Anxiety levels are higher than ever during the lockdown. The idea of not being able to go out whenever you feel like to — even having in mind that this is all for a very good reason such as trying to control a worldwide pandemic — can alter the mood of even the strongest-minded person. But why does this happen? Were people not used to spending more time at home during winter?
Specialists say that this so-called ‘’new normal’’ is making people feel like they are stuck, stealing them the perspective of a future since no one knows when this will all go away for good. On top of that, there is also the fact that most people — especially the ones that live solo — significantly decreased their social interaction level.
What can these people do indoors, to keep their minds busy and healthy at the same time? Here is a list of four things I have tried, and that has helped me feel better on difficult days.
1.Reading is Fundamental
As RuPaul says to the contestants on his Drag Race show, reading is fundamental. Although we are not competing for the meanest and funniest comment, the sentence still holds value.
A few years ago, I always had the habit of taking some time of my days to read books. As the years went by, work and other activities slowly made me exclude this part of my routine and replace it with more work and mobile time. During the lockdown, I was able to have more spare time and started reading smaller books, respecting my own time and not pushing too far. After a few months, I was spending most of my time reading four hundred page’s books without even realizing how big they were.
The list of benefits that reading brings to people’s lives is very significant. In addition to bringing more knowledge and improving vocabulary, books can also relieve stress and improve concentration and analytical thinking. Just remember to do it by your own rules and respecting your limits. Reading should be fun and pleasant, so be sure to pick themes you enjoy — or maybe discover new ones?
If you have saved some money to spend on anything you like, I would highly recommend Amazon’s Kindle, or pretty much any e-reader in the market. The good thing about Kindle is that you can subscribe to Kindle Unlimited and have access to a significant amount of free books monthly.
2. Find your Inner Zen
In my life, I have always had problems being quiet or sitting still for long periods of time, whether it was going to high school as a kid and having to sit for hours and hours in a not-so-comfortable chair, or spending too long in a waiting room to see a doctor. After knowing this part of me, you would probably think I’m not a ‘’zen’’ person and that I was definitely not born to meditate, right? Wrong.
When I heard the word ‘’meditation’’, the first thing that came to my mind was an association with a doctrine or a religion. My mother is a very ‘’zen’’ person herself, always joining meditation groups and encouraging people — and me — to give it a try. I never thought I could do that, and even had a little bias about its effectiveness. Until one day I came across a very colourful and fun post on Instagram, talking about this meditation and mindfulness app called Headspace. Since I’m a very digitally-savvy person, I thought I could give it a try, so I downloaded the free trial, with very low expectations regarding its benefits. I was surprised to see that they have a completely unexpected and different approach to meditation. In the app, you can select meditations to sleep, songs, videos and even monthly courses. Another cool thing is that every time you join the app, it tells you how many hours you have meditated so you can keep track of your routine. After a month, I saw myself completely addicted to it and already feeling its positive effects.
Specialists say that if you spend at least five minutes a day meditating, you can already feel the benefits of this practice. Besides reducing anxiety levels, some researches say that meditation can also help with asthma, chronic pain, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep problems and tension headaches.
Since we talked about books in the previous topic, why don’t combine it with meditation? Here are some fun and easy-to-read books to get a little deeper into this amazing technique:
- The Headspace Guide To Meditation And Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe
- 10% Happier by Dan Harris
- Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
3. Social Distancing with Friends
It is pretty clear at this point that one of the main weapons against covid-19 is social distancing. But that doesn’t mean you have to go through the quarantine without seeing your friends. Online platforms that once were used solely for business and meetings were completely reframed to fulfil the space left by the physical distance. We’ll talk more about it in a second.
One of my favourite things in the world is getting together with my friends to gossip, drink some wine and watch 90’s music videos on YouTube. When things started to get worse, and I realized I would be spending a long time without being able to see them, I panicked.
One beautiful day, after a work meeting, I asked a friend to join me for a virtual happy hour over zoom, thinking it would be only a thirty-minute conversation and nothing more than that. Two hours and two bottles of wine later, we were still catching up with all the news we had been accumulating at that time. After this first time, Zoom meetings became a weekly tradition, and it didn’t take long before they turned into chaotic Zoom parties, with more than fifteen people talking over each other. In the end, this made me feel closer to them while still respecting all the Covid-19 safety recommendations.
4. Netflix and Chill (for real)
I have already mentioned that I love hanging out with my friends. Besides wine parties, we would often go to the movies together. Of course, this was also something that we had to stop doing — and even if we wanted to go, theatres were closed.
Thankfully, we now have multiple options when it comes to watching movies and TV series. Besides the good old cable TV, there is also a most recent option, called ‘’streaming platforms’’. If you were not living under a rock over past years, you might have heard about Netflix and its very innovative system that lets you browse a large catalogue of movies and TV series and watch it whenever you want it, from your mobile phone, TV and PC.
If you are someone like me, who loves binge-watching everything, and that probably has watched all there is to see on Netflix — if that is even possible — don’t worry. Besides this most known platform, there are a few other streaming platforms with really good original content that are worth your time, such as Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, HBO Max and more. If you don’t want to spend too much money subscribing to all these new platforms — and if you are a binge-watcher like me — you can just sign-up for free trials to see which platform suits you best.
Besides being a good option to pass the time without having to think too much about the ‘’real world’’, watching movies and series can be extremely beneficial to your mind. This activity helps relieve stress — as long it’s not a horror or thriller movie, of course -, and increases awareness and social skills.