My tips on keeping positive and occupied during lockdown

I hope you are safe and well and doing the very best that you can be at the moment in light of current affairs.

As we approach the thousandth (?) week of lockdown, I wanted to reach out to share with you some tips and advice on how I’m personally trying to keep occupied and upbeat during these very strange times we are living in. I use the word ‘trying’ as I am sure you will all agree that there have been good days and bad days, highs and lows. Whenever I have been struggling however, I have found comfort and hope in knowing that we are all in this together and that we will all get through this together.

I am lucky enough to have a fantastic support network around me in my family, friends and colleagues to help to pick me up on those down days and to share ideas on how to pass the time. I therefore felt that writing a blog to pass on these ideas, could be useful to those of you who perhaps may not have friends and family around you, or to those of you who have also been struggling.

In the first few weeks, with all of this newfound time on my hands I felt inspired to get things done that I otherwise would’ve struggled to find the time to do; redecorating, gardening, having a clear out… the list could go on. However, as time has gone by and with the lockdown also being extended, I have admittedly at times found myself in a bit of a ‘slump’. Although Social Media is a fantastic tool to help bring people together, this ‘slump’ feeling can be worsened during the daily check-ups of Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn – seeing others completing 5K runs in record times and baking amazing loaves of banana bread before I have even managed to make my bed for the day.

This blog is therefore written in a light-hearted way, not to make you feel bad or unproductive if your house doesn’t now look like the 60 Minute Makeover team have been in, or if you only got halfway through that clear out before eating a box of Jaffa Cakes in one sitting (guilty). Instead, I hope to inspire you with some of the ways I have personally passed the time on the days where I have felt ok enough to do so.

Here’s my list of the 9 ways that I’ve survived lockdown…

1. Staying in touch

As I previously alluded to, catching up regularly with my family, friends and colleagues has been one of the biggest morale boosters for me. On days where the sun has been shining it’s been lovely to take a leisurely walk or drive to visit parents and grandparents (from a social distance of course). Getting out of the house and having a change of scenery, even just for an hour, helps me to feel like I have done something with my day. Of course, it is hard not being able to give them a hug or pop into their houses for the usual cuppa and catch up over a biscuit, however keeping everyone safe is the number one priority. I have found small acts of kindness can help to keep spirits high instead, such as brining my granny her favourite chocolate bars or dropping the family off some home-baked treats.

On days where the weather has not been so nice, I have been thankful for technology in order to keep connected with loved ones. Whether it’s through a phone call, WhatsApp group message or FaceTime, nothing beats a good laugh with friends. If you haven’t yet tried a group quiz over House Party or Zoom, I would highly recommend it – and for extra fun, have your favourite alcoholic beverage to hand (mine is pink gin and lemonade). To mix things up a bit, rather than the typical general knowledge questions, my friends and I have included quiz rounds such as ‘Who’s old Facebook status is this?’ and ‘Who’s house is this?’ for extra giggles.

Of course, it’s not always going to be fun and games as we are in the midst of a global pandemic. I have found reaching out to friends and family for a chat when I’m not feeling so great to be equally as important. Somehow your nearest and dearest always manage to pick you up and get you back on track. A problem shared is a problem halved after all.

If you don’t however have the luxury of a close group of friends, there are many mental health charities throughout the UK such as Samaritans and Mind whereby you can talk to someone trained to help!

2. Keeping your body active

Admittedly, I’m not the most active person at the best of times and have probably only used my gym membership twice this year. You can therefore only imagine my horror to be nominated for the ‘Run 5k, donate £5‘ challenge currently circulating Social Media. Due to it being for a good cause, I had no option but to shove on my gym wear and give it my best shot. Whilst the thought initially terrified me, it felt great getting outside and getting my blood pumping, I would highly recommend giving it a go. Apps such as ‘Couch to 5k’, ‘Strava’ and ‘The Nike Running Club’ are really useful to help get you started. If running is really not your thing but you are in need of a few extra endorphins, an online workout from the comfort of your own home could be another option, or even playing a few games with family in the garden. On one particular day I challenged myself to see how many ‘keepy ups’ I could do… let’s just say I am not going to be the next Lionel Messi.

