KEEPING SANE IN A GLOBAL PANDEMIC!

The thing about a global pandemic – and, in many countries, a nationwide lockdown – is that it’s pretty bloody scary. And it’s a relatively foreign concept that none of us have any particular experience with. There’s no Beginner’s Guide on how to deal with this stuff, and everyone is pretty much stumbling around, doing their best, and trying to navigate a seemingly hopeless situation.
Between COVID-19 fears, a certain prolific author using their platform to spread hatred and a dangerous rhetoric towards the trans community, and the onslaught of police brutality/racism surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement; at times the world has felt like it’s falling apart around us. It’s hard to comprehend the endless list of grief and anxiety that 2020 has provided us with, and social media and our constant access to news at such a rapid rate can often make it far more overwhelming and difficult to come to terms with. We’re all just human, and our mental health is just as important as our physical health. It’s so incredibly important to take a step back and make sure we’re focusing on things that help keep us grounded, especially during these trying and difficult times.
When you’re stuck indoors all of the time for months on end, many of us having no jobs to go to or friends to see as a result of social distancing and lockdown measures, we find ourselves going a little stir crazy. Many of us live in situations where we’re shut off from the world – living alone, or in enclosed spaces without even the most basic fresh air at our disposal. Some of us live in larger communities, with families or roommates, where a moment’s peace is hard to achieve. Then, of course, there’s those of us living in abusive households, whether that abuse is physical or emotional, at the hands of a partner or a family member, or even as a result of our own, intrusive thoughts. Regardless of a person’s situation, it’s a hard time for our mental health, and finding coping mechanisms and distractions is so important, especially when so often our usual methods are hard to attain. For example, as much an avid reader as I usually am, I found my mind so fuzzy and distracted over the course of the last six months, overcome with stress, fear, and emotional exhaustion that focusing on any kind of book felt like an impossibility. Picking up a book felt like such a slog, and nothing seemed to endear to me no matter how much I had been looking forward to. And while many people found themselves learning new hobbies and skills or using this time to be productive, seeing other people so focused and constructive with their time only made me feel worse about myself; I am self deprecating on a good day, so on the bad days I spent a lot of time telling myself that I wasn’t doing enough, that I was useless and wasting all this free time, and that I should be doing more. Because of that, I knew I needed to give myself a break, sit myself down and find solace in things that made me feel happy. I didn’t owe anybody or anything my service or my time when I was already struggling so much to do the bare minimum even for myself.
So, because of this, I’ve decided to compile a list of five things that have been helping me through this bizarre year, and I hope that it can serve as inspiration to those of you that are struggling, or even a little reminder that it’s okay to not be okay right now, and that there is no shame in not having it all figured out right now.

VIDEO GAMES

Growing up, I was huge into video games. A family of six, all with varying interests and obsessions, meant that my parents had a lot to keep up with by way of new consoles and contraptions. With an array of xboxes, playstations, nintendos, I played my fair share of games over the years, but distanced myself a lot from video games as I grew older, finding that I either didn’t have the time, or the attention span to complete so much different gameplay.
This year, however, I watched as all of my friends excitedly got their hands on the latest Nintendo Switch, and bonded as they culminated their own unique outfits, house décor, and islands, posting screenshots and selfies as they visited each other – in a safe, and socially distanced manner, all from the comfort of their own homes – on Animal Crossing. While Animal Crossing had never been the kind of game I’d played when I was younger, I found myself endeared and intrigued, and very soon addicted. With Animal Crossing, and the rest of the games I discovered on my new device, I found a lot of solace in being able to tuck myself away in the quiet of my bedroom and pouring my attention into new tasks and activities, however mundane and trivial it might seem. Not to mention, online connectivity and gameplay really allowed me to link up with those of my friends that I hadn’t been able to see for a while, as well as introducing me with new ways to connect with those of my friends across the pond and in different time-zones.
Video games might seem silly and childish to a lot of people, but I found they gave me a sense of purpose and something to look forward to each day – especially on the days where everything else seemed so dim and dreary.

