Self-care strategy to salvage you sanity during a lockdown

8:03 AM

staying home can be stressful, especially if you live in a small home with family.

I did a little "maths" the other day, and realised that my life stopped being normal 4 months ago. Mumbai entered a mild lockdown on March 13, and it was soon followed by 2.5 months of tight draconian national lockdown that left all of us in various type of pickles, only to be back on a moderate lockdown for god knows how long. 

The most taxing part of staying home has been staying home non stop with hubby and daughter and trying to make 3 different schedules and routines work for our 1000-ish square foot apartment. I has been figuring out how to give each other much needed space, which at the height of the tight lockdown meant not being able to step out at all. 
It meant finding a routine that let us all have a shot at working undisturbed, sharing a home office, figuring out meal time, dividing chores and making room for a different type of self-care. 

A few months ago, at a time that could be well be a lifetime ago, I was writing about the importance of self-care. That blog post written in January was title "Make self-care your absolute priority in 2020". I had no idea how important that would be, how our world would change so drastically overnight and make us re-evaluate our priorities and make us realise how much personal space matters (for sanity and keeping the virus away)
The blog post was already mentioning delegating housework, having a routine, and making time for ourselves. 
In my case, sadly the option of heading to my favourite restaurant for a tea break or a salad lunch is no longer possible. First because we aren't allowed to do that just yet, and because that said favourite restaurant became a victim of this draconian lockdown and has announced it was shutting its door permanently.  I'm still mourning their chicken and bacon cob salad and warm spiced tea if you must know. 

Getting personal space in a busy home

If your home is anything like mine, it's probably a cacophonous world of conference calls and virtual classroom time on the speaker. A world where there is no respite from any form of chitter chatter, and it's really hard to filter it out. 
Especially if, like me, you are an introvert for whom quiet time is of paramount importance for your sanity.
Between my husband putting his conference calls on the bluetooth speaker in the office, and Ishita either putting her friends on the speaker on my phone or attending her online classes from our dinning table with an external speaker (my laptop's internal one broke), my quiet life has gone for a toss. 

The single most important purchase I have made as soon as the non-essential items ban has been lifted was getting noise cancelling headphones (it's an Amazon affiliate link by the way). This is the one purchase I made IMMEDIATELY after I learned the ban had been lifted on that kind of items. It's how desperate I was to reclaim some "me-time" on my term. 
Being able to listen to music or a podcast without the chitter chatter of others of the TV coming through my regular flimsy half broken earbuds was the need of the hour. 

Very early on in the lockdown, we also worked a system of me having my home office in the mornings, until hubby needed it for his calls, and still maintaining an early bedtime for our daughter so that we could have some TV time and quiet time in the evenings.
We also took full advantage of our balconies, we are blessed enough to have 4 of them in this flat, 5 if you count the utility one off the kitchen, and when you aren't allowed to step outside, these become your pocket sized corner to reconnect with the outdoors while still sticking to the government rules. If you don't have a balcony, open your window wide, shut the door, and stand or sit by said windows and take it all in. 
If you haven't already, make that balcony or window area into a green corner, bring the outdoors in. I suck at gardening or taking care of plants but I still need that greenery in my life. 
If you can't get hold of your local plant nursery or gardener, despair not! I just did a quick Amazon search for "plant soil for pot plants" and it yields good results. You can also find seeds, planters, and even live plants on the site too. You could also use the seeds you can find in your kitchen or with your local grocery shops and try growing a herb and vegetable garden in pots. 
It's a fun activity for kids, we grew watercress (aka haleem), moong dal, and attempted to grow a lemon tree from seeds (it failed). I'm waiting for the monsoon to end to grow sweet basil and tomatoes as these two need sun. 

Seek ways to adapt your pre-covid time routine

I can't go to my favourite restaurants or meet my friends for a weekly lunch yet, but I still can make myself a cup of tea, work on creative work when everything is quiet, and as of June, go back to walking down in my complex. 
I had to adjust things around a bit, especially the work schedule bit since my daughter needs my laptop from 8.30am to 1pm for school, but I ended up finding a way that works. 

These days I wake up a bit earlier than before, so that I have that quiet morning time to finish work on the laptop before I have to give it up. Once the laptop is gone, I focus on creative work that doesn't require said laptop. In an artist / illustrator's life that means painting and sketching on paper, or on the iPad using a digital drawing app. I do that until hubby needs the office for work and then move on to straightening the kitchen, listening to music, and relaxing until lunch time. After lunch I take a nap, because after all I've been up since 5. 
Post nap, I resume work on the laptop, but do the less demanding type of work, which can be done from the dinning table while my daughter chit chats on the phone or watch a bit of TV.
By 6 I am done with all things work, and if it is not raining, I go for a walk (it's been raining a lot this past week) or have an early dinner. By 8.30 my daughter is in her bed (sleeping or not sleeping it's up to her) and I sit down to watch a bit of Netflix or read a book and am usually in bed by 10.30 myself. 

