Those of us in the Land of the Long Beige Zoom Meeting – formerly known as Victoria – were given some psychological advice by Australia’s deputy chief medical officer this week. To cope with our extended lockdown, we should “set some achievable goals”, “get into some structure and routine” and make sure we “have some downtime”.
I’ll wilfully ignore that Dr Nick Coatsworth also seemed to quote the fallen troll lord Jordan Peterson with the suggestion that we make our beds.
We Victorians have had little option but to develop resilience capacities over the last six months. So let me also provide some learned insights that may – sadly – yet prove useful.
Maintaining good nutrition is crucial and an excellent means of incorporating structure into your day. If you are growing your own vegetables – as many have since the “toilet paper-themed scarcity apocalypse” phase of isolation – Instagram everything. Demonstrate second world war-style thrift as you transform beetroot stalks into colourful, inedible gourmet feasts. There’s no need to illustrate your daily half-a-block of Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut habit, or admit your car interior reeks of rendered pork fat because you’re driving through at Macca’s at least three times a week. It’s … not considered polite.
Personal hygiene is important, and opportunities for relaxation. Replicate a Japanese onsen experience by scrubbing yourself in the shower, then sink into a steaming bath. Playing shakuhachi music at full volume will help drown out the sound of your partner banging on the bathroom door demanding to know why there’s no hot water in the kitchen. Get that spa feeling by then robing yourself in a dressing gown and just continue wearing it for the next six months. Remember, if you need to look fancy for a Zoom meeting, you can always put underpants on.
Negotiating multigenerational living can be a challenge for any household, as different age groups have different – sometimes contradictory – interests and needs. A close friend has been relieving her mental load by advertising one of her three children for sale on the internet. She’s minimised their resentment by not naming which one.
Don’t fall into the trap of building your schedule around the TV. One of the more confronting revelations of lockdown is that you can subscribe to every streaming service and want to watch none. A hysteresis sets in, leaving you listless, fatigued and condemned to watching endless repeats of Star Wars Rebels because the question of whether the green chick is sexy or weird is never entirely resolved.
Instead, you might want to consider inventing games that incorporate your household’s interests. As history buffs, my partner and I have devised a game called cold war. It involves one of us forgetting to change a bin liner or the other leaving socks on the bedroom floor. A silent standoff of unexpressed resentment is provoked, dividing the house into Nato/Warsaw pact animosity for days. Just like the real thing, it’s never declared, it confuses the dog and only ends when both sides accept that nuclear war is unwinnable.
To work through inevitable tensions of unrelenting cohabitation, avoid screaming matches in the house. Your hour of outdoor exercise is the entirely appropriate place to loudly air relationship grievances or phone your mother in tears; it certainly reminds the neighbourhood we really are all in this together. Alternatively, if your exercise schedule has resulted instead in the maintenance of muscle tone or weight management, remain silent. No one likes a show-off.
Coatsworth’s suggestion that individuals devote time to developing a personal hobby is an excellent one, although when trapped indoors wrangling partners, kids, pets, housework, healthcare and hygiene – especially if you’re still holding down a job – scheduling such can feel onerous. Maximise your time by choosing a hobby you can invisibly pursue in a Zoom meeting. Mastering radish recipes, researching the cost of unicorn lamps and even learning Estonian are all possible if you just mute your audio and keep your video going. What do you think everyone else is doing? Tere hommikust!
Finally, while much is said about the benefits of scheduled meditation, in times like these the mind drifts naturally enough to contemplation. Staring into the warmth of a half-drunk coffee, you imagine the invisible killer virus. Listen to flowing water, there’s the invisible killer virus. Within those strange nightmares we’re all having about Pierce Brosnan eating bleeding lizards in a sailboat, you wake up … and remember the invisible killer virus.
It’s why Coatsworth’s most important advice is to seek professional mental-health care whenever darkness grips. It’s easy for me to make jokes about isolation now because a few months ago I wept so much I couldn’t eat, and my partner made me call my therapist. I’ve clung to therapy like an anchor and I’ll never be ashamed to say so.
So it doesn’t really matter if your routine is to make your bed, spend eight hours in the bathroom or eat enough McNuggets to conceivably give birth to them. Just give yourself a reason to keep going, and do the best you can. A made bed’s better than sloppy one but if neither’s in a coronavirus ward it feels like winning.
Read the original article at The Guardian