Finding Your Happiness

Isn’t the state of the world strange when you begin to reminisce about previous lockdowns? Although things weren’t easy back then, there felt like a collective effort to connect, a sense of motivation to try new things, and a hope that it wouldn’t last too long.

Comparing that to now, it’s not difficult to understand why we’re looking back at last March with rose-tinted glasses. Lockdown 3 has hit hard and brought with it an almost universal sense of fatigue and exhaustion. It can feel like you wake up and wait for the day to end, only for the same to happen again tomorrow. Like Groundhog Day without the sense of whimsy or fun.

On top of this, Lockdown 3 has coincided with some of the coldest and darkest months of the year and some of the wildest news stories of recent times. With all of that to deal with, it’s no wonder that most people are feeling overwhelmed. That feeling is completely natural. Remember that you are not alone in that.

Because with everything that’s going on, your mental health is probably taking a huge hit right now. You might be feeling less motivated, less productive, less hopeful. You might be feeling more irritable and more anxious, lonelier, tired all the time. Don’t be hard on yourself if you are. Keep reminding yourself that you’re literally almost a year into a global pandemic. It’s no wonder that you might not be feeling your best.

With that said, it’s more important than ever to look after your mental health. Given the state of the world, that’s easier said than done. But there are things you can do. Although you can’t change the state of the world, you do have the power to choose how you deal with it.

Switch Off

Living through so many historical events is exhausting. With the hyper-connectivity of the world, one scroll through Twitter or Instagram reveals a sea of information, bad news, and conspiracy theories that you can drown in. It’s too much. If you can, take an hour or a two when you’re not on your phone. Don’t look at the news, don’t doomscroll. Leave your phone in your room and do something to focus on yourself. Disconnecting, even if just for a while, is guaranteed to be a relief.

Switching off also applies to texting and messaging. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the notifications on your phone from group chats and DMs. Depending on how you’re feeling, your phone can feel like the best thing in the world or a little rectangle of anxiety. It’s ok if you need space for a while. It’s ok if you need a while to respond to messages. Turn your phone off or drop your friends a note to say you’re having some time for yourself. Don’t feel guilty if you’re not up for a call or a Zoom. Sometimes switching off is the best thing you can do for yourself.

Reach Out

For those times where the last thing you want is to be alone, reach out to the people you love. Phone that friend you haven’t talked to in a while, or a family member who would be delighted to hear from you. When you’re feeling lonely, there can be a temptation to isolate yourself. You can feel anxious or needy for reaching out. Try not to. You’re friends with your friends for a reason: because they love you.

Compared to the first lockdown, it can feel like no one’s interested in group calls or quizzes anymore. But bear in mind that everyone is feeling the effects of lockdown fatigue. It might be that your friends would be buzzing for a virtual group get-together. If you’re waiting for someone to organise something, you might find that your friends are waiting for exactly the same. Instead, try to take the first step in getting something organised. Because as grateful as you’ll be to speak to your friends, they’ll be just as grateful that you took the initiative to arrange it.

And a reminder to not be disheartened if some of your friends aren’t up for something right now. Just like you, they will be feeling the effects of the world and might need some time for themselves.

Reconfigure what productivity means

Productivity takes on new meaning in a world that’s stuck in place. Nothing is as fast-moving as it once was, so how can you be expected to keep up the pace you had before? Living through the anxieties of a pandemic is cognitively and emotionally draining, meaning you might feel like your energy to be productive is dropping.

In these times we have to change what productivity looks like. It could simply be making your bed in the morning. Making yourself something nice for dinner. Reading a chapter of a book. Sending an email.

Have just one thing you can do for yourself every day, whatever that looks like. Whether it’s a little bit of exercise every day, reading a certain number of pages, practicing an instrument for a set time. If you have just this one thing that you can look ahead to every day, not only does it give you something to strive for, but it gives you a sense of achievement when it’s done.

Another great way to add some routine and achievement into your day is to create lists! Why don’t you write down a list of all the films you’ve been meaning to see or a list of books you’d love to read or the albums or podcasts you’ve been dying to hear or recipes you want to learn. Do this for things you love, rediscover an old hobby, or start something new. Whatever it is you’re interested in, create a checklist and work towards completing the list over the coming days and weeks. You’re achieving something while simultaneously doing something you enjoy. Learn to enjoy your own company and to look forward to it.

There is no expectation for you to become the twenty-first century Shakespeare or to run a marathon each morning. You are not a failure. You are a human being living through a deadly pandemic. Your job is to keep yourself going. Celebrate the small things you achieve each day and bear in mind that you managed to do that in the middle of the most challenging time of our lives.

Outside is your friend

It’s so easy to become stuck inside the four walls of whatever room you’re reading this in right now. Get yourself outside and not just to go to the shop – go outside with no other purpose than to be present somewhere that isn’t your home. Breathe in the fresh air, remember the world outside and explore. Explore your area, take unexpected routes, people-watch and enjoy it.

Not only is it good to get some sunlight and fresh air, but if everyone you live with is also confined to the house it can feel like you never truly get any alone time – this is an opportunity to get that. And if you’re alone in your house, getting outside allows you to at least be around other people and to feel like a part of the world.

Look after yourself

What do you do if you have the flu and can’t get anything done? You take a sick day and look after yourself. The exact same applies for your mental health. If you’ve reached a place where even getting out of bed feels like too much, where the thought of work could kill you, it’s time for you to take a sick day. Nap. Watch television. Have a bath. Scroll Tik Tok. Light a candle and do nothing at all. Workplaces are getting better at understanding the impacts of mental health so don’t force yourself to do anything you’re not capable of doing. Take the time to refresh, reconfigure and relax. Prioritise and look after yourself.

We’ve never lived through anything like this before. There is no right way to do it, no one-size-fits-all solution. We are on unchartered territory and so however you feel, however you process it is yours and yours alone. Don’t let others make you feel like how you’re dealing with things is wrong. Once you understand what you’re feeling, and understand that these feelings are a product of the world at the moment, you can make moves to manage it. Find the things that work for you and keep yourself moving. Keep yourself going. Keep talking and feeling and trying. Keep your brain working. Keep safe.

These times are hard. There’s no denying it. There’s a temptation to view now as an interlude before real life begins again. But don’t discount these days as wasted. Looking after your mental health in a time like this is not time wasted. Try to fill your days with as many things that make you happy as possible. Find your happiness and amplify it, apply it to your life and give yourself what you need, whether it’s time to yourself, talking to friends, doing the things you like or just prioritising your mental health and taking care of yourself. Even in times like these there are pockets of happiness to be found. Any day with happiness in it is a day worthwhile. This may have been a bad year as a whole, but we can try our hardest to make it a bad year comprised of good days, whatever that looks like for you.

If you need to talk to someone about anything that’s going on, please don’t hesitate to contact Bella Vita.

If you are having a mental health crisis, please contact Samaritans at 116 123 for confidential support or call 999 directly.

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