So….it looks like this journey is going to take longer than we initially thought. When we first went into lockdown at the end of March we had to quickly adapt to the likelihood of three months of “staying at home.” Now 6 months on we are facing at least another 6 months of restrictions and a “difficult winter” ahead. How do we adjust to this new longer distance we need to travel? How can we persevere through these hard times?
To complete a marathon you need to ensure you don’t set off too quickly otherwise you won’t be able to sustain the energy levels needed for the whole race. Boris is hopeful that things will be a lot better by spring but we probably need to extend our focus beyond this finish line in order to keep going. We also need to think in terms of smaller goals – one day at a time, one week at a time – and celebrate small achievements. We need to think about practices we can introduce to our lives that will make our pace sustainable over the coming months. Regular times of rest and relaxation are key.
Adjust your mindset
The way we think can have a positive or negative impact on how we feel. As we approach the winter, which can be a challenging season at the best of times, let’s seek to borrow from the “positive winter mindset” of those who live closer to the arctic circle. According to this article, research found that those who live furthest north are actually most positive about winter even though they experience only a couple of hours of daylight at this time of year. They are able to see winter as an opportunity for different kinds of experiences such as hiking in the snow, socialising outdoors and snuggling under a blanket with a hot drink.
People who view difficult experiences as a challenge rather than a threat experience lower stress levels. If you are dreading a winter lockdown see if you can adjust your mindset to a more positive outlook. Ask yourself “how can I grow through this?” Think about ways to make the winter special – with warming food, new hobbies and different daily routines. Plan things to look forward to, however small. Notice things you are grateful for each day.
Look for inspiration
At times like this it can help to look to others who have gone before us and have made it through difficult times. Reading biographies about people who have coped with adversity can help us find inspiration. For example consider how Terry Waite persevered through 5 years of solitary confinement when he was held hostage.
Even novels can be inspiring. I‘ve just finished reading Pied Piper by Neville Shute. It’s based during the Second World War and is an uplifting tale about an older man’s journey to return to England from occupied France, bringing several children along with him. His determination to reach his destination in the face of danger is inspiring.
Find your own heroes to emulate. You may have people in your own life who can teach you something about perseverance.
We need each other
I keep noticing signs up in our local area which say “if you need to self isolate you are not alone” – a community group was set up back in March to provide support to people living alone who might need help with shopping or a friendly phone call during lockdown. If we’re going to make the distance we are going to need to support each other.
Staying in touch with friends and family is so important at this time. Although you might not be able to meet everyone face to face, think creatively about meaningful ways to stay connected. If you’re feeling “Zoomed out” how about writing a letter to a relative – it may seem old fashioned but it does feel special to receive a handwritten letter. Whatsapp groups can be great for a sense of community – can you think of creative ways to use them? For example, you could post a deeper question like “what are you grateful for today?” and gain encouragement from others’ responses.
A wider perspective
If we can see adversity as part of the rich tapestry of life and accept that it’s unavoidable, this helps us gain acceptance of the situation we are in. For those who have religious beliefs these can be a great source of wider perspective and inspiration. All of us can benefit from feeling connected to something bigger than ourselves, for example through spending time outdoors and experiencing the beauty of nature. Is there a word or phrase that feels significant to you which you can repeat and hold onto – for example “This too shall pass”. Can you find a way to hold onto hope and to trust that something good can emerge from even the darkest times?