OPINION: Why it’s time to have a strategy for the long winter ahead
Editor David Powles says it’s time for people to come up with their own personal strategy to cope with the next few months of restrictions and possible lockdown.
Did anyone else notice the correlation between Boris Johnson’s latest coronavirus announcement last week and the weather?
After a few months of sunshine and warmth and life returning to a bit of normality, all of that seemed to come crashing down as the prime minister gloomily put back in place a few restrictions on our lives and even started to mention the dreaded L-word again. I mean lockdown of course.
I’m sure that within a few hours of that 8pm nationwide address, the temperature plummeted and we we’re suddenly thrust into winter.
And, on the face of it, what a long winter it could be.
I’ve always felt that, while lockdown and the last few months have been very hard on everyone, in terms of our mental health and well-being, we were helped by the timing of it. As those early rules eased off a bit, the emerging spring provided the perfect opportunity for people to take their daily trip out and explore nature around them.
A fantastic summer weather-wise also made it much easier to cope with restrictions on indoor activities and provided plenty of opportunities in Norfolk for people to get out and about and remain socially-distanced from others. Who’s going to worry about not being able to take their children to the local playbarn, when you can spend all of the day at your favourite beach?
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On the flip-side, I also worry that the shorter days, longer hours of darkness and drearier weather forecasts will, for many, make restrictions on life harder to cope with, even if we manage to avoid a full-on lockdown.
And for that reason I would encourage everyone to have a long, hard think about what the next few months might entail and try to come up with their own personal gameplan. A strategy for the next six months to try and get you through, with the hope that by March there might be green shoots on the horizon, both literally and metaphorically speaking.
I know I’m incredibly fortunate in that generally speaking mental ill health is not something I suffer from. However, like everyone, there are days when I’m down, days when it all feels like too much effort and days when the many pressures of work and family life get on top of you.
And my own strategy for the next six months begins at home, apt given that’s where we’ll be spending much of our time. Training for a marathon, as I have been for most of 2020, has reduced my alcohol intake and I’ll be looking to keep it low, as I know that can make a big difference on levels of anxiety.
I’ll try to sleep more, stay active and use this as an opportunity to spend more quality time with the wife and children. I even think that something as simple as looking forward to watching loads of documentaries and dramas that have been on the list for a while can provide something to look forward to. It’s time to search for the positives, wherever they may be.
I’ve also told myself to accept the fact there are a few of my favourite things in life that just will not be possible in the short-term, such as going to gigs or the theatre, travelling or hosting friends and their children at our home - just not possible due to the rule of six.
My strategy on these is that, if they do somehow come back before March, it will be a bonus and made all the more sweeter. Absence will indeed make the heart grow stronger.
And finally, can I help my own mental health and well-being, by looking out for others?
I realise that for many people, through no fault of their own, those dark days will come along more frequently and the impact much more severe. No matter what strategy people put in place, some simply will not be able to keep the black dog at bay.
And that’s why the most important strategy all of us can adopt over these next few months is to be kind, be caring and look out for each other.
FIVE THINGS THAT HELP MY WELL-BEING
1 Get out, get active. Running is massive for me as a coping mechanism and has been since I became a father. If it’s not for you, maybe a cycle or even just a short walk will be.
2 Work as a team, get some space. My wife and I love our two children, but that doesn’t mean we have to be around them every minute of every day. If it’s ever getting too much we’ll often give each other an hour or so of space to do our own thing, even if it’s just lay down in a quiet room! It makes a massive difference.
3 Music matters. So many problems can be solved by sticking on your favourite music, turning the volume up to loud and belting the lyrics out. The wife may not agree!
4 Make time for friends. At one point during lockdown I just could not face another zoom meeting. My friends realised and instead we met for a socially-distant walk in Thetford Forest. It made such a difference.
5 Enjoy Norfolk’s big skies, wonderful coast, brilliant Broads and stunning scenery. It always helps.