PODCASTS

Until last year, I was never really much of a podcast person. I find that unless I’m at a complete standstill, podcasts and audiobooks are relatively lost on me as I’m usually too distracted with other things to focus on what’s being sad. More often than no, I’d find myself 20 minutes in, with every word going in one ear and straight out the other. That said, I recently found myself getting more invested in podcasts after I started listening to Potterless (a 20-something year old man’s first dive into the Harry Potter series). After my interest was piqued, I decided to start giving other podcasts a listen, and I found that whenever I was feeling particularly slumpy with my reading challenge, or just needed to drown out some of the noise around me, I was able to dive on into the world of Schubes, his whacky theories, and his latest criticisms of whatever nonsense JKR finds herself spewing. Of course, the second David Tennant announced his own podcast, David Tennant Does a Podcast With:, I knew I’d be hooked without a second’s thought. My favourite actor releasing weekly episodes as he interviews, and has a natter with, some of my other favourite actors? What could there possibly be to hate about that?
These two shows, in particular, have served as an absolute God-send over this lockdown period. I’ve found that anytime I’ve been feeling anxious and upset, or when I’m cooking/cleaning/doing housework and need some background noise to keep me motivated, I can pop my earphones in and switch onto one of my favourite podcasts to keep me going in the process.
A couple of other personal favourites that I discovered this year have been Yo, is this racist? – a podcast hosted by Andrew Ti and Tawny Newsome. Both comedians, as well as people of colour in Trump’s America, the two feature different guests on each episode as they answer questions from their listeners on whether or not a situation – often experienced by the caller in question – was racist. While many people often look to Andrew and Tawny to educate them, the two very frequently make active attempts to explain that they are not there to teach the listeners, and that it is simply a comedy podcast. I found the two an absolute joy over the last few months, with both of them, as well as their guests, knowing exactly how to toe the line between comedy and sincerity, providing a much needed laugh in these dark times, while still managing to never make light of people’s experiences in an inappropriate or damaging way. The other podcast I have been enjoying is Showmance, hosted by Glee’s Jenna Ushkowitz and Kevin McHale. This is a podcast I’ve been wanting to listen to since its inception, but sadly never found the time to. After the sad passing of Naya Rivera, I decided it was finally time to jump in and revisit some of my old, favourite Glee cast members, and I’m so happy that I did. With different duos on each week – some from glee, some not – the two swap stories with other couples, or showmances, about the industry, the world around them, and sometimes just their own personal lives. It’s such a breath of fresh air and so regularly it feels like I’m eavesdropping in on just fun and goofy catch ups between friends.

STREAMING SERVICES

Netflix! Disney+! Amazon Prime! Spotify! You name it, I’ve needed it. If these months have given me, it’s time. And with time comes a lot of space to think, and sometimes thinking is the absolute last thing that I want to do. When the world is as scary as it is right now, things can be so draining, and with a lot of free time to think, it can get heavy and exhausting, and there have been a lot of days where I have just needed to switch off and forget about it all. With Spotify, I was able to dive into some of my favourite podcasts (as mentioned previously), as well as explore some of my favourite artist’s newest albums (I’m looking at you, Taylor Swift). But also, there’s movies and television shows and musicals and a wide array of gems that I’ve been able to finally get stuck into, and even share with my friends. Buddy watches with my best friends have been some of the highlights of this time as it’s allowed me to discover – and sometimes rediscover – some favourites, keep my mind busy, and find new and exciting ways to spend time with the people that I love – but from a safe, covid-free distance. I’ve binged entire series’ with Jenny, had musical theatre nights with her and Esme, and even found new ways to bond with other friends over shows and films we’ve all discovered over this crazy little year. It’s been such an absolute trip, but it’s been great finding ways to occupy myself and connect with others. Below I’ll drop a list of some of my favourite lockdown watches, and the streaming service you can find them on (though please keep in mind that I live in the UK, so they may vary country to country):

  • Kinky Boots – I’ve never actually seen the movie version of this, but it is one of my favourite stage shows. As an avid theatre-goer, being without the West End has been especially difficult this year and so seeing various streaming services band together to make proshots of Live Theatre finally accessible, I was delighted. Unfortunately, I don’t think this one is available on Amazon anymore (though please correct me if I am wrong!), but getting to watch this back with Esme and Jenny – after seeing it with the two of them a few years ago – was such a delight and has easily been one of the highlights of the last few months for me.
  • The Umbrella Academy – This is already one of my favourite shows, but with the second season being released recently I was so excited and have been back on the hype. As well as being able to read up new theories and see what other fans have been saying, I’ve been able to encourage other friends to watch this show too which has been great. (Netflix)
  • High School Musical: The Musical: The Series – Hilariously, I’ve never been a HSM girl. I’d never seen the movies before watching the show, but it looked way too much fun to pass up, and I’m so glad that I did. With a bunch of the songs – covers and originals alike – now in my spotify playlists, this show was a fun and cheesy watch that made me smile and laugh and, on occasion, shed the odd tear here and there. (Disney+)
  • High School Musical (1 & 2) – Okay, keeping it on theme, I guess! Jenny and Esme, in particular, have always given me grief for not having seen these movies, so they recently finally got me to watch the first two with them. In this case, I was really lucky to have been able to see the two of them for the first time in six months. We kept safe and followed every precaution possible, and it meant that the two of them were able to have a little sing and dance along and relive their childhoods while I watched on completely bemused. (Disney+)
  • The Alienist – This show is one of my favourites, and the book too, and so after a lot of silence and confusing, getting a lockdown release for Season Two was so exciting. I was so happy to be back with some of my favourite characters, and to get to see where the show was taking them after the previous season. (Netflix)
  • If Beale Street Could Talk – This movie is gorgeous. I read the book a few years ago and instantly fell in love with Fonny and Tish, and only fell all the moreso in love with them after seeing the film in the cinema. Once I found out that it would be streamable, I was delighted, and frantically encouraged my friends to read the book and watch the film.. This film is so incredibly heartbreaking and honest, and what Baldwin puts on paper, Barry Jenkins does a phenomenal job of adapting to screen. (Amazon Prime)
  • Hamilton – Similarly to Kinky boots, this is another musical that I absolutely adore on stage, so when the announcement came that it would be getting a 2020 Disney+ release, I was thrilled. I watched it three days in a row, back to back, and I was delighted for other musical theatre fans who wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity to see it on stage. (Disney+)

