How to Avoid the Lockdown Blues
All of us remember important milestones in history – landing on the moon, the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Now, we can add March of 2020 to the list. We will recall the outset of the Coronavirus and the last few days that most companies required employees to come into their office. People went about their normally scheduled workday routines. Some traveled frequently for work, held daily meeting’s, and even went to get a drink or two after work with colleagues. And then just like that, it all changed.
It’s been several months since shelter-in-place orders and the quarantine truly began and the lives we once lived feel like a long-removed thing of the past. For many at first, working from home was kind of a nice change of pace. The opportunity of working from your couch provided a nice change of scenery and the easiest of commutes. You welcomed a Zoom meeting, get together or happy hour with friends. Ordering take out every night was a must, because why not? But now we’re deep into the quarantine lockdown and the exciting novelties of the early days have just worn down. Your couch feels less comfortable, the anticipation of watching the next episode of Tiger King is long gone, and you’ve gone sour on all the restaurants within delivery radius of your home. We can all agree, the quarantine lockdown blues are real.
But until shelter in place restrictions are fully lifted, this is the “new normal” we are forced to live to ensure the safety of ourselves, loved ones, and friends. Instead of letting anxiety and pessimism settle in, go on the offensive with a plan. Here is what a few of the candidates and employers I spoke with have done. I am sharing their advice on how to avoid the quarantine blues from affecting you.
Put Some Variety in Your Daily Work Routine
Wake up. Check the news. Prepare Breakfast. Work. Eat Lunch. Work. Eat Dinner. Go to Bed. Rise & Repeat. These repetitive routines that we easily fall into are a major contributing factor to the lockdown blues. That’s why experts encouraged us to try and vary your routine occasionally so that it doesn’t affect your work productivity or your mental wellness.
“It’s very easy to get caught up in your work and find yourself doing work related activities around the clock, this was actually happening to me when shelter-in-place first started,” recalled Rick, Director of Security Operations. “The way I’ve changed it up is by setting a more structured day during my normally scheduled work hours and setting some boundaries for myself. This ensures that I am accomplishing what I need to do within the hours that I’m supposed to be doing it. It provides some much-needed balance.”
If that’s as simple as swapping your morning work schedule with your afternoon tasks, then be willing to try it. The goal is to stay mentally fresh while ensuring that your work isn’t compromised in the process. For Rick, it meant fewer disruptions during his workdays.
“I wanted to ensure I had more time for myself in the hours before work in the morning and the hours after work in the evening. I stopped leaving my house during lunch because that would cut into “me time” after work. A break here and there is fine. It’s all about being more efficient while I’m working.”
Give Yourself an Outlet
If the quarantine blues are interrupting your focus, try new and creative ways to regain focus.
“During the 2008 recession, I’ve had to find a way to keep working at a productive level at the same time deal with personal and professional stressors,” says Ellen, a Chief Human Resource Officer.
For Ellen, Human Resource Management is God’s work. She loves what she does and is not letting the current circumstance affect her mindset or work productivity. She embraced the challenge back in 2008.
“I turned to daily meditation to give myself a time and place where I could focus on me in-order to be able to help others. As a result of that daily practice When I deal with employees and when I reach out to them via email or even with a phone during quarantine, I want to make sure it’s a little more than business,” she says. “You want to be a compassionate listener, you want to be engaging, and you want to be a resource for them. Everyone is handling this differently, so going into any conversation with any of my clients I’m trying to keep it professional, but also as personable as possible. People need that now. I need that now too.”
And it works, for Ellen at least. For others who love their job and the thrill of being productive, you in a sense must make it a game for yourself. Give yourself goals for each day. Some easily attainable, others more difficult. Challenging yourself to get out of your regularly scheduled programming and comfort zone will keep you engaged, working harder, and help avoid any burnouts that come with the repetitious situation that we’re currently in.
Nourish Yourself Physically and Mentally
The closure of gyms has made staying fit a big challenge and studies show your emotional and mental health directly correlates with your physical health. Learning to cook or expanding your culinary skills is a great way to consume your time while also ensuring that what you’re putting into your body is good for you.
“It was so easy to just order takeout daily when this first started,” said Lawrence, Senior Director of Security. “I didn’t really expect it would go on this long, I was just ordering from all my favorite local spots five or six nights a week. As time went on, I knew that wasn’t sustainable, plus I was getting bored and gaining weight. Fast forward a couple of months, I’ve been cooking almost all my meals at home and trying out a few new foods. I actually look forward to cooking.”
Cooking gets you up and active, but you should make it a point each day to get away from behind your computer screen and off your couch to get some fresh air. Regularly going for walks, runs, and/or exercising helps relieve stress and gives you a routine to abide by while avoiding anxiety, depression-provoking inactivity that can contribute to your quarantine blues.
John added, “Whether it’s before work, during lunch, or after work, I’m making sure to get on my stationary bike. It’s good physical exercise but, I also find it to be refreshing mentally too.” You don’t want to fall into the trap of the Groundhog Day feeling of living the same day over and over. Be sure to switch up your routine and chose a different path when you can.
Be Good to Yourself and Those Around You
Many people shared with me how they fell into a rut and experienced the quarantine lockdown blues which lead them to lose touch with themselves, and even to lose touch with friends and family or the camaraderie of coworkers.
“I was working on a security project with one of my colleagues who went back home to New Jersey to quarantine with family,” recalled Lucy, Information Security Manager. “We were working in our offices several hours a day as a deadline was approaching. After a month and a half of not talking we arranged a Zoom call. She mentioned how she was craving the popcorn flavored Jelly Belly, jellybeans we would snack on in the afternoons while working on our project. That week, I sent a four-pound container to her and her family. Doing something like that for a co-worker was a great feeling.”
Whether it’s food, a gift, or just reaching out with a nice message, taking time to show others that you are thinking of them is a sure way to feel good and beat the blues.
Lucy went on to say, “I love receiving packages from Amazon when I buy online. I was thinking this would be an easy way to make someone else smile. So, I have been sending cards and small gifts to friends and co-workers.”
These are just a few of the examples people have shared with me. Other examples to beat the lockdown blues included walking dogs or doing shopping for friends and neighbors and volunteering for suicide hotlines.
These unprecedented times of COVID19 and civil unrest have caused feelings of hopelessness and unending anxiety. At a time when 2020 seems to offer blow after blow to our psyche, it’s these little things that keep us going and keep the quarantine blues at bay. A sense of isolation and loneliness can build up even in people living with family during the quarantine. Be sure you are caring for yourself.
Feel free to share examples of how you have beat the COVID-19 lockdown blues.