How to Come Out of Lockdown Better Than You Went In

“Of all the virtues we can learn no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow

Accept the Situation

The Covid pandemic has served as an important reminder: in life, there are a lot of things we can’t control. The universe isn’t unfolding to ensure that our desires are met, and we shouldn’t expect it to.

When things don’t go to plan, it’s easy to feel resistance. We wrestle with thoughts of ‘how life should be’ and in doing so, usually make ourselves feel worse.

The pandemic has been shitty, there’s no doubt. But life must go on. We must learn to accept the situation for what it is and move forward. Only then can we recognise, and actively look for, new opportunities for enjoyment and growth.

Since there’s a lot we can’t control, it’s better that we focus our time and effort on the things we can. How we spend our time during lockdown will undoubtedly affect the quality of our lives after lockdown as well.

More than anything, you should see this as a time to invest in yourself. Though it may feel like your life has been put on hold, it hasn’t. You’re not getting this time back. What you do get, is to choose where your time goes.

You don’t want to strengthen all of your worst vices – if you get fat during lockdown, guess what, you’ll still be fat after lockdown. Instead, you should be asking yourself, “How can I come out of this a better man than I went in?” Perhaps more importantly, “How can I still enjoy my time here?”

Prioritise Your Wellbeing

Lockdown will likely put a strain on your wellbeing if you’re not deliberate with your time. We’ve all probably felt this to some degree. If you’re not prioritising your mental and physical health right now, you’re not doing yourself any favours.

Our brains are still operating in the same way they always have – habits are still being built through the actions we repeat (conscious or not) and health is still a huge factor of our happiness and overall experience.

We weren’t built to be inactive, indoors all day – especially by ourselves. Since this has a detrimental effect on our health, it’s important that we ‘balance it out’ by making sure that we’re hitting the basics: eating well enough, sleeping well enough, getting enough exercise and making enough time for relaxation and recreation.

These are all within our control.

Dr. Rangan Chatterjee is a British physician with over 16 years of experience. He takes a 360° approach to health by focusing on 4 pillars: food, movement, sleep and relaxation. Rather than striving for perfection in any one pillar, his advice is to do enough in each. This, he argues, is the key to a healthier and happier life. His advice is particularly relevant right now.

Overlooked Habits for Good Physical and Mental Health

The goal here shouldn’t be a complete lifestyle overhaul, but rather to look objectively at your actions, consider the consequences to them and decide whether they’re taking you down a path you really want to go (see the “I don’t know why my depression won’t go away” starter-pack).

The direction you’re headed is far more important than where you’re currently at. If you’re headed up, you’re headed up; if you’re headed down, you’re headed down. Now’s a good time to reflect on that trajectory.

Plan Your Time

If you’re not planning your time, you’re planning for social media or cheap entertainment – the low-hanging fruit. You’re planning to waste your time.

When we’re bored or stressed, we often turn to escapism – and whether it’s bingeing on fast food or bingeing on Netflix, the reward is the same – temporary distraction from an unpleasant emotion. The risk we face, indulging in these habits over lockdown, is to find that we’re even more attached to them when things are back to normal.

Without balance, these ‘bad habits’ can easily lead to a downward spiral where, the further down we go, the harder it is to come back.

Mark Queppet is the founder of Universal Man. He teaches guys how to avoid the pitfalls of modern technology and enhance their lives and productivity. In this video, he expands on the issues with escapism, and how to make productive use of your time during Covid-19.

The solution is to plan our time and have routines that we can fall back on. The first step in doing this is to set goals that correspond to your values, and to create a rough idea of when and how you’ll be tackling each one. Goals provide shape and meaning to our lives, so set some for yourself over this period – it doesn’t matter what they are.

If you’ve had to push some goals aside because of Covid, you can either let that frustrate you, or you can adapt and create new goals more fitting to the current situation. In doing so, you’re no longer in opposition with the environment, but moving with it.

Find Balance

Planning your time doesn’t mean being unnecessarily strict with yourself. If anything, you should recognise that lockdown isn’t easy and cut yourself some slack – enjoy your ‘good habits’, enjoy your ‘bad habits’ and aim to find a fulfilling and productive balance between the two. 

The point is to just be deliberate with your actions. You want to know where your time is going, not look back and wonder where it went. That said, you don’t need it figured out perfectly – just start by aiming yourself in a direction you’d like to go and course correct as time goes on.

If you’re smart, you will come out of this having developed habits that will serve you for life; ones that you might never otherwise find the time for. In the past, perhaps you’d choose to go to a bar with your friends instead of get to bed early – and that’s fair enough, but what’s your excuse right now? You’ve decided to watch another movie by yourself?

Get the basics down whilst you have fewer excuses and more free time. Then, when things are back to normal, you can go out with your friends and know that, overall, your sleep is pretty good.

Chances are, if you’re reading this there are people out there who have it far worse than you. And though it’s a difficult time for us all, there’s no point crying about it. Rather than complain, accept things the way they are, look for opportunities to grow and reflect on the lessons you learn. Who knows, when this is all over, you might hit the ground running rather than picking up where you left off.

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