Self-Isolation or Self-Restoration?
Photo by Ross Sneddon @ Unsplash
Who would've thought at the start of the year, that New Zealand and several other countries, would be in a nationwide lockdown by April - while many countries lose hundreds of people each day, to a killer nobody can see.
Technically termed a crisis, we are two and a half weeks into lockdown, and I have come to realise that your perception of a current situation, and your willingness to seek out positive aspects and opportunities within any crisis, is crucial in deciding whether times like these make us or break us. I truly believe this is the Earth resetting itself, while we all get back to basics and hopefully reconnect with ourselves, our families and the world around us. I think for many, this is an opportunity to be thankful for the everyday things we take for granted.
Lots are going to really struggle during this time, so I urge you to help however you can and be mindful that while for many this is a time to reconnect with yourself, there are people who truly are living in crisis-mode. Many of us are lucky to have jobs that we can take home, families that are safe, homes that are warm and dry and no underlying health issues like depression, anxiety or bipolar. Many of us are technologically savvy and are going to be just fine staying connected and entertaining ourselves. For many this is not the case. To these people, I send all my love and hope that they are able to hold onto hope and joy during this time.
Taking it day by day, I have come to realise that there is a lot of ‘me’ I had lost touch with over the years and have reconnected with my inner-being. You know, that voice within your head when you are quiet and relaxed? The one that always seems to know exactly what to say and do in any situation. The voice that loves you no matter what. Even if we have forgotten how to tap into this wisdom and instead google for help or stew in fear or anger, it is always there. Submerged, but there. I began to see this particular time as no crisis for me, but rather a time to reconnect with the smaller world around me, and the larger one within me.
I have chosen to re-name this period to a self-restoration or lock-in, as I find myself tapping into what I need, what I want and what gives me the greatest joy each and every day. Below I have shared the three main areas of my life I have restored, and offer some ways that you could do the same.
I understand my position is unique. I don’t have kids or parents to look after, so some of the below things won’t be practical, appealing or possible for everyone. But I encourage you to look over them and turn within to see what else you might like to do that will transform this time into something that gives back to you, rather than just seeing it as a period of loss.
Restore A Sense of Play
It’s easy to see this time as endless days of working and binging Netflix. But even if you are working from home, you have likely discovered you have more free time due to no commute or slightly shorter work days because you are more productive in a quieter setting. So while it is tempting to just blob, this is a great time to re-invigorate some hobbies you haven’t had the time to do, or pick up a new one you have been eager to try ‘when you get the time’.
I call it play because as adults, we tend to link everything to an achievement. What’s the point in doing something that requires effort if we aren’t going to get an immediate reward or one step closer to our overarching goals? But that is missing the point. Play is achieving something. It reduces stress, promotes creativity, and is fun! Why wouldn't you want to have fun? Children don’t need an excuse to play. The need is there and they look to fulfil it. As adults, we quickly become consumed by what we need to do to get from point A to B that we forget to enjoy the moments in between. The blank space, and therefore the blank canvas, to let our hair down and have some fun.
Play can be things related to your goals, but this is a time of re-framing how you perceive things. If your goal is to get fitter, then using play to do that is easier than trying to force yourself into an at-home workout that mimics your standard gym routine. Why not think of the most fun, physical activity you can think of and do that instead? Other forms of play can be creating games with those in your bubble. For me, this week it was doing one of those adult colouring books which I have had for months, and James and I did an Easter hunt in our backyard. These play times aren’t to achieve anything other than a time to be with myself or others, and just have fun.
Some ways you could restore a sense of play:
Commit to finishing any projects you have been putting off, or pick out a new one. Pinterest is always a good place to start
Start a new hobby. This site has some great ideas for hobbies that might spark some curiosity within you
Connect with your inner child - what was one thing you loved to do as a kid? Whether you liked building forts, playing hide-and-seek or painting, reconnect with that part of you and do some of those things now
Restore A Safe Place to Feel
This might sound heavy, but it is actually a lot easier and healthier than we realise. This time is going to let a lot of gunk in our subconscious mind float up to the surface. We are likely going to feel a lot of emotions about the state of the world, as well as face emotions we've been burying for years, because now a lot of outside distractions have disappeared. We can either ignore them, push them down and pretend we are fine, or we can look at them, examine where they came from and then gently scoop them and away from our lives with better insight into how we can honour ourselves and make positive changes going forward.
Whether it is just the nature of being confined and having our freedom threatened, or whether we just have more headspace and therefore we run into more things that are happening to us in ‘there’, we might find our moods changing quickly. While always trying to remain positive, it would be impractical for me to assume that during this time I am not going to bump against anger, annoyance, fear and sadness. Each emotion serves a purpose, and they are all valid and good, IF we choose to honour and learn from them, as I describe in this post here.
Journaling and meditation has allowed me the space to tap into the under-current of emotions flowing through me, as well as put in black and white the outer displays of emotion to understand what I might be ignoring internally. For example, if I don’t adequately give myself ‘me’ time, the outer effect looks like me feeling tired and snappy. Napping and yelling might offer a bit of relief, but the real issue is still there. It’s not until I discover why this feeling is there that I am able to release it and take note of how it built up and how long it was stored within. Doing it this way empowers you to look at the real ‘problem’, not a symptom of it. Likewise, if we keep feeling the same emotions in similar situations, and feel as though we are being triggered by everything, that is a strong indication that we have buried a lot of emotions. Emotions are thoughts in action. Once they fire off, they can’t just stop. Like fireworks, or bubbles, they need to fully bloom before evaporating. You can try to suppress and freeze them all you want, but all you are doing is creating a lot of emotional clutter and a lot of emotional blocks as a result. That leaves very little room for the more pleasant emotions you want to savour, and makes you easily wound up and in constant defence or attack mode.