ZOOM QUIZZES

This one, I can take zero credit for. A stroke of genius on behalf of one of my close friends that turned into a weekly tradition. Back in March things were looking a little bleak for everyone, things were looking a little bleak. We were all jumping through hoops, trying to find ways to keep ourselves occupied, and coming up with new distractions and tactics to keep our minds afloat. Something that a lot of us could never have anticipated, however, was just how long we’d be stuck inside and separated from our friends. For the most part, we were looking for techniques to encourage us to get out of bed and keep our minds active, but I think very few of us realised just how boring and, at times, lonely these months would get. Nobody quite realised just how long they’d be apart from their friends, and from the most basic social gatherings.
Back in May, a friend of mine mentioned that she wanted to make a Marvel quiz for us to all participate in, and what started off as just a one-off catch up soon turned into a weekly gathering, and the perfect way to occupy us all. Each week was different, with none of us knowing what to expect of each other. We all threw together silly, fun, and unique ideas for quizzes to test one another on, catering them to our own personal interests, as well as using smatterings of our own shared interests and personal jokes to bring a little sass to the table!
With quizzes such as Which Chris? (in which you had to guess between Chris Evans, Pine, Hemsworth and Pratt), Fanfic Fun (where names & franchises were removed from a synopsis and it was our job to guess which tv show/movie/book people were writing about), Photoshop Frenzy (where I replaced famous actors/characters from posters and replaced them with my friend’s faces, and asked them to guess the franchise), and so much more, we all managed to come up with new ideas to challenge each other. This meant that we had a whole week of coming up with ideas and planning, giving us something to cling on to and think about, as well as a few hours every sunday filled with friends and fun!
As someone who usually hates quizzes (or, mostly, I hate getting things wrong and feeling stupid), I found that getting to do these with my friends, and getting to see their faces every week, was a great distraction and provided me with some much needed serotonin on a weekly basis.
For more ideas, you can check out Kate’s blog here for some more suggestions on what makes the perfect zoom quiz, as well as a very useful guide on how to plan one with your own friends!

FRIENDS

In any given situation, my friends will forever be my saving grace. I’ve been increasingly lucky to have found some of the most wonderful and kind people in this world (Sam, if you’re reading this, try not to gag), and to be able to call them my friends is such a genuine joy. I’ve had my fair share of bad luck when it comes to people and friends, often giving too much of myself away and allowing others to take advantage of that. If the last six months – both in the face of loneliness, and in the wake of events that have unfolded around us – have shown me anything, they’ve shown me just who I can trust and turn to when the going gets tough. I’ve learned a lot this year, in spite of all the badness, and I’ve been able to gain a little hindsight into who has been good for me, and who hasn’t, and I hope that it’s the kind of energy that I can keep a hold of and take with me. Letting go of unhealthy friendships and realising what’s right for you is one of the most difficult, but most important things in life and I feel so grateful knowing that I’ve only grown closer to the best people around me, and not drifted from any of those that mean the most to me.
My friends have kept me sane with buddy watches, zoom quizzes, a good combined roasting in the group chat, and just by letting me rant and rave about whatever ridiculous clownery is happening in the world. The world is dark and scary so it’s pretty important to surround yourself with good, like minded people that you know you can trust and confide in. I won’t get too weepy and make anyone uncomfortable, but I’ve got a pretty good bunch.

(All photos above were taken on safe meet ups with all precautions taken, and only during periods when restrictions have been loosened.)


