The first time we had a lockdown in Czech Republic, I must admit that I went a little nutty. For me, the ability to get out and about is a gift of life. So, as we enter lockdown #2 in Czech Republic, I want to share my insights that helped me to get through the first lockdown.
For those who are not as fortunate, with a garden and separate building (man cave) to escape to (for creating music, playing games, etc…), the pressures that can build up from cabin fever may be even greater. But there are some simple things we can do to relieve the stress.
1. Get some exercise
Yes, you’ve heard it from everyone as a number 1 thing to do. If you don’t have any way to get to the gym, you can still annoy your neighbours with some star jumps (jumping jacks for Americans) or running in place.
It can get boring even if you’re lucky enough to have a cross trainer or running machine, so get the laptop out and look up some David Attenborough to ease the time spent (invested!). It may sound crazy, but the soothing sound of his voice and the beauty of the world are calming for the mind and eyes and help in the process of anti-craziness and boredom from running on the spot!
2. Try yoga
Again, it is important to keep calm and make sure your mind and body are in a good place. If you have never done yoga before, don’t worry! Yoga mats are cheap enough and there are plenty of great online yoga courses for beginners. It’s a great thing to do with your partner as well!
This is a fantastic way to relax and stretch out your back from too much sitting while working from home and spending dark autumn evenings in front of the TV!
3. Test a new hobby
You’re home, you're hungry, you can sort of cook, but how much time do you normally get to experiment and actually enjoy and understand cooking? Usually cooking is a necessity, or the lazy amongst us become take-out junkies. Most people overlook experimenting with new recipes for fun.
Did you even think that if you took the time you could create that favourite Thai, Chinese or Indian takeout yourself and at a fraction of the cost? The recipes are all online!
You may have a little more money floating around from not having the expense of travelling to work. Try something new, get some venison and look up a recipe for a venison casserole. Great winter warming food… add some red wine to the mix and you have an easy to create, rich, tasty meal!
I have a chestnut tree in my garden, and it produces more than I can normally use. In previous years I have taken some for myself for roasting or putting in the stuffing at christmas, but this year instead of giving the excess away I’m going to use it for making chestnut ale, pies and... there are many more great recipes I have been wanting to try but never found the time. Now I have the time, it’s time to try!
4. Do those small jobs
Been putting off painting a room or fixing that broken cupboard hinge in the kitchen? Give yourself one job a day and before you know it, no more annoying squeaky hinges… plus a fresh look to make you feel better in your environment.
I’ve decided, this lockdown, to attack some house jobs, but also to go through my guitar collection and clean, restring and in some cases fix some electrical issues. I’ve been putting off fixing the electrics for years and now I have the time to do this.
By doing this I'm not only restoring my collection but giving myself the pleasure of playing freshly strung and oiled guitars. Plus, this will make my recordings sound fresher and bring me more joy from playing! Think of the positives to every little job you do!
5. Invent a family lockdown quiz
Yup, family online meetings are hard to do because conference calls don’t allow for everyone to speak at the same time without a huge amount of cut-outs or white noise happening. Last lockdown, my nephew came up with this great idea to have a weekly family quiz on the weekend!
Create a PowerPoint (or just write it down) with questions about news (no Covid news, keep it positive), family trivia, interesting animal facts, entertainment questions, etc…
This is a great way to keep in contact with the family, but also have a laugh and actually have a group meeting in these solitary times! Throw in some joke questions and keep it jovial but also throw in some information that makes people think… really? or wow I never would have thought!
6. Learn something new
You’ve been thinking about learning about some new software? Doing a course on aromatherapy? Learning to play an instrument? Now’s the time!
Give yourself some set time in the evenings to learn something new. You don’t have to go at it like it’s a master’s degree, but learning something new is refreshing for the mind and gives you new skills to enjoy in your home life or to improve your career!
Again, use some of that money you would have spent on the holiday you now can’t do or normally would have spent on commuting to work! Now that money is free to enhance other areas of your life!
7. Mix it up
If you’ve decided to learn a new skill, take up yoga, fix those issues around the house and pick up a new hobby, don’t create a fixed plan for every day. Move the order around so that the tasks you are doing don’t become a drag. Repetition in the same order can become as mind numbing as just staring at the walls with nothing to do.