Be gentle with yourself during this time. In the moment, take the time to name your emotions without judgement of whether you are good or they are bad, and then see what you can learn from the situation that has caused the emotion, before letting it evaporate. The more your honour your feelings, the less heavy you’ll feel, the less triggered you’ll be and the more you’ll trust yourself to handle situations that call for you to express yourself in an assertive, healthy and caring way.
Ways you could restore a safe place to feel
Journal your feelings - as well as what’s been happening during the day. Often we ignore our needs or swallow an experience and keep moving instead of actually processing it. This is the time to process and release a lot of buried gunk. Nobody will see you at the office with swollen eyelids from crying too much. Let it all out.
Write affirmations - Affirmations can reframe a situation entirely. Don’t overextend and force yourself to write and say affirmations that you truly don’t believe. Start small and work your way up. For example “This is a joyous experience” might bring up a lot of feelings as to why it isn’t, so try start with “I am willing to learn from this experience”
Really feel your emotions - Angry? Tired? Scared? Honour these. Beat pillows, take a nap, cry. Get it all out. And then ask yourself what you need to alleviate these feelings. Try not to involve anyone else in the releasing/feeling of your emotions. Your anger is yours. Your sadness is yours. Don’t blame others, don’t rope them in. Just feel it, comfort yourself, learn and move on.
Commit to regular check-ins - journaling is great, but if you only do it once a day you miss the opportunity to learn what might be going on in your life. Every time you take a break from work, or get something to drink for example, use the time to check-in with yourself the way a parent does a kid. “How you are you doing? Do you need anything?” Sounds weird right? Checking in to see if we are okay. But this technique is actually very helpful in picking up changes in our behaviour or mood and dealing with them or soothing them so they don’t fester and escalate. When we look at things this way, we no longer need to be annoyed that we can’t seem to focus, or little things are pissing off. Maybe if we took the time to check-in, we’d learn that we need five minutes to decompress before carrying on with our day.
Basically, this time will involve a whirlwind of emotions and more time for you to feel them, but also allow them to become bigger than they are. Daily check-ins on yourself, as well as others with the commitment to be honest, is a sure way to tap into what you might be feeling before they build too much.
Something to note though - even when being honest about your feelings to others, it is more beneficial to say “I am feeling a little trapped and that is making me easily annoyed so I think today I am going to have some me time” rather than “you did this yesterday and it really pissed me off!” If someone does cross a boundary, have an open conversation about it, explaining how their action made you feel and what you need at this time instead. All the while remaining compassionate to their situation. Blaming someone and getting into a fight is just going to add fuel to the fire of this emotional time, and with even less space to process and remove yourself from the situation, small fights can quickly turn into big, uncontrollable ones.
Restore a Sense of Connection
Lockdown means spending a lot of time with the same people. I am lucky that James is also my best friend as well as boyfriend and I love spending time with him. But this time has made me realise that while this has always been the case, we are often so busy with jobs and lives that we don’t talk as much about ourselves. There’s no rushing to get home, or loads of time in-between what has happened in our work day before we see each other again. He is literally working down the hall from me each day! So it has been great coming together at lunchtime and chatting. We’ve had a few rounds of Monopoly, which he has absolutely dominated in! It has been really nice and special to connect on a deeper level a bit more and has restored something in the relationship. We don’t have kids (yet), but I imagine this would be a good time to restore a connection with them too. Heck, I even feel more strongly connected to Bentley as we go on much longer walks. I have always known he loves walking, but it’s been fun finding little routes and exploring them together. We had a whole wetlands walking track just up the road that we never knew about! While this is self-isolation, most of us are not by ourselves. Even if you are, you can still form a deeper connection with people through technology, but this point is also forming a deeper sense of connection with your community, home, pets and self.
Ways you could restore a sense of connection:
Have a deep and meaningful - The good ole DNM! When was the last time you talked about life, your goals, your dreams, what’s inspiring you at the moment or how much you love the person you are talking to? Take a seat, start a conversation and basically watch as you start to feel more connected to the people you are living with
Plan activities together - This sort of feeds into point one about playing, but you don’t just need to play by yourself! This can easily become a dull and boring time for other members in your house and friends circle. Make the effort to embrace new ways to stay connected and have some fun! Bring out the boardgames, do an easter egg hunt, work on a project together, or film a Tik Tok like these families! To stay connected to those outside your bubble, there are apps like House Party where you can easily video call a group of people and play a range of games like Heads Up. We did this with our friends the other night while we all had drinks and it was heaps of fun!
Do something nice for the people or person in your bubble - The easiest way to feel more connected to those you love, is to do something that they’d appreciate. Cook them their favourite meal, spend an afternoon doing what they love to do or buy them a treat just to say you were thinking of them.
Although challenging, and slightly uneasy, this time has the potential to restore parts of our lives and ourselves that we may have been disconnected from for a while. Looking for opportunities, solutions and reasons to feel good and grateful is the surest way to make this time rewarding.
I think this is the greatest example of the entire world uniting together despite political viewpoints, religion, money or power and I have hope that the other side of all this will reveal a more connected, considerate and conscious world.
Stay connected, stay safe, stay home.
Kia Kaha and lots of love,
Amy Claire xx