After compiling my own list, I decided to ask some friends about the things that they found particularly helpful during lockdown, too! Here are some of the answers they provided:

  • Walking the dog – Pets are a great way to relieve stress, especially right now. Something as simple as walking the dog can be such a great way to help you feel calm when the world is getting a little overwhelming. A lot of people have been struggling with all of the restrictions that come with lockdown, but it’s so important to remember to go outside every now and again and stretch your legs. Taking your dog for a walk can be the perfect way to get a little exercise in and get a breath of fresh air.
  • Working out – This can come in so many forms! Going for walks/jogs, riding your bike, r even doing yoga in your front room. Keeping active is such a great way to boost your mental and physical health, and also helps provide people with some semblance of a routine. Sometimes just the simple act of getting yourself out of bed can be so difficult, and getting involved in some sort of daily workout and routine can be such a productive and fun way of feeling better about yourself.
  • Baths – While being clean is always good, sometimes it’s nice to just throw in some bath salts, a bath bomb, or some bubble bath and have a long, relaxing soak. You can play some music, listen to an audiobook, or simply just lay back and switch off from the world for a while. It’s a great way of getting some peace and alone time if you’re living with others, and to look after yourself and tend to any sore muscles and aches and pains.
  • Reading – Of course, as most of you will know, this has been the perfect time for a lot of people to explore their untouched bookshelves. Having free time and needing to fill it means that a lot of unread books have finally been dusted off and put to good use. On top of this, there are the great joys of audiobooks too, which means you can keep up to date on your latest read while still keeping on task with some of your other activities.
  • Online classes – Everybody’s a little different, and some of us need to help our brains relax, while some of us need to keep productive and make sure that we’re doing something with all of this free time. I’ve spoken to a fair few people who have signed up to various online classes, or who have taken the time to learn new hobbies over youtube or online tutorials. This can vary from languages to learning to knit. Nothing is off limits and all of these things can help pass the time, as well as provide you with new hobbies and talents that might come in handy later in life, too!
  • Facetime – Aside from my zoom calls, I didn’t get up to much facetiming or video calling myself, but even our quizzes were such a source of joy for me. I’ve had a lot of different people tell me that facetime and skype have been some of their saving graces over the last few months, and I can attest to the fact that just getting to see fresh faces, even if only through a screen, is such a well needed pick-me-up. It’s great for long distanced friendships and relationships, and it’s great for during a global pandemic too. Whether you’re catching up with a best friend, a family member, or a beloved pet, it makes the days pass a little easier.
  • Time alone – This can be pretty hard to achieve, especially if you don’t live alone. While a lot of people were struggling with not being able to see others, many people had room mates and families that they were seeing 24/7 for six months straight. No matter how much you love and adore a person, we all need a little alone time here and there. While it can be hard to come by, it’s so important to remember to take a step away and give yourself some space to breathe. Whether you do that by locking yourself away and taking a bath, going for a walk, or just keeping to separate rooms, it’s so necessary to make sure you have a little me time. There’s a lot of pressure on being present and making yourself accessible to others, especially when everyone has so much free time and everybody in your life knows you’re at home, but there’s no shame in putting yourself first. Plus, it’s a great way to make the moments that you are together feel that bit more special.

Since my friends are full of beans (and ideas), I was given a lot of different ideas on what kept them going through the lockdown. I won’t go in to full details on everything, but the rest consisted of: online dating, zoom quizzes, podcasts, horror movies, scheduled hangouts, puzzles, online bingo, creating a routine, animal crossing, colouring in, and writing.

If you had any particularly useful coping mechanisms, feel free to drop a comment below!


ROUNDUP:

  • Folklore Book Tag: If you haven’t already, feel free to check out my last post where I took part in a book tag themed specifically around Taylor Swift’s latest album, Folklore. It was a lot of fun, so please feel free to take part if you haven’t already! Consider this your tag.
  • The Pike Cast: My sweet, lovely friend Becca has recently started her own podcast! If you love books, horror, Christopher Pike – or all of the above – then this podcast will be perfect for you. You can give The PikeCast a follow on social media, streaming services, and check out their first official episode on October 1st!
  • North East Adventures: A Day Out in Durham: Kate’s most recent blog post takes us all on a trip around Durham as she invites us along on a fun day out in the North East of England! And, don’t worry – no poorly sighted, 260 mile trips to Barnard Castle were featured (though jokes are always welcome).
  • Miles For Refugees: If any of you lovely readers used to follow Esme’s blog, you’ll be happy to hear she’s doing wonderful (albeit achy and sporting a limp) as she takes on the British Red Cross’ Miles for Refugees charity run. Over the course of September she’s challenged herself to running 160 miles while raising funds to help support refugees across the UK.

2 thoughts on “KEEPING SANE IN A GLOBAL PANDEMIC!

  1. Kate says:

    I never used to be able to listen to podcasts because I’d get distracted by other things too haha! But I’m still too easily distracted but have found that if I listen to them on a walk or run I actually really enjoy them 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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