Look away now if you don’t want to read a post with the ‘c’ word in it – and by ‘c’ word I mean Covid-19.
It’s probably safe to stay, wherever you are in the world, that life during much of 2020 has been difficult, with us all having to get used to a new sort of normal due to the Covid pandemic. But I should say right at the start that I’m grateful that I – and my nearest and dearest – have remained healthy throughout. And I’m doing my bit to keep it that way – for everyone I encounter as well as myself – by washing my hands, wearing a mask and doing the social-distancing thing. It’s really not that hard.
But with all the restrictions on social life and travel – I’ve certainly found staying sane by looking after my mental and emotional health to be harder than staying physically well and virus free. Not being able to see my grandchildren has been one of the hardest things, but I’ve also missed the lack of simple day-to-day variety. And just as with grief, there have been stages along the way – denial and disbelief at first, followed by anger, followed by a grudging sort of acceptance.
However, I’m aware I’m not alone in struggling with being stuck inside my own head. I’ve made a conscious effort to keep in touch with friends and family throughout lockdown, lockdown easing and back to lockdown.
And, just as it’s become customary to sign off emails, texts and phone calls by telling the person you’re communicating with to ‘stay safe’, I now add the just as important phrase ‘stay sane’.
What Works for Me
Walking the Walk
Going out for a daily 60-90 minute walk was something I did before Covid struck, but it has become even more important during the restrictions on just about everything else. Quite apart from the physical benefits of exercise, moving around outdoors is beneficial in all sorts of ways. Seeing aspects of nature – the trees, the hills and the river – that I’m blessed to have nearby – along with the associated wildlife such as squirrels, herons and otters really does do wonders for raising my spirits. But so does seeing and greeting other folks also out and about – whether they’re also out for exercise, or walking their dogs, or simply getting a bit of local shopping.
It’s also a chance for my mind to go off on a wander of its own. And this can mean that the brain fog lifts and some clear and productive thinking can take place – thereby soothing anxieties or solving problems. And there’s the added bonus for me as a writer that walking gives my imagination space to also go for a stroll – and it’s often while I’m out and about that inspiration strikes.
The second vital aspect required for me staying sane is to have a purpose – to have a creative, enjoyable and satisfying job to do. This, like walking, was important to me BC (Before Covid) but it’s even more so now. And for me creative, enjoyable and satisfying means writing. Now, more than ever, escaping into my own imaginary world where I’m in charge and there’s no pandemic in sight is bliss. Hours can pass when I’m at my desk, steeped in my made up stories, and no viral thoughts occur.
Escaping into a Book
When the walk has been taken and the day’s writing wordcount has been accomplished – what then to keep the anxiety, gloom and boredom at bay? Yes, a bit of TV is good – especially now that Strictly Come Dancing is back on UK screens. But even better is escaping into someone else’s imaginary world – i.e. by reading. And, yes – as with the walking and the writing – reading was always a favourite pastime of mine but, oh boy, in these last few months it has been essential. I’ve read far more books than I would normally and, as with the other two sanity savers, reading has been an enormous source of comfort and an aid to my overall wellbeing.
And there you have it – three solitary activities that have saved me on a daily basis in 2020.
Over to you
I hope all of you are keeping well physically and mentally too during our trying times. If so, please do share what has worked for you in the comments below.
And stay safe – and sane – everyone!
PS – Related Question I mentioned last week about contemporary fiction that includes the Covid pandemic in the storyline and asked for your opinions. Thank you so much to those who replied. I’d still love to hear what others think about both writing and reading such fiction. Should the virus be included or ignored? Is it too soon to have it feature in a story? Would ignoring it in a novel set in 2020 be like ignoring World War Two in a story set in the 1940s? Or would you prefer to get around the issue as a writer or reader by not having the year specified in the story?