3. Keeping your mind active

If like myself, you are currently on furlough, it can be hard to keep your brain active when you’re used to challenging yourself at work. Whilst the offices are closed, it’s a good time to brush up on any industry-relevant skills and knowledge that might be useful to your role, in preparation for once the world returns to normal. What you don’t want to happen is that ‘first day back at school’ feeling when you’d feel like you’d forgotten how to write. On the Vanilla Website alone we have a variety of online courses available at a discounted rate under the training section which are worth a look into!

4. Learning a new skill

Leading on from the above, another way to keep your mind active is to try and learn a completely new skill. I have friends who are currently releasing their inner Enrique Iglesias by learning to speak Spanish using the ‘Duo Lingo’ app, and others who have decided to take up yoga. If a certain hobby has always appealed to you, what better time to take it up? With all this spare time to practice and learn you could end up being a lot better than you thought. I personally have been attempting to learn how to play the guitar (so far, I can play one, two-chord song but it’s a start right?) and I have also FINALLY learned how to curl my hair after 25 years, using a YouTube tutorial. I have also learned a few dances through the Tik Tok app (although I’m not too sure that this can be considered a skill?).

5. Cooking

I have found another way to leisurely pass the time is to get creative in the kitchen. On a typical weeknight after work, it’s not uncommon to shove something quick in the oven for time and ease. Now that the days seem to be longer and we all have a lot more time on our hands, we can put that bit more love and care into our cooking. Whether you want to rustle up a nice 3-course meal for your family, or finally try that recipe you came across on Facebook, it’s all a bit of fun. A friend recommended taking part in a family ‘Come Dine with Me’, whereby each family member takes it in turns to cook a meal each night, which sounds like a great idea to me. As I’m not the most culinary skilled individual, one kitchen-based recommendation that I can personally share is Tik Tok Iced Coffee. Whisk together two teaspoons of sugar, two teaspoons of instant coffee and one tablespoon of boiling water until frothy, pour over milk and ice, add a fancy straw and ‘voila’. If you’re a coffee lover like me you won’t regret it – plus those two teaspoons of coffee will definitely give you the energy you need if you’re feeling unproductive.

6. Catching up on your favourite TV shows, movies & books

For me personally, Disney plus has been a godsend during the lockdown. Nothing beats watching a good old Disney Classic and the newer live-action movies are fantastic too. Myself and my mum have been taking it in turns to pick films to watch together with some snacks to hand. My personal favourite so far has been the remake of Aladdin!

If you haven’t yet jumped on the Netflix Tiger King craze, I would also highly recommend you give that a watch. Whether your team Joe Exotic or team Carol Baskin, you’ll be hooked from the start. Watching too much TV can make me feel lazy and unproductive at times, but on those days where it all feels a bit much, it can be a great escape route.

7. Listening to Music

If at any point you’re struggling to find the energy and enthusiasm to get something done, I’ve found a great way to get up and shake the funk is to stick on your favourite album, or indeed explore some new music. A bit of background noise whilst completing the endless list of chores you gave yourself to do around the house makes it a lot more fun. Myself and my mum had a mini disco in the garden to some 90’s classics whilst hanging out the washing. I’m not so sure what the neighbours made to our dancing, but we had a good time!

8. Self Care

Whilst all of the suggestions above could arguably fall into the category of self-care, I have personally found that ensuring to take time out for just me, in order to process, reflect and relax has been really beneficial for my overall wellbeing during lockdown. Maybe I’m just a typical girl but for me you can’t beat a hot bubble bath with scented candles and a facemask, followed by some nail painting and glass of wine.

9. Going down Memory Lane

My final suggestion is something that I have not come across online yet in terms of lockdown ideas, but something that I have personally really enjoyed doing and wanted to share. In my opinion, nothing beats digging out old photo albums, schoolwork and reports, old baby clothes and toys etc. It’s a great laugh for the whole family and a reminder of happier times. It also helped to instill hope in me that things will eventually return to normal and many more memories will be made.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog and that at least one of these many ideas gives you inspiration.

If nothing else, I hope it helps you to feel that you are not alone in this situation and that we are all getting through this time in our own unique way. There is no right or wrong way to handle what is going on but a bit of fun and laughter where possible, for me, always helps!

Caitlin x