Learning how to survive lockdown is something we are all doing right now. Right around the world. Based on my experience working as a coach supporting people living with challenging chronic illnesses, I think they have a lot to teach us on how to do that. Because many of them have been in a form of lockdown well before coronavirus came along.
I am thinking about people living with energy limiting illnesses like Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Some may have been housebound for years.
Others may not be housebound all the time and may able to lead what looks to be a normal life, but they have to deal with issues of isolation and/or uncertainty of relapse. Such as people living with diabetes, other conditions that have unpredictable fluctuating symptoms like chronic pain and fatigue, and people who have/had cancer.
Living in isolation from family and friends and not able to go about our pre-coronavirus daily routines can be hard. So can living with prolonged uncertainty. Right now, we don’t know when this lockdown will end. But also the anxiety of reduced or not much income is really stressful too. And getting needed groceries, medications and more.
So here I share the ten things we can learn from people living with chronic illness on how to survive a lockdown. They are in no particular order and it’s not an exhaustive list.
How to survive lockdown
1. Look after yourself
When you get a really challenging health issue, you quickly learn that your body is the only one you’ve got. And you need to do what you can to stay as healthy as you can. Get good sleep, get outside to get some exercise once a day, drink lots of water, and eat nourishing food all help.
The same applies to all of us now. Including following social distancing and washing your hands. Because people living with challenging health issues are that much more vulnerable if they get COVID-19. Doing our bit to keep ourselves healthy is also a good thing for the people around us.
2. Listen to your body
Becoming attuned to the sensations you feel in your body is a key skill in learning how to manage the symptoms of a challenging health issue. This helps you identify what triggers symptoms, when you may be getting a flare and if the measures you are taking to manage your symptoms are working or not.
Learning to listen to your body is equally important if you do not have any major health issues. It will allow you to spot signs of stress and anxiety and therefore manage and alleviate them sooner.
3. Manage the impact of stress
Managing the impact of stress is so important when living with a challenging health issue. Because stress can exacerbate symptoms and that can limit what you’re able to do.
You cannot prevent stress from happening so your focus has to be on how you manage the impact of stress. Like with the coronavirus pandemic. This is a key how to survive lockdown tip.
You cannot control that coronavirus has happened. So worrying about that is energy that isn’t being well spent. Focus your energy instead on what you can influence and directly control. This helps you to move through stressful situations and lessen their negative impact on you.
4. Focus on the essential activities
When you’re living with symptoms like chronic pain and/or fatigue, there are many days when you can’t do very much at all. So you have to focus on the essential activities. And what is considered essential can change from day to day depending on how you are.
Some days you’ll have the energy to wash, cook a meal and do another activity like read a book or write a blog post. Other days, you may only be able to venture to the toilet and the fridge because your body isn’t capable of doing anything else.
For those of you who do not have health issues, the advice is not to overload yourself with activities, things to do, etc. If the essential is making sure there is food on the table, you and your kids get some exercise, you get some work done and the kids do a bit of schooling, that is enough. You don’t need to become an expert teacher for your kids or come out of lockdown with a toned and super fit body. Go gently.
5. Be prepared to adapt
When you’re living with a health issue where your symptoms fluctuate on a day-to-day basis, you have to learn how to adapt your schedule, what you can do on any given day and even how you approach the activities you do. Sometimes you have to make difficult choices like cancel an engagement to see friends. Or figure out how to cook meals that don’t take as much preparation.
People with disabilities often have to adapt to an environment that hasn’t been built to take into account their needs. They have to constantly adapt to obtain some sense of inclusion.
Living in lockdown means we have to adapt a lot. No, we won’t always like having to do that. But being willing to find ways to adapt what we need to and to experiment can make life easier. And that means less stress. Which is a really good thing right now.
6. Proactively manage the impact of isolation
A sense of isolation can quickly set in when you’re living with a challenging health issue where you cannot go out much and fluctuating symptoms mean you have to cancel plans at the last minute. It’s hard enough when you’re the only one amongst your family and friends who has the illness you have. It gets even harder when you can’t see family and friends much and friendships drift away as a result.
The virtual world is often the only connection people who are housebound due to their chronic illness have with the outside world. And they very much value this connection.
The virtual world may not be the ideal for everyone but right now it’s something. Use it. And when using it, make sure to focus on the good aspects of using it – catching up with family and friends, supporting one another, doing activities together. If you only focus on how much you hate it, then that could contribute to an increased sense of loneliness.How to survive #lockdown – Tip 6 – Proactively manage the impact of isolation and loneliness. Get connected in the virtual world. It may not be the ideal, but now it’s something. #wellness Read the other tips here Click To Tweet
7. Your support network is key
So many people living with challenging health issues have told me how important social media is to them. It enables them to make friends and have a support network.
Many of us are social beings and crave connection. This is important at any time and especially important now that we often cannot see our loved ones, friends and work colleagues in person.
Your support network, even if many of them you can only see virtual is vital. Make time for them. Build your network if you have to. It’s important to think about this in respect to your partner/spouse. One person cannot meet all of our needs. Thinking about who may not be on your team but you would like them to be and making that happen can help. The same thing goes for children. They need their (virtual) support teams too.
Remember, pets are definitely part of your support team.
And sometimes, it’s necessary to let unhealthy relationships go. Often during stressful times we learn who are friends are and who we can and cannot count on.
8. Learning to live with uncertainty is key too
Talk to anyone who has been through cancer treatment and now has no evidence of disease. They live with uncertainty every single day. People who have had a heart attack or stroke at a younger expected age or have another kind of illness that can relapse live with something similar.
They live with the will it-won’t it come back. Will I get more disabled or not? Will I survive it or not? It’s like a constant shadow. Sometimes the shadow fades a bit but it never quite leaves. These people have had to become an expert at living with uncertainty. And like you now in having to live with the impact of coronavirus and lockdown, they didn’t have that choice. It was foisted on them.
Learning to live with uncertainty is not always easy. Because uncertainty means you don’t know what you don’t know, which means you can feel out of control and powerlessness. We humans hate that feeling. Which leads me to my next point.
9. Appreciate the small things in the here and now
When you’re living with a challenging health issue that brings less choice, uncertainty and a higher degree of isolation into your life, you learn to appreciate the small things in the here and now. Birdsong, the sun streaming through the window, a pretty flower in your garden or a vase, a cup of tea, a favourite tv programme. Because it’s important to have good in your life, whatever size that takes. It balances out the rubbish things which happen.
The same thing applies to everyone who is now learning how to survive lockdown. What are the small things you are grateful for?
10. Having a purpose and routine
When you’re living with a challenging health issue, it’s not uncommon to feel like you no longer have a purpose in life. You end up having to adjust what you mean by that and it may not be an easy process to go through.
What I find that people ultimately learn is what matters is how they define their purpose and that size doesn’t matter. And not to define their purpose according to others’ or societal standards.
You still very much have a purpose during these times. You may need to adjust it and work to realistic standards you set. Also, having a routine to your day can help you keep your sanity and ensure you do activities that align with your purpose.
What’s it like for you?
How did the advice on how to survive lockdown resonate with you? What are you doing that is helping you to survive lockdown? What are you finding difficult? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).
If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.
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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020