Here we are a few weeks into a strange new normal, that is nowhere near our old normal ever was.

The world has been shut down before our eyes and we have found ourselves powerless to do anything about it.  Shut down due to an unseen, yet tragically fatal, force.

So, what do we do now?  Some of you may have been adjusting to pottering about, catching up with things that were staring at you, waiting to be done.  Some of you may have still chosen to ignore those old unfinished tasks, ahem, gleefully.  But either way, we are all still in lockdown, whilst still being eternally grateful to those key workers literally risking their own lives to keep the world fed, watered and functioning.

For many, it had been a time for reflection, whilst for others, there has been too much time to damn well reflect on.  So, how best to cope in these strange times?

I was recently listening to a talk by a former uncharged prisoner who had been held in isolation for many years.  He shared some really valuable advice with his audience.  Some of which may seem blindingly obvious, but in their nature, that is why they were so valuable.   I’ll share a few with you here.

First and foremost is routine.  Having a routine is fundamental, as it gives structure to the day.  It doesn’t have to be rigid, not something to guilt trip yourself over, or pressurise yourself to stick with, but something that gives you a framework in which to peg parts of your day onto.  This has certainly worked for me so far.

This doesn’t have to be about fitting in a multitude of online language classes for you and piling on limitless activities for the kids, who were sent home from school with lists of passwords for their seemingly endless online classrooms.  It is about having a loose idea of what part of the day you will do something and when.   You don’t need to be fluent in a Mongolian dialect by the end of lockdown just to prove to yourself that you are able to keep your brain going.

Along with routine, comes sleep.  Just because the sofa is there, it doesn’t have to be sat on, or laid down on, for a possible 16 hour stint.  I may be exaggerating to highlight a point, but nonetheless, it’s not a good idea to be semi-attached to piece of furniture really, is it?  Some things go beyond comfort at a point!

Keeping a bedtime that isn’t too far off a normal time is pretty good going, as it will keep your sleeping pattern regular, which helps stave off anything that vaguely starts to look like depression.

Secondly, and again without the pressure, comes exercise.  Bearing in mind this former prisoner was in solitary confinement during part of his prison stay, he used exercise to keep himself fit, and as sane as he could.  Obviously, it doesn’t have to be hi tech.  He said he did star jumps, press ups etc.  Light exercise in whatever space you have is fine.  Little and often daily during lockdown is better than losing your life to Netflix and shifting from one end of the sofa to the other accompanied by the quarantine snacks are oddly disappearing at a quick pace.

And when it comes to parenting, cut yourself some slack.  This lockdown business looks like it’s here for a while yet, so don’t expect to be the same smiley school run parent.  There are no clubs to ferry the kids off to and keep them out of sight for a while.  Extra bodies are in the house, big and small, and it is how we deal with them that keep us sane, and yes that’ll feature a bit extra screen time, ahem, maybe a couple more hours here and there.

Another useful tip that was shared was when it comes to the kitchen…yep, another potential area, literally, of conflict, especially as it has the food in it!  His advice was for ONE person to be in the kitchen at a time.  Crikey, talk about effective, and doesn’t it make sense?  Just one person, imagine, that’s almost luxurious when you consider how many people are likely to be indoors at the moment.

And all those books you intend to read during lockdown?  Read what you feel like when you feel like it.  Again, not another area for guilt tripping.  Lockdown doesn’t have become a reading marathon, unless of course you want it to(!)  Oh, and only start writing that book if you want to.  You really don’t have to complete that trilogy ready for the book deal come Autumn either!

All in all, we can sort of keep sane, well, a “lockdown sane” AKA survival, by looking at the small wins in the day and having a loose routine.  You don’t have to have highly ambitious expectations of what you will learn, don’t push yourself too hard, don’t expect your kids to have become little professors by September, don’t expect your spouse to have redecorated the house or given the garden a makeover, don’t expect to become a master baker over the summer, nor clear out the garage, wardrobe or whatever other space you use a dumping ground.  If it gets done as a by product of the lockdown, that’s all well and good, but don’t put additional pressure on yourself if you come out the other side of this with stuff in the house still looking at you waiting to be done.  That’s life, there will always be something that needs to be done.  Unless it’s urgent, don’t use it as a lockdown tool to batter yourself with.

Keep it simple and stay safe.  Walk away when the kids are bickering – they can sort things out themselves, don’t expect the house to be spotless just because there are more people at home to tidy.  That is precisely why the place is not spotless!

Allow this time for you to hear how compassionate your heart really is.  Do a good deed here and there where you can and feel the love in your heart for those who are facing far harder times than us just wondering why the quarantine snacks are running low.

We are all in this together.

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