To say it was disappointing and inconvenient that the second English national lockdown started on the day that my marriage had been rearranged to is a bit of an understatement. Initially, this fact had an awful lot to do with how I was feeling about another lockdown. Why now? Why couldn’t they have waited another day? Why did weddings have to stop again? However, whilst it felt very unfair at the time it was being announced, there’s not much we can do but keep calm and carry on. And had I not been due to be married, I’d have welcomed the lockdown for all the reasons it needs to happen. But this lockdown is going to feel very different to last time.
Winter is coming
The nights are getting darker, the weather is getting colder, and although we’re actually allowed to spend more time outside than we were with the first lockdown there will be days when we really don’t feel like it. Like many people I usually find that this time of year has a negative effect on my mood and so there is some concern about what that will mean in lockdown. In the spring time it was much easier on the days which were bright, light and sunny even if we couldn’t go out in it. The prospect of a winter lockdown made me nervous even then.
Confusion about Christmas
Halloween and Bonfire Night are over and the countdown to Christmas has officially started. But this year nobody knows what it will look like. A few people have already asked what my plans are and the obvious answer is “it depends what we’re allowed to do”. It was fine sitting in my grandparents’ garden to visit them in July, but I’m not going to make them sit outside in December. Rule of six doesn’t matter so much if you have a small family, but what about those who have a much larger one? At the moment I think everyone’s counting on the fact that lockdown will be over by then and although it will be different this year, there will still be celebrations. But I remember how long lockdown was extended for last time so I’m not holding my breathe. We’ve ordered our favourite Christmas film just in case we’re stuck in our flat unable to see anyone. Before, summer was the light at the end of the tunnel, but this time we’re all counting on Christmas.
We have more freedom
However to look on the brighter side, we have a lot more freedom this time. The main one for me is no limit to the amount of time you spend outside. This meant on my days off last week we could enjoy the cold but dry days by going for long walks, rather than staying cooped inside and then heading out for the one permitted hour. You can also see someone from another household (outdoors and at a distance). This is another change from the spring which will make a big difference. Lots of places which were closed before will remain open (including parks and gardens) and so I don’t feel quite as trapped as I first felt in March. In fact, walking round the beautiful Westonbirt Arboretum yesterday you could almost imagine that there was no such thing as a lockdown.
My day to day life hasn’t changed that much
In March I got straight back from a long weekend in Madeira and had to first adjust to working from home, and then to lockdown conditions. My diary had multiple social engagements removed and my weekends were suddenly empty. It was a huge adjustment to make and not much time to do it. This time, bar the wedding, there’s not too much it has affected and everything we had booked in (including the wedding) was with the expectation it might have to be cancelled. I was still working from home anyway and we haven’t been going out to restaurants, bars or pubs. Life is actually going to change very little for me over the next month.
Mental health is a concern
There was a lot of worry about mental health in the spring and how the lockdown would affect people. However I’ve actually had more conversations about mental health and wellbeing over the last couple of months than I did earlier in the year. Colleagues, friends, family members and even myself to an extent are feeling it all now. It is worrying given that we’re going into lockdown feeling low and depleted. I’ve read quite a few articles about surge capacity which have helped me to an extent as there has been an explanation about why it seems difficult when things should have been improving. It’s also reassuring to know that other people are feeling the same way. We need to be kinder to ourselves and to each other now more than ever. We also need to be brave and honest about how we’re doing.
A few tips to improve the winter lockdown
Having not been through it yet I have no idea if this will help but here are a few of the things I’m planning on doing to try and make life a little easier…
- Get outside every day. No matter what the weather, or if it’s light or dark, I know I need time outdoors so I’ll be going on at least one walk every day.
- Be flexible with your work if you can. Back in spring I thought flexible working was for people who had to juggle childcare responsibilities. Now I know that if you’re working from home it helps to have a routine but you also need to work to your own rhythms. I plan to take a longer lunch break and work later into the evening throughout winter so that I can get some precious time in the light.
- Time away from a screen is important. Bring on the books, board games, jigsaws and painting! I discovered earlier this year that working from home feels even more exhausting if you spend most of your free time in front of a screen (even if it’s a zoom call with friends or family). So I’ll be trying to fill my evenings and weekends with as much time away from my laptop as possible.
- Embrace the season. In spring time I embraced watching the season change and seeing the flowers come into blossom. In summer I spent as much time outdoors as possible. As we head into winter, I’ll be embracing fairy lights around the flat and curling up under a blanket.
- Food is your friend. I really enjoyed spending more time cooking in the first lockdown, and trying out new recipes. It’s been a while since I attempted anything new so now is as good a time as any.
How are you feeling about a second lockdown?