How to survive COVID-19 lockdown?

Aotearoa (New Zealand) begun its one-month lock-down last week. It is still unsure how long the lockdown will be — the following days will indicate whether the cases keep increasing or will the curve flatten. In this unknown, many are figuring our ways to cope inside. Here’s an urbanist’s survival guide to lockdown.

An urbanist’s guide to the lockdown period. Wellington, March 2020.

1. Drop the fear

Yes COVID-19 sucks. Yes, it is very dangerous for those in the risk group, and YES it is all of our social responsibility to protect those in the risks groups (i.e. treat those outside of our household like we have the virus). Yes, a pandemic is especially hard for those in countries without strong governments, and yes, many countries are economically and socially f*ckd (at least for a while). Yes, the whole situation creates a lot of anxiety for people, especially for those whose families and friends are spread across the globe. Yes, there’s a lot of fear of the unknown: how long it’s going to last, is there enough food (yes), will I survive financially (in Aotearoa, thanks to government subsidies, YES), will I go crazy (if you follow this guide… probably not).

If you are one of the lucky ones reading this from the comfort of your warm, safe home, there is an alternative for the fearsome thinking.

Alternative thinking is to look at this time as a time for opportunities: to take on those projects you always wanted to do but never found the time for.

Whether we are on a subsidised lockdown or working from home, suddenly, we all have this time on our hands. The time we would usually spend on a daily commute, we can now dedicate to a chosen activity. We can finish work tasks way faster when we are not constantly interrupted, and do a bit shorter hours than normal. In a way, it’s like the universe is reminding us to stay home and be more mindful about our daily lives.

This is a great time for reflection. This is a great time for finishing those little side projects. This is a great time for getting tasks done we would normally find excuses for, and this is a great time for looking inward. If we take this opportunity and are mindful about how we are going to spend this month, or x amount of time, we can come out of the lockdown feeling rested, achieved and even awoken.

2. Setting your intentions

Leaving fears behind starts from looking into the future: setting our intentions.

How to set your intentions?

Intentions can be vague — they are overarching visions that guide our activities, thoughts, attitudes and choices. Intentions should be guided through our ideal outcomes, such as feelings. For example, coming out of the lockdown period, we could set an intention to feel peaceful, feel good in our body, feel connected to our family and friends, feel connected to our spiritual practice. Or we could intend to feel all of those things — in different areas of our lives.

If you want to learn more about finding your core desired outcomes or core desired feelings, have a look at Danielle LaPorte’s website, and her Desire Map workbook.

When setting your intentions, focus on how do you want to feel in coming out of the lockdown period.

Yoga girl talks about this topic with beautiful words — if you want to learn more about setting intentions, this podcast episode is a good start.

When setting your intentions, try creating a calm and nice space for yourself — whatever it means to you.

3. Setting your goals

Our goals will be concrete. However, there’s no need to stress over massive, unreachable goals: a goal can be as simple as to learn how to cook one new recipe per week of social isolation. Again, there are many ways of thinking about our goals. I like to think of goals in terms of different aspects of life.

How to translate intentions into action?

I like to categorise life development and goals into four topics: body, mind, spirit, and soul.

Here body refers to how my body feels, for example, do I have aches somewhere, am I sick and generally, how healthy I feel. Mind refers to intellectual and analytical activity. For many, this would be work and professional growth, but it can also mean hobbies, like reading or writing, or studying. Spirit refers to personal growth. This can again be reading, meditation, learning a new skill or anything you regard as personal growth, like journaling and reflecting. The last one, soul, refers to family and friend relationships, and how connected do you feel to the people around you.

Using this or a similar way to categorise different aspects of life may give you the motivation to get through a cabin-feverish day, as of to think that there are multiple streams you can choose from.

Scribble it down: your brain will thank you

Take some time to sit down with a notebook, a piece of paper, a writing programme, app or a vision board — whichever way you feel the most comfortable with. While not everyone considers journaling their practice, writing down goals is an important exercise for your brain.

Once your brain sees set aims in a physical form (was it a piece of paper, an electronic vision board or something else), it subconsciously starts to find clues for achieving these goals.

