60 days and counting — some thoughts on riding the coronacoaster

It’s two months since I started my lockdown diary, but it could be two years for all I know. Everything about my old life has faded to a memory. Each week a different fantasy takes hold — the thought of a night out in the pub with friends, or going dancing in a sweaty basement club, but most of all a hug, a touch, any form of contact with someone I love.

The first month or so of lockdown wasn’t too bad.

Living on my own for years meant I’m pretty good at keeping myself amused, and work kept me busy during the majority of the week. Sure, there were some bad days, and a few times when I burst into tears without even knowing why… but other than that it was relatively (in pandemic terms) plain sailing.

The last few weeks have been much tougher though, and I slipped into a dark patch that I had to work my way out of. Here’s my attempt at capturing the process in a tweet

Been in a low-grade depressive funk the past week. Yesterday my brain snapped back together, and I realised there’s no shortcuts from 1 to 4.

1) Feel crap (denial)

2) Admit you are feeling crap, but that this ok

3) Restart routines/exercise (wait for it…)

4) Feel good again!

I’m no stranger to depression, but that doesn’t mean it ever gets any easier to deal with. This time I had an incredible moment of mental clarity as I emerged from phase 3 into phase 4 — like the flick of a switch that illuminated my whole brain. (A feeling that was undoubtably enhanced by being on a bike ride at the time).

With no clear end of all this in sight, and the lockdown still continuing here in Scotland, all I know is that I need to keep doing the usual things that help me feel good. Especially as we’re going to be riding the coronacoaster for some time to come…

Hot shower, cold shower

After your usual shower, turn the water cold, and stay under it for as long as possible. You might only last 30 seconds the first time, but as your body adapts you’ll last longer. I’m not going to pretend that it’s enjoyable whilst you’re under there (watch out for ice-cream headaches) but it does feel bloody amazing afterwards as your skin comes alive and your whole body warms up again. Works even better after exercise too.

Keep a lockdown diary

You don’t need to publish it anywhere, show it to anyone, or even write every day. But writing something down about how you’re feeling always helps, especially if you’re in lockdown on your own. Over time, you’ll build an amazing outside perspective on how your life has progressed. Watch my talk on why you should write.

Virtually eating

If you’re in lockdown on your own like me, you’re no doubt bored of eating on your own. (Boy, would I LOVE someone to cook me a meal for a change). Anyway, I try to have at least one meal a week “with other people” via video chat, so at least I can pretend to have company. There’s something wired into the human brain that makes us feel good when we eat with other people, and even a video call seems to be enough to trigger this.

Build a routine (but allow it to break)

I’m lucky to have an enforced morning routine, thanks to my cat. Even if he hasn’t given me a wee yowl by 8pm, just knowing he’s sitting outside my bedroom door is enough to get me out of bed like clockwork. Cats like routines, and I like cats, so… think like a cat and figure out a routine. But don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t always stick to it. Everyone is entitled to have off-days at the moment. (I’m finding afternoon naps helpful too :)

Dance like a maniac

This one is crazily effective. You just stick some music on and dance around for a bit. I don’t need to say anything else really. I usually go for my kitchen (because kitchens are best at parties, right?) and try to forget that all the flats opposite me can see my every move.

And from one rollercoaster to another…

A quick closing thought for you….

I’ve just remembered that I wrote another piece on riding the creative rollercoaster a few years back:

Of course, it’s a different process because you enter into by choice… but there are still some interesting similarities.

Whether you’re currently on an up or a down, I hope you’re doing ok overall. I’m just trying to hang onto the thought that all rides come to a stop eventually.

Posted to life in 2020.

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