6 ways to keep the blues at bay: winter lockdown edition

Photo by Rhendi Rukmana on Unsplash

Over the past year, we have written a few posts with strategies to boost your well-being, and resources for coping with Covid-19 lockdowns. Yet, it is clear that our needs change with each lockdown. Here we are in number three, and you certainly won’t catch me working my way through an 8 week home exercise programme, doing the couch to 5k, or baking to within an inch of my life like last time! The first lockdown saw a level of energy, likely related to an initial stress response, which made these coping strategies easy and the most appropriate for the time. Now, a year later, a lot of us are burned out. The stress might be enduring and we are pushing through the winter, trying to stay on top of our work and PhDs.

Despite this, there is joy to be had in the winter months, and we might even see a light at the end of the tunnel (it’s all the way down there if you look really carefully)! To get through this lockdown, we are keeping our strategies simple, going back to basics, and recognising the beauty in the winter weather, rain or shine.

Photo by LUM3N on Unsplash
  1. Curate your environment:

    We are making our environments a pleasant and cosy place to be. Some people have chosen to keep their Christmas decorations up to retain some festive cheer! This might sound a little batty, but the soft, warm light from fairy lights can make a big difference in how we feel about our space and bring a sense of warmth. If fairy lights aren’t your bag, think about lamps and candles, hot water bottles and soft blankets! We are also big on bringing the outside in. With lots of rain, we might be missing some much needed time in nature but house plants can have huge health benefits – reducing stress/anxiety, increased productivity, and reduced blood pressure and fatigue.

  2. Be flexible:

    A fixed structure and set workplace can work wonders but it can also become mundane. Changing up your workspace, prioritising comfort when you need to can bring a sense of variety. Work on the sofa, why not? Also, be flexible with your work patterns. The notion of managing your energy not your time has become increasingly popular. Recognising when you have dips in energy throughout the day can help you plan certain tasks accordingly.

  3. Tailor your environment:

    Maintaining motivation to work can be tricky when you’re stuck inside These Four Walls. We’ve talked about making your environment a pleasant place to be, and setting up your space for work can help get you in the right mindset for working. A tidy, prepared workspace might increase the likelihood that you will sit there!

    This ethos extends to your digital environment. Hundreds of tabs left open from yesterday might make it difficult to know where to start today. Make it as easy for yourself as possible. If you need some external motivation, plan in some workshops or accountability groups (Breakfast Serial Writing, for example). This will help with some enforced structure. We find getting dressed for work and getting out first thing to ‘walk to work’ can really help separate home and work.

  4. Stay grounded:

    Keeping your mind in the present can be tricky during uncertain times. Calming your mind and keeping grounded can be helpful to ease feelings of stress and anxiety. Avoid too much technology, particularly those tiny screens alongside the big screens that just beg to be scrolled! Go outside if you can, even for a short while each day and move your body just a little bit. A walk or some simple stretches at home will help you take the first few steps out if you are feeling in a slump. We might have been having some wet and windy weather, but there’s nothing like splashing in puddles to help you connect with the environment – get your big coat on and brave the weather!

  5. Talk!

    Talking helps! Staying connected with others can help with feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression. It can be difficult to reach out when you’re feeling low, but the it can be such a relief afterwards, especially if you’ve been holding on to some unpleasant feelings for a while.

    Check in with friends and family if you can, or come along to our Tea and Talk sessions (starting again on 4th Feb). It is a lovely, non-judgemental space to connect with others and feel a sense of camaraderie. If you need some support and social connection but don’t feel able to verbalise how you feel, reach out to friends via email or message. You can always check in with us and other PGRs on Slack – remember there are private channels there, and you can always DM one of the Scholars if you don’t want to write on an open forum.

  6. Activate positive emotions:

    Thinking about the things that you are grateful for and appreciating the small and the beautiful things in our surroundings during times of high stress can be an antidote to anxiety. Many people are using nostalgia as a way to boost their positivity and to cope during Covid-19. Thinking about the things that we value and have enjoyed the most throughout our lives can help activate positive emotions. Returning to old favourite movies, music, and using comforting practices or routines that are reminiscent of a more settled time can be a good coping strategy!

Don’t forget to join us again on the 4th February for our first Tea and Talk of this term. A great opportunity to check in with how this period of lockdown has been for you and share some helpful practices. Everyone is welcome!

To sign up for Tea and Talk updates, go to: bit.ly/HiveTea

Don’t forget to follow us for regular updates: @sussexreshive on Twitter or Instagram or, if you wish to contribute to our blog, email us at researchhive@sussex.ac.uk


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