Getting over lockdown 'hump day'

3 things to help you over the hump

Oh man, you mean I’m not the only one? I really thought it was me – me falling apart, me losing my mojo, me pretty tired of life. But now I think about it, I guess it may well be all of us – us civilians in extended lockdown.

In Sydney, we have been in lockdown since June 26, almost five weeks (35 days), and those 11am tallies just aren’t getting much lower, yet. And for Melbourne, you guys did 112 days, which now seems like an eternity!

So, let’s normalise how many of us are feeling.

  • The singles are isolated and lonely.
  • The homeschooling families are over it.
  • The business owners are scared.
  • The engaged couples, delaying weddings, are sad.
  • The teachers, working 16 hour days, are tired.
  • The tradies, watching their bank accounts shrink, are restless
  • The ministers are digging deep for some creativity, but the flock are whingeing.
  • The families are missing seeing Grandma and are worried about her.
  • The kids miss their friends and are bored.
  • The Year 12 students are feeling it is all very unfair.
  • The tourism industry is devastated.
  • The politicians (some, at least) are milking opportunities for blaming and scapegoating.

Healthy marriages are feeling the irritations; and unhealthy ones can be taken to the brink and beyond, with a surge in demand for domestic violence services being seen during lockdowns.

School holiday plans had to be cancelled; ski weekends postponed; weddings delayed.

The daily news portrays new possibilities for fear and we find our anxiety levels creeping imperceptibly, but relentlessly, up. Our lives feel cramped, our choices limited, our horizons bleak.

And yet we have little to complain about because we do live in the best country on the planet, and we’re not in a war-zone, and our case numbers are in three digits, not six, and our health system is coping magnificently … It’s just that we’re not used to this.   There are serious pressures and unrelenting demands on so many, compounded by all the unknowns of when this will ease and what legacies it will leave.

So, if lockdown (or covid) ‘hump day’ has hit you today, know that you are not alone. Maybe we need to distribute a few million fridge magnets like mine, which read, “We’re in this together” – because we are!

What can we be doing to build our resilience and strengthen our coping on a lockdown or covid hump day? Here’s my best three suggestions:

Validate how you are feeling

It’s more effective to own that “I am feeling discouraged or bored or angry” or whatever feelings are there, rather than to ignore, avoid, suppress or deny them.  To name them is usually to begin to tame them.

It’s always helpful to ask yourself, “What’s going on for me?” so that you can get perspective, identify the stressors bearing down on you, and give yourself permission to be human!

To notice and affirm how you are coping will serve you way better than the opposite. For example, saying to yourself “I’m not coping” will only feed fear and panic, and undermine your confidence further. It’s more effective to bring a respectful and encouraging commentary to yourself, along the lines of, “OK, we’ve had a tricky morning of homeschooling, but I’m glad I persevered with Johnny’s maths. Let’s head down to the park for an hour and then watch a movie.”

What can I do to help myself?

This wonderful, proactive question is strengthening and empowering. We do have choices! Particularly when we are tired, physically and emotionally, we have to stay in “wise mind” – a phrase popularised by Marsha Lineham. This means not letting our emotions run the show.

As Christians, one of the most important things we can be doing during a time of protracted stress is prioritising time to pray and read the Scriptures. Tag team with a partner if you have to. Start each day with a psalm and cuppa in bed. I used to wait longingly for Play School each morning when my kids were little – for that guaranteed 30 minutes of uninterrupted time – that crucial time to catch up with your own head and heart; to reconnect with our Father; to reorient to Kingdom values; to find a modicum of the quietness and stillness I crave.

From this pocket of time, we can then help ourselves by doing some planning.  If we are at home alone, I recommend having at least five or six different activities that you can move between, for example, craft, reading, TV, writing, puzzles, music, gardening, cooking, phoning a friend, etc. My rather smart, 83-year-old mother, who lives on her own, goes through her phonebook during lockdown, phoning one old friend each day! You can imagine the delight she brings not only to herself but to others.

With children at home, we also benefit from having a loose daily schedule to bring some structure to each day. Planning becomes a friend, enabling us to mine some of our latent creativity! Can older children be engaged to teach younger ones? What new things could we try? (We made damper snakes around the firepit last week, which we’d never done before!) Share ideas with friends. Check out websites. And when we’re all exhausted, let’s just watch another old movie together, snuggling in with a big bowl of popcorn.

Eyes on Jesus

Uncertain, unfamiliar days can breed fear, but time and time again in Scripture we hear our God’s refrain: “Don’t be afraid. Trust Me” (Gen 3:10, 15:1, 26:24, Josh 1:9, Is 43:1-5, Prov 3:5-6, Rom 8:15, etc!). He is worthy, and good, and wise. He has an amazing capacity to “bring honey from the rock to satisfy you” (Ps 81:16).

So, if lockdown or covid hump day is biting bad, put on some worship music, let yourself dance and remember who Jesus is.

Sue Bartho is a clinical psychologist and cognitive behavioural therapist.