I had planned to keep my first “proper” post fairly lighthearted so as not to scare you all away from the outset. But I guess the whole point of a personal blog is to write about the stuff that’s going on for me right now, so instead of some running chat or my top 10 favourite porridge toppings (don’t worry, those will come!) we’re jumping straight in and talking about anxiety. More specifically, a weird feeling that has crept up on me this week of being afraid of lockdown ending.
I mean, I’m not entirely sure I even know where to start with this one, and my initial reaction was “what is wrong with you?!” But I suspect I’m not the only one feeling this way, and I think there are some good lessons to be learned here, so bear with me…
Let me start by saying that I definitely don’t want to spend the rest of my life in lockdown. Of course I don’t want us all to be dealing with this terrible virus situation forever. I want to visit my family, and sit in someone’s garden, and drink beer in the sunshine. I want to give my running buddy a huge hug and then chat our way round 10 miles on a Saturday morning. I want to go flat hunting and finally move in with my boyfriend.
But on the flipside – I know how to do this weird version of life that we’re currently doing. The first week was stressful, but then I gradually found a routine. I joined some online fitness classes, figured out the best time of day to get outdoors without dodging a thousand other people, found a way to structure my workload, and set aside time to bake and read. I get out my journal on a Sunday and make a rough timetable for my week (which I don’t rigorously stick to – more on that later!), but the point is that I pretty much know how my week will look.
So when rumblings started in the news about restrictions changing, my all-time number one source of anxiety made an appearance – uncertainty. As you can probably tell already, I am a planner. I invariably sleep better at night if I know I’ve organised my life and thoughts a little bit. I wouldn’t say I’m resistant to change, but I do like to know when and how it’s going to happen. Unfortunately, life in the outside world just isn’t as “plannable” as life at home, and now I need to get my head around that all over again.
It took me a long time to realise that trying to manage anxiety by planning every day in detail is never going to be a success. Lockdown life has allowed me to fall into that trap a little bit, and now I need to dig myself back out. Fortunately, I have some strategies to hand to help me do this, so I thought I’d share them in case they help anyone else:
- Don’t think in “what-ifs”. If you find your mind going down that route, try to shift your focus and concentrate on what is happening in your life right now, today, this very second.
- If the endless media speculation is stressing you out, avoid it. While I wouldn’t advocate getting all your news from social media, I’m finding the daily bullet-point summaries from Simple Politics really helpful when I can’t handle anything more.
- If you must plan, keep it light. Plan your dinner so you know what ingredients to take out of the freezer, note down a couple of to-do list items. Plan just enough to have something to reach for if you’re struggling to focus, but without falling into the trap of thinking you can control every minute of your day.
In a recent episode of my favourite podcast – How To Fail with Elizabeth Day – Mo Gawdat was asked for his tips on dealing with the current uncertainty we are all facing. His response?
“Since when did you ever have certainty?”
I found this so helpful I’ve actually stuck it on a post-it note on my bedroom wall. Ultimately, I think the best way for me personally to become less anxious is by realising that the course of my life can’t really be “planned”, and by focusing my time and energy more on the here and now.
Thanks for reading 🙂 xx