it's tempting to fall back on cliches – we'll get through this; we're all going to be alright; it's gonna be ok. And maybe that's true, for some of us at least. But the Stoics were right – it's also important to be honest with ourselves, and acknowledge that being in lockdown right now is exhausting. Just as we were starting to process our collective grief over the emotional toll of the first lockdowns, and grappling with trauma responses as the cooling weather reminded us of this time last year, we've once again been forced to hide in our homes by a virus that feels unstoppable. Lockdown was the right thing to do, and we will indeed get through it as we have too many times before, but we can also look at one another's masked faces and say, "Hey – this sucks, and I'm sorry you have to go through it".
We're feeling helpless right now, as I'm sure many of you are too. Sometimes the best thing to do when you feel that way is to help someone else, so with that in mind, we've put together a few suggestions that might make this rough time a little smoother.
This isn't about selling you things – most of these suggestions cost nothing, or work with what you probably already have on hand. If you want to buy something, we are totally on board with that, but the goal here is to provide some emotional support, because right now we know we need more than anything.
I know this is a tough way to start when lots of people have jobs or businesses on the line, but generosity isn't just about money. Generosity is an act of care, and that mutual support is what keeps communities alive. If you're ordering food, thank your delivery driver and mean it (and tip them extra – their jobs are incredibly precarious, and they're endangering themselves to bring you a delicious pad see ew). Make a batch meal and take some to an immunocompromised friend who can't leave the house. Ask "how are you feeling?" and listen to the answer.
Finding a small way to be generous each day helps to chip away at the isolation and fear that most of us are living in. Some days you might not have the emotional bandwidth to manage, and that's totally reasonable, but if we're all looking out for each other, maybe there'll be someone to hold you up when you're low.
Even if we can't safely be near each other, we can still stick close to our friends and loved ones online. Can you imagine how devastating a lockdown would be without the internet? No one's pretending Zoom drinks are going to replace the physical intimacy of being in a beer garden or cafe with your friends, but we can use the tools we have to stay connected to the people we care about, and play is a wonderful way to do that.
Skribblio is a free Pictionary-style drawing game that you can play with your friends no matter how far apart you are. Just grab a computer or a touch-screen device, get everyone on a Zoom call or Discord chat, and have fun guessing each other's drawings. And don't worry, your drawings will be bad – that's half the fun.
If drawing isn't your style, there are a bunch of simple, silly games you and your friends can play together that make the distance between you disappear. Honey Heist involves planning and executing an Oceans Eleven-worthy heist while also playing as bears pretending to be human. There are next to no rules, and no two games are alike – plus, your bear can be wearing a hat during said heist, and who wouldn't want that? All you need is dice (or an online dice roller), a willingness to be silly, and a taste for honey.
Explore your neighbourhood
Before lockdown, lots of us shuttled between work and home most days, and didn't spend time getting to know the area around us, which is kind of a shame. Discovering the hidden pockets of your suburb adds a sense of novelty and adventure that's hard to get when you spend most of your time inside, and those little variations can help keep the days from blurring into one another. Sync up with a local friend to grab a morning coffee and go for a wander – you might be surprised by what you find.
If you're struggling for inspiration, The School of Life's Everyday Adventures has some prompts to get you thinking about new ways to see your streets, but you can always just pick a direction and start walking. Who knows what you'll find?
Check in with nature
One of the small graces of last year's lockdowns was reconnecting with nature. Living in a major city, it can be hard to foster that connection, but daily walks helped me appreciate the little strips of wilderness that runs through. Sometimes, even just for a few minutes, I could walk through some eucalypts and watch the water play over the rocks, and be reminded that I am a small part of a much, much bigger thing – you might be surprised how comforting that can be.
Check in with yourself
Every lockdown announcement brings out so many feelings that it can be hard to know where your heads' at. Those feelings can change hour by hour, too, so it's good to set aside a moment every now and then to ask yourself how you're doing, and listen to what your body has to say. We've all found ourselves getting disproportionately upset at some minor inconvenience, and a lot of that comes down to misdirected feelings. So set reminders on your phone, or keep a journal handy, or light a candle and just sit with yourself for 5 minutes, and treat yourself with the tenderness and care you would offer to a dear friend.
Make downtime a priority
We've all learned by now that lockdown and productivity do not go well together. Despite having too much time on our hands, it can be hard to push through the brain fog to achieve all the things we'd like to in better circumstances. And that's OK – we're living through a moment in history that we're too close to to properly wrap our heads around, and we're going to be processing this for a long time.
So rather than pushing yourself to grind through a dreary non-fiction book or staring at a blank page and getting frustrated that the words aren't flowing, choose something low-challenge. Rewatch Avatar: the Last Airbender for the seventh time, pick up an easy-to-read romp like Daniel O'Malley's The Rook, or just watch a YouTube video about how a Viennetta is made. We're just getting through, and sometimes that means being gentle with yourself.
Listen to music
Whether you chuck on a playlist of Robyn's greatest hits and dance it out in your kitchen, or stare into the middle distance while playing the complete works of Explosions in the Sky, I don't need to explain to you how magic music can be for helping get you out of your head for a moment. And because we're dorks for music, we made you a playlist – check it out on Spotify when you need a little healing, or lofi chill beats to study/relax to wears out its welcome.
Hopefully things will be looking brighter and we'll be able to restart the process of healing. But until then, kindness is what's going to get us through – kindness to each other, and to ourselves.