8. Call your friends
It can become hard to find time to keep in contact. You leave university, you move to a new town or even a new country, you haven’t spoken to your old friends in years because life drifts us all apart. You have the time, don’t be shy, pick up the phone or look them up on messenger and refresh those old friendships!
9. Call your aunty!
I know what you’re thinking. WHAT?!
Sometimes family might also become lost to the winds. It’s not only hard keeping up with your friends when you’re busy with work and your own family, but distant relatives can also be inadvertently ignored.
Pick up the phone and call your granny, aunty, cousin you haven’t spoken to in years, find out how they’re doing and let them know you and your family are ok. Believe it or not, they want to know!
10. Skip through the news
If, like me, you like to keep up with current affairs, don’t let the constant bad news get into your head. Skip headlines that you can see will just bring negative thoughts about the current situation; especially if you live alone!
If it’s mundane banter about Covid, skip it! If it’s about new restrictions, it may be worth paying attention to, but look for ‘normalish’ news that isn’t going to pound your head with negativity.
11. Avoid the mass negativity that’s out there
It’s too easy to read negative news, discuss the negativity with friends, watch negative comments on social media and slump into a constant habit of movie night – every night.
The popcorn creeps in, the waistline increases, your favourite snack of salami, cheese, cheese and some more cheese becomes a daily habit (Yup, I love a good plate of salami, klobassa, blue cheese, goat’s cheese, brie, gouda, emmental, and on and on... and smother it in mayonnaise!) and the cheese selection in Europe far exceeds that in the UK, so i’m spoiled for cheese!
Change it up, I did!
Get some carrots, celery, broccoli and cucumber, chop them up into munchable sizes and buy some hummus for a dip! Tasty and my trousers fit again!
NO! No mayonnaise!
That part was painful for me too, to start with. It’s like a long lost friend never to be found or a girlfriend you don’t want to break up with. But you know it’s for the best even though, yes, the tears inside are real!
12. Make the most of your environment
If you don’t have any greenery in your home, plants can not only help to sooth the eyes and mind, but they give you something to look after and nurture. This is another little thing which can help to give you something to do (watering and leaf dusting/spraying if necessary) but also has positive mental effects, green is good for the eyes and mind!
In the spring, grow some vegetation. Even when I was living in a flat, I used to put string up on my kitchen window and grow cucumbers up the string. I also had tomatoes growing in my bedroom in a plastic bag of soil, and they provided lots of fruit and were very tasty!
Plan for the spring now, it’s another little thing to keep you occupied and a fun way to teach your kids (if you have them) where food comes from.
13. Bring on the games
You know that Monopoly board is up there in the loft sitting next to the dusty chess board, your Xbox/PlayStation 1 and the jumpy ducking game! You got married, you put it away, and now it’s time to bring back the youthfulness to your mind! (Personally, I’m playing Project Gotham Racing, Fifa 5 and EGA golf with my son, on my original Xbox 1, which I could never find the heart to part with.)
Yup, your kids play the games now, but why did YOU stop?
There are so many games to play either with family or if you just have a partner or you’re on your own! Break them out or jump online and buy some. You have the spare cash from not having to commute, a pack of cards or a board game isn’t going to cut into your savings that much and the human interaction is priceless!
14. Now you have more of the most valuable resource: time!
We used to get bogged down with work life, commuting, trying to spend time with the kids after a long day, and being totally exhausted after work! We were not at home as much as we would have liked, we forgot the days of time for playing, courting, romantic evenings, and a glass of wine in front of the fire!
Forget the old ways of getting home after the commute, it doesn’t exist anymore!
Finish on time, spend time with the family, put work out of your mind, put the kids to bed with a nice story and go back to point 3!
Break out that dusty bottle of red and bring on the good times! Maybe just a movie together, maybe a board game, card game or…
I hope these ideas inspire all who read this to bring something new into your lives and to stay positive in these troubling times. To bring communication where once it was lost, to bring new colour and vibrance to your houses and keep the smile on your faces!
Stay safe, stay positive, stay happy, stay in touch and stay active!