We are still trying as a family to make "weekends" feel a bit more special, that part has gone for a toss since the lockdown began, and it is still really hard to see Saturday and Sunday as anything but "just another day" Those were the days we would go either watch a movie, go out for lunch, or go to a park or the other words, we used to be out and about. 
These days we use Saturday and Sunday to do chores we didn't do during the week, though to be fair, we used to do that before March too and we try not to let work creep into our weekend too much. 
Weekends are the hardest days, they are those days that no longer make the same type of sense as they did before the lockdown, I can't explain it in a way that would make sense. 

Treat yourself! 

Just because we are living a ver indoorsy homely life, doesn't mean we should stop treating ourselves. There is one ritual we never stopped in our house : 

Take out Wednesday

Wednesday was a busy day for me, with at one point two art classes back to back dragging until 7.30pm and no time or energy left to cook dinner. It gave birth to our favourite family ritual of the week : ordering take out food and eating all together as a family. It was such a thing that even hubby would make sure his office work load was over early so he could make it home by 8 and eat dinner with us. 

Since we are now all working from home, we don't do take out for dinner, but for lunch, and it's still happening every Wednesday. 
I know many people started freaking out at ordering outside food, I will not debate that. I belong to the clan of people who NEVER freaked out about the virus entering my home on takeout containers or even fruits and vegetables from the market. I NEVER disinfected containers, or rinsed produce in a bath of water and vinegar, or quarantined anything. Why? Because researches have pointed at the fact contamination through packages and food is close to NIL. 
We enjoyed 4 months of takeout Wednesdays without problem and plan on keeping that tradition alive and well, beside, it support a small business in these times of need. 

If take out food is not your thing, treat yourself to home baked cookies, a new pair of yoga pants, or a scented candle once in a while. Or buy the supplies you need to start a new hobby...
The idea is to not see your time spent at home as a punishment or a prison sentence, turn it into a new normal instead. A normal where you still splurge on little pleasures that make your world go round. Just because we can't be as social as before and gather in malls and restaurants doesn't mean we have to live an ascetic hermit life of boring food, work, sleep and repeat.

Give your home some TLC

I'm willing to bet that by now we all have found a new form of respect for our home and home decor. I said it before, home decor is important
A happy, clutter free home can lift your mood, making room for oasis of calm all through your home is just what the Dr ordered when you are pretty much confined to said home most of your day. 

If you needed an excuse to tackle the mess, now is never going to be better. Grab those garbage bags, and just get rid of all the things that you never use, are broken or are way past their expiration date. 
Then find ways to store the rest of your belonging in a way that is organised and won't be an eyesore in the middle of the bedroom/living room/bathroom/whatever-room. 
You can either repurpose storage containers you had, or buy them new. Just make sure everything has a place to be stored away when not in use. You might even make more space in your home to get an "office corner" you never thought you could have. 
After all, working from home is unlikely to be something that will go away anytime soon, if you ask me, it's going to be one of those things that are going to become the new normal for a lot of people even after the virus threat is done with,  so you might want to re-think your home space to accommodate a work corner at the default of having an entire room dedicated to it. 

Don't fret, go with the flow and normalise the situation

I think it's safe to say that life as we knew it has gone for a toss, and some of it is going to be permanent, the sooner we all make peace with that and make the situation we have as a new form of normal the better it is. 
We've all been through a lot, the first few weeks were the hardest for all of us, it's been very stressful, and in a way I felt like I had to grieve a past that deep down I knew was gone. The uncertainty that replaced that comfortable past has been the hardest to deal with and there have been days that were NASTY.
I still have some of those days, but looking back on things now, I always had nasty days, even before the pandemic hit us in the face. I always approached those days with a solid dose of selfcare and a huge dollop of "take it easy". I have a 2015 blog post that proves sucky days aren't something we just invented this year.

So in short, focus on things that make you happy, don't sweat the small stuff, and if the news and Facebook makes you feel angry, turn it off. We will all get through this, you don't need to know how or when, just know we will, and focus on treating yourself well in the now. 

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  1. It's extremely important in these times to be calm ... You have listed wonderful tips ... And, I liked the way you ended the post. That's exactly what is needed.

    1. It's very easy to give in to panic and anxiety these days, but in the end it has a lot to do with what we choose to focus on. I have friends who day in and day out feel the need to share news article about death, increasing numbers, incidents, and more death. I rarely see them share or talk about anything remotely positive about the situation. As a result they get more stressed, more upset and frankly, I don't think it is worth putting ourselves in such a knot over things that are completely out of our control.

      Nothing lasts forever, not even this covid crisis will, I can't do much other than staying home as much as possible and wearing a mask when I step out, anything else is out of my control and not worth getting a stomach ulcer upon.


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