I am a little embarrassed to admit that even after decades of learning to deal with loss, I still suffer its effects at an intensity which surprises me.
A few weeks ago when my boyfriend dropped me at my back door after our romantic climbing holiday had ended abruptly due to the Sydney lockdown, I felt it hard. I was facing the prospect of being alone in my house for six long weeks.
It was too much time to think. Too much time to brood, wallow and catastrophise. Those feelings of gloom, invisibility, desertion, and abandonment I’ve had when I’ve been lost in the wilderness returned to me. I felt like I was lost in the wilderness of my mind, and all I wanted to do was curl up in the foetal position under my doona and sob.
I don’t like to admit I get sad sometimes. My brand is positivity, my mission to help others find joy. My usual stiff-upper-lip, toughen-up-princess mindset usually gets me through, but it wasn’t working that day. So I ate a tub of gelato and went to bed.
The next day, I remembered something my mum had taught me as a child. When I complained of being sad as a little girl, she told me to go do something for somebody else. Of course, this wasn’t what I wanted to hear at the time, but that day, I was open to it.
So, I took off my Oodie, put on my active wear, walked to the corner shop, turned Pink’s “Let’s Get This Party Started” on full blast and baked some Wild Women cookies for my neighbours. It was a small act, but it helped me clear my mind.
Then I turned my attention to all the other joy-sparking practices and rituals I have learned over the years. Gradually, my mood began to improve, and by the following day, I was sparkling again.
I know I’m not the only one in a lockdown slump. Things kinda suck right now. Sure, there are still lots of things to be grateful for, but it’s okay to be sad, too. It’s okay to feel a little helpless, but I don’t want you to feel hopeless.
Here are some of the things that helped me reignite my hope and let the light back in. If you’re in a lockdown slump (or any other type of slump!) I hope they can help you, too.
Do something for somebody else
Doing something for someone else is one of the quickest, easiest ways to feel better. This could be making a meal, baking treats, phoning a friend, bringing in your neighbour’s rubbish bins, running an errand, writing a letter or inviting a friend for a walk. It doesn’t need to be big. Any random act of kindness will shift your focus off yourself and lift your spirits instantly.
Lace up your runners and go for a walk. If it’s raining, rug up and grab your raincoat. Embrace the fresh air as you step outside. Wander around the block, float a leaf down the gutter, explore your local gardens, green space or public reserves, call ya mum or a friend and avoid the pavement as much as possible. You’ll be amazed how quickly you’ll feel better just by getting outside.
Try strolling, skipping, jumping puddles, dancing up the stairs, planking on a park bench, climbing a tree, walking in mud or squatting while you watch the sunset.
If you’re in quarantine, you’ll need to summon all your creativity. Think about all the things you weren’t allowed to do as a kid, such as jumping on the bed, doing handstands in the lounge room, planking on the couch, climbing on the kitchen bench (socks off recommended for good grip), climbing the door frames, dancing in the kitchen, playing chasey or hide and seek.
Moving is a guaranteed mood lifter, and it takes just five minutes to spark joy.
Go wild in the kitchen
Whether it’s dipping your finger into cookie dough, tenderising eggplant, creating an aromatic curry, roasting butternut pumpkin or baking doggy bickies, cooking is all about love for the creatures you’re cooking for, which makes it one of the most therapeutic, and delicious, activities you can choose.
Turn off the news
It’s easy to become consumed by the latest COVID case numbers but hard to protect yourself from too much negativity. A wise woman once said of the news: “If its important, somebody will sure as hell tell you about it,” so try swapping your news time for snuggle time.
No secrets here. Getting 8 hours of quality sleep is great for healing, rejuvenating and recharging your mind, body and spirit.
Tickle your partner
When was the last time you played this little game? I dare you to try it and challenge you not to laugh!
Accomplish a task
Humans are programmed to achieve stuff and when we do, we get a little dopamine burst. Even mundane things like hanging the washing on the line or wet dusting the windowsills can give you slivers of joy and contentment.
Read a book
Research shows reading can improve brain connectivity, increase empathy, help you sleep, reduce stress, and prevent cognitive decline. So… get reading!
Listen to your favourite tunes
We all know listening to music lifts our mood, but its also been shown to reduce anxiety, relieve stress, reduce pain and improve memory. So get your headphones on and go wild.
Dance like nobody’s watching
Getting your dancing shoes on is one of the best things you can do for your health and your mood. Dancing improves your cardio, increases strength and fitness and helps you maintain your youthful vitality… so put your favourite tunes on, turn the light off and let loose.
Belt out a song
Don’t just let it rip it the shower. Sing your heart out because it’s bloody good for you. Singing has been shown to increase our sense of belonging and connection. It also relieves stress, increases pain threshold and helps with grief. Do it today!
Do a downward dog
Like exercise, stretching gives you happy hormones, so why not take a lesson from our furry friends and try a downward or an upward dog right now?
Wrestle on the bed
A favourite with kids and kidults alike. Same as tickling… it’s fun but you need a buddy. If you don’t have one, jump on the bed instead.
Play a game
As my kids have recently taught me, living alone is no excuse for not playing games. Phone a friend, set up a Zoom link and get gaming. There’s lots out there and you can start here.
Light a candle
Such a simple thing to do to calm your mind, create ambiance and improve your mood. Give it a go.