How to look after your mental health in lock down? Try keeping a routine, says author and MSer Clare Ann Smith
This is the first year I've felt well enough to want to do social things because I’m more physically able, and we can't leave our homes unless for emergency food and a walk. It's ironic for my situation. And, for a lot of others I imagine, who are now feeling the benefits of their treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS).
I consider myself luckier than most. I’ve always been ok in my own company. And being in a role where I was working in the office and working from home, I got used to quiet periods within my day.
During this lock down, and with many people furloughed, I think everything has felt heightened, because we’ve been told we can’t do things that we usually do. We’ve temporarily lost some freedoms, and when I think about it, I think that our time in lock down becomes about building a life not focused on our lack of freedoms. I’ve heard, in many true crime documentaries and interviews, inmates in prison for long periods of time say they survived by having a routine.
They have certain times which dictate recreational time, eating, and bedtimes, but creating a routine for themselves was what made their time inside manageable, bearable and kept them going.
I have applied this principle in my own life since the lock down, and an average daily routine for me looks roughly like this, with me keeping my waking, eating, and bedtime the same
6.45am Wake up, have a coffee and three raisin biscuits in bed, take medications and watch two episodes of a boxset. Pure bliss!
8.30am Yoga for 40 minutes (You can follow videos on YouTube)
9.10am Meditation for 20 minutes (I have apps on my phone, but you can also access meditations online like this one on MS-UK’s YouTube channel - click here
9.30-10am Shower, get washed and dressed for the day.
I find it’s best to do any noisy activities in the morning. I plan my day as such, so my morning could then look like this
10am-10.30am Speech therapy warm-ups. I have sheets of exercises but if you have Alexa, you can get vocal warm-ups on it! My brother Paul shared this gem of info with me, and I’ve done it every day. It really helps, and could help your voice, especially if you live alone, or you’re by yourself a lot because you might not actually be speaking as much. But you could just as easily put on the radio and sing to your favourites, or put on a CD of your favourite band or singer and sing-along to them.
10.30am Make tea! It’s either fruit teas bought in a box, normal tea with a bit of honey, or I have fun using fresh ingredients and making my own. The tea pot pictured is the Chelsea Glass Tea pot from the company Whittard, and holds six cups. I use real fruit, raspberries, and blueberries, segments of oranges, pears, apple, as well as their separate peels or adding a wedge of lemon. Mint and orange tea is quite nice. Thyme leaves are good to put with lemon wedges and berries, they balance out the taste. Thyme leaf tea has antibacterial properties and can be used to gargle with for sore throats. Enjoy a cup or two.
11.15am FaceTime or call a family member or friend. I have a large family, so I’m not short in people to chat to, and I FaceTime my friends.
12.00 noon Lunch, usually a salad or soup or I’ll cook something now, but have a lighter dinner later, depending on how hungry I am really.
1pm Catch up on emails.
1.30pm-6pm Time doing creative things. I’ve just finished editing my book, written over the last three years, which is free to read on wattpad, called Sunshine and Hand Grenades. It’s about my MS journey, so I’m getting word out about that on my social media. My family have been sharing their favourite quotes on their social media, so will hopefully get a buzz about that going.
I also spend this time listening to music quietly, and making concept boards and mood boards for interior ideas that I have. I do this on A3 paper, and keep whatever I create and put in neat A3 folders, so they stay nice.
I have recently started, and therefore spend an hour or two on, an Interior Design Business course, which is teaching me more, and complements my Level 4 Interior Design Diploma which I completed in April 2019.
18.00pm Watch the news
19.00pm Make and eat dinner, and watch another episode of a boxset
21.00pm Get washed and ready for bed, take medications, and read
22.00pm-23.00pm I usually fall asleep
I did online shopping over the Easter Bank holiday weekend and bought every one’s birthday presents, which go right up into the month of September! Delivery has just arrived as and when.
I’ve been for walks, too, because I live in the countryside, and I do this twice a week, usually in the afternoon or just before dinner. I make it interesting by challenging myself to at take at least five photos with my phone of something on my walk which has caught my eye.
I’ve made an ‘inspiration wall’ by cutting out things in magazines; using the print-screen button. I’ve found prints and art work online, using the pictures from my walks and then printing it all off and just taping up pictures that I really love, with simple masking tape, so as not to damage the paintwork. I make the most of my surroundings by lighting candles in the evening, and I’ve brought out different throws and blankets.
My Dad potted beautiful flowers for the garden patio area for me, as well as some vegetables in large tubs in early March just before the lock down was announced, and I can now see that they’re growing! We’ve been quite lucky weather-wise.
I hope, as we near the end of lock down, when it’s officially ended, that we all remember the kindness of others, and continue to pay it forward somehow. I’d like to thank my parents and family for helping me during this period.