Making the Most of Life Under Lockdown
If someone were to shove you down a bunker for who knows how long, what would you do? How would you spend those endless hours of confinement? None of us expected to find ourselves in such a predicament, yet here we are: In Italy, people are already in week 4 of the Coronavirus lockdown; in Spain, we are in week 3, and in Ireland, people are just in week 1.
What are we to do, when we can barely leave our homes, apart from the odd supermarket trip? Like any crisis, much is beyond our control. But how we respond to this crisis is up to each one of us. In that spirit, here are some tips for making the most of life under lockdown, from someone who is already in week 3 (in Spain):
1. Embrace the situation: accept that you are under lockdown, and that there is absolutely nothing you can do to change that. There is really no point in dwelling on how you wish you could just meet a friend in a coffee shop or take a long walk in the mountains, or have a couple of pints in your local pub. Give yourself a day to grumble about your losses, and then get over it, so that you can channel your energy into making the most of a non-ideal situation.
2. Try to find meaning and opportunities for growth in this unexpected confinement. Think about all of the unique opportunities a protracted home retreat brings for personal growth and development, deepening relationships with other members of your household, and the sort of self-discovery that is only possible sequestered from the craziness of the world.
3. Start planning now to draw full advantage from these weeks at home. Once you’ve absorbed the shock of the pandemic and associated confinement, sit down and picture yourself on the other side of the lockdown: what would you like to have achieved, how would you like to have grown, during this lockdown?
Set yourself some realistic but engaging goals, in your professional and personal life. Perhaps there is a professional project you want to attend to. Perhaps you have always wanted to learn the guitar, or piano. Perhaps you have always wanted to learn Arabic, or learn to paint, or write a poem. Now is your chance – and a window like this might not come again anytime soon!
4. Make a realistic but moderately demanding timetable. I consider myself a more or less disciplined person. But take it from me, that when everyone else is on lockdown, and your workplace is shut down, and you spend almost every waking hour in the same building, it is very easy to become a “drifter” devoted to sleeping, eating, and watching TV series. Perhaps you are burnt out and that is exactly what you need. But making a daily timetable may help you achieve your goals and keep your life purposeful during this peculiarly open-ended phase of your life.
5. Nourish yourself physically and spiritually. Take advantage of this unexpected break to brush up on your cooking, cultivate a nutritious diet, and do some form of regular exercise, compatible with the lockdown. Find nourishment for your spirit, whether in prayer, good books, or good conversations with family or friends, whether at home or via skype or facetime. Healthy body, healthy mind.
6. Resist the temptation to become obsessed with the virus. Some of us have practically done a Master course in Covid-19 over the past few weeks. But if you are not leading the country out of this crisis, it is probably sufficient to know what you need to do to stay safe and keep others safe. There is an infinity of information bouncing around about this virus, but only a limited number of hours in the day. Think of what you want to achieve during this lockdown, apart from getting a Masters in Covid-19 and epidemiology.
7. Resist the temptation to spend every waking hour on Whatsapp or the internet. There really is a lot more to life than Whatsapp and funny videos. Neorological and behavioural studies show that while online activity may hone a range of technical skills, especially the skill of multi-tasking, it also tends to erode our capacity for deep reflection and self-awareness, which require inner serenity, sustained attention, and attentiveness. It may be advisable to deliberately go offline for sustained periods of the day, so as to “de-tox” yourself from superficial communication, and find some inner peace and mindfulness.
8. Think of ways to alleviate the lockdown for others. For example, be creative about finding interesting activities to pass the time with your loved ones. Maybe you can pull out those old boardgames, or research a movie worth watching, or dress up for a “single-household” party, or sing a duet. On a more practical note, maybe you can offer to get groceries for your parents, or an elderly neighbour, taking the necessary precautions to avoid infecting them with the virus.
9. Take it day by day. The fact is, nobody really knows exactly how this is going to play out. As preachers of mindfulness have been telling us for many years, focusing on the here-and-now is the best way to take in the fulness of the present, and the best way to experience the fulness of life. So just accept that none of us actually controls tomorrow. We do control how we live today, however, and how we confront the challenges of life under lockdown.