- Ollie McCarthy
Approach to lockdown 2.0
For anyone who is in the UK right now, we are going through our second lockdown. Although there's a lot of good information out there, I feel there's a few things that are getting missed from the messaging that I have seen on Instagram and Facebook.
I have seen a lot of information out there about productivity and fitness. The question I have seen posed a lot on social media is “what's your lockdown project gonna be?”
But I think the fundamental thing people need to think about is health, and actually being able to navigate what is a very stressful period, with a health-first approach. In my opinion you should want to be able to come out the other side of this lockdown and Christmas, physically and mentally healthy. Because if you are not focusing on that, then whatever else you do in this period, might not serve you long term.
For example, the typical thing that I see people lean towards is exercise, which I think is great. But whatever exercise you choose, it will cause stress. To counter that and make it productive you will also need to rest.
So for example, if you're doing 30 days of HIIT over this lockdown period, and you're also navigating an extremely stressful job and an extremely stressful home life. You need to understand that adding something like a HIIT session on to all the other stress may not be productive if you aren’t resting adequately.
This is where being mindful of the pros and cons of the exercise you are choosing is going to be beneficial. Is this exercise going to benefit me long term? Am I going to be able to include enough rest in my day to recover from said exercise?
For me, I always think if you're approaching things with a health first mentality, then you're going have the best impact long-term.
There's three areas that I would focus on over the lockdown.
Movement, connection, screen time.
I'm not saying excise here, I'm saying movement.
With movement (walking, doing some mobility, gardening, moving more day to day) it’s generally low impact and therefore low stress. It's not going to have a very high stress response on your body or your mind. Low stress means less time needed to rest and recover. If anything it's going to alleviate some of the negative aspects of sitting in one position all day.
Walking for me is one of the most beneficial things people should be focusing on right now. Why?
Because it means that they're going to get out of the house. It means that they're going to put their phone in their pocket (hopefully.) It means they're going to go out into nature, which has a hugely positive effect on people's stress. And it's going to be time to process your thoughts away from the distractions of screens.
I am by no means saying that if you do want to do a HIIT workout here and there, and if you want to choose other forms of exercise, go for it.
I do however think the benefits of being able to get out of the house, get away from a screen, get into nature are preferable compared to anything else. Whether going out for a walk, or a run, or a cycle, you are getting so many more benefits than just the act of moving.
With this, I mean human connection.
In a time where human connection is limited, being able to connect with other humans is going to have a positive effect on your mental health.
Connection is just a basic human need. We are fundamentally tribes people, and being able to connect with others, share experiences, and work through difficult situations is ingrained within us.
So being able to make time to call friends, to FaceTime family, even just to meet up with a mate and go for a walk in a park is going to be really positive to be able to come out of this kind of lockdown period, happy and healthy.
Even just making sure that you have the time to connect with the people that you are living with. Making time to sit down and have conversation with them, and not just be in front of a TV screen will help service that basic human need.
A problem shared is a problem halved.
Something that I myself have benefited from recently, is talking things through, and getting other people's perspectives. It has allowed me to work through difficult situations, a lot easier. And I would not have approached the same situations with the same mindset, had I not had someone else's input and thoughts.
This would not have been possible without human connection.
It's inevitable that we are going to spend more time on screens right now. You are sat at home, probably working from your laptop. You're going to have your phone in your hand more than ever. With that, the negative effects of being on social media, are going to become even more prominent.
Which means an increase in comparisons- looking at what other people are doing, looking at their productivity, or what their life is like through this lockdown period. Constantly comparing your life to theirs with no reference points for what their actual day to day existence consists of.
And as the saying goes, "Comparison is the thief of joy.”
So try to limit your time on a screen and have time away from your phone. Engage in tasks away from screens and with people who surround you.
This is one reason why I think that walking without your phone is really important. I’m also a big proponent of naked running (running with no technology) because it just forces you to get away.
Even having that period away from your phone for an hour for two hours is gonna have a drastic effect on your mental health, rather than just scrolling the whole time, and constantly trying to distract.
It means you have a little bit of time in your own head, and just being in that space. It allows you time to think and process, problem solve and down regulate your stress.
These are the fundamental things you need to be thinking about. And if you can nail these, then anything on top is beneficial. I'm not saying that these three things are the only areas you should be concentrating on.
If you can get daily movement in, if you are connecting with people, If you can limit your screen time, then we can begin thinking about, other areas. We can begin thinking “what am I eating? Am I staying hydrated? What other exercise can I do to help improve my health?”
These are the fundamentals that I would focus on right now. And then anything else we can layer on afterwards.