Separate your four (or more) goal categories, and start creating a list.

A pro tip: even if you don’t know where to start — start anyway. Sometimes we have no idea what we are about to write down before actually get down to doing it. Magically, the pen will leave marks on the paper, like your subconscious talking to you and you didn’t have control of what comes out. If you are not happy with what you see, you can always get back to this later and use these notes as a starting point for a discussion with yourself.Your body, mind, spirit and soul will thank you.

Once your brain sees set aims in a physical form (was it a piece of paper, an electronic vision board or something else), it subconsciously starts to find clues for achieving these goals.

4. Breaking down goals into small successes

Disclaimer: this might not work for everybody in its traditional way (with very strict goals). The amounts of times I’ve set aims for myself to e.g. post on Instagram every three days, publish a blog post once a week, do x z or y so many times a week and that has not happened… I literally can’t count.

HOWEVER. If for example, your body-related goal is to come out of the physical distancing/lockdown period feeling good in your body, you will have to move in some way every single day. In a weekly basis, this will mean that you will need to do a couple of sweaty exercises per week, some longer but not so heavy moving periods, and some calming practices where you stretch and relax your muscles.

For example, you may want to do a couple of heavy vinyasa or ashtanga practices per week. YouTube is also filled with high-intensity home training tips. If you have the chance to go out, including a couple of long walks into your week, and do not skip the yin or stretching sessions are Even 15 minutes of stretching before bedtime make a huge difference in how you feel in your body.

5. Transforming small successes into daily habits

Now more than ever, it’s important to create those daily habits. Make your bed every single morning, to give your brain a clue that sleep time is over and daytime is starting. Drop the PJs after your morning wash, to feel like a normal life is still happening. Eat breakfast, eat lunch. Meal prep so you feel there’s food for emergency hangriness. Do the dishes right away, keep the house clean and tidy (clean environment — clean mind!). And take breaks if you are working.

Organising daily habits to cherish your goals

Once you have your goals set down, you can start breaking them into daily habits.

  • Which goals demand a little bit of work every single day, and which only once a week?

For example, finishing your passion-project may require a little love daily, whereas cleaning the storage probably only needs a Saturday.

  • What small gestures you can include in daily practice, that support your goals?

Making value-based decisions, rather than emotion-based decisions, will make all the difference in achieving a goal. Value-based decisions are those relating to intentions or goals, whereas emotion-based decisions are choices made on the spot — such as putting the alarm on snooze.

Even small amounts of daily time spent toward a goal is better than no time at all. 20 minutes, one hour on weekdays or a couple of hours on weekends, will make a significant impact on whether you achieve your goals and intentions.

Sometimes, small gestures don’t even have to be linked to the goal or intention itself. For example, one of my goals is to do more writing. I know that I am very prone to procrastinating and taking on other tasks to avoid writing, like cooking. To ensure I procrastinate as little as possible, I meal prep food for the next day, so I won’t use cooking as an excuse for not writing. This way I am indirectly taking gestures to achieve my goal.

  • What do you use as procrastination for not achieving your goal?
  • How can you eliminate it?

There’s always something we can do to our circumstances, even if it was small actions.

6. Translating daily habits into results

Nourishing the body with healthy foods, exercises and stretches through daily practices will make you feel well on your two feet. Giving the brain something external to analyse with every moon will keep anxieties and boredom at bay. Gifting your spirit with reflecting and meditating will make you come out of this period as a better human. And keeping in touch with friends and family will feed into your soul, and hopefully, you’ll come out of the lockdown feeling more connected in your relationships than before.

Small daily steps towards goals and intentions in each aspect of life can help us keep sane during the lockdown. Little achievements and successes will translate into tangible results. And what better would tangible results do, than motivate us.

Drop the fear. Set the intentions. Define the goals, break them down into small successes. Transform successes into daily habits. Translate habits into results.

Your body, mind, spirit and soul will thank you.

Wellington-based urbanist. Life-long yogi. Feminist. Holistic wellbeing & healthy cities advocate. A person on a bike. Policy writer by day.