Thursday, 31 December 2020

Winter lockdown tips: BRiC's Collective Voice


‘Please let there be light.’

Our heartfelt request to see us through the winter months of lockdown is sunshine. We shared tips for not only surviving but thriving during these winter months when we are restricted in our activities. Everyone who is well enough to get outside agreed that a walk in the fresh air is the best way to keep our spirits up, even better in daylight but for those working who may not be able to get out during the day, then an evening walk is also beneficial. Sunshine can activate parts of the brain that bring us pleasure, and so we grab it when we can. In these days when we can’t plan or look forward to things - in fact we are more likely to have plans scuppered at short notice as the rules fluctuate - we must seize the day and make the best of what we can do. Constant disappointment does get us down, our brains are tired from dealing with our cancer and the additional uncertainty that covid brings, and we can easily feel low and unmotivated.

Many of us are sorely missing our friends, family, activities and freedom. For those who like to plan, having a routine and structure to the day may be helpful, even if we're at home for the day e.g.scheduling in exercise, planning what we're going to cook for dinner, deciding when we're going to take our walk depending on the weather forecast. Goal-setting is useful, short or long term. Many have taken the opportunity to learn new skills, perhaps new craft activities, a musical instrument, painting, calligraphy. Leisure activities at home have brought joy, and we’re making the most of music, television, DIY and board-games. We incorporate exercise, mindfulness or meditation into our day, taking advantage of online classes and courses. We are reading and writing, challenging ourselves with puzzles, dancing and phoning and zooming family and friends. We are cooking new recipes, baking bread and cakes, and sometimes sharing our products with others which brings additional pleasure.

The lockdown rollercoaster that everyone is living with has many parallels with the rollercoaster that is cancer treatment, where we wait for scan results and make a few short term plans where we can. This is especially true when we have secondary breast cancer, when treatment is ongoing and scans and tests become a regular part of our lives. We live from one to the next, hoping for good news, adapting to bad news. ‘Entirely exhausting but end up looking out for little things’ as one member put it. We may be missing activities and people, but we make small plans and live for the moment, making sure that we don’t just fritter our time away or end up ‘slumped with no idea of what next.’

Many of us find our work rewarding and a distraction, though for those working close up to Covid or in different conditions (e.g. working from home) work may be more challenging and stressful than usual. Making sure we get a break from work which includes getting outside is a useful goal to aim for.

Getting closer to nature is a bonus for many of us, and a simple exercise was suggested by one member: sky watching. It can be done from indoors if the weather isn’t good or you’re not feeling up to going out, perhaps with the window open to get the benefits of fresh air. ‘It’s an opportunity to stop, pause and notice the wonder of the sky.’ It can be done anytime, start with five minutes, and just notice the clouds or the stars. It can be very soothing.

Asking for help may also be key to getting through, as we strive to be more honest and authentic in our day-to-day life. One member described how she made a list of things she wanted for Christmas, not just gifts but activities too, and how she bought some items ready made rather than making it all from scratch. She also handed out tea-towels for family members to dry up with. Many of us are practising accepting and making the best of limitations, whether that’s relating to our own physical or mental capability or the restrictions the covid rules put on us. We acknowledge that we are sad about the things we miss, and then we move through these feelings and find ways to be kind to ourselves. If we can’t concentrate to read, we might listen to audio books instead, for example.

Some of us are treasuring the extra time and space that lockdown is providing. Looking at lockdown as a chance to take stock and knowing that although we don’t know how or when it will end, trusting that it will end, can be helpful. ‘Lockdown gave me time for me and I’ve finally realised I’m not selfish putting myself first.’ Not feeling guilty for looking after our own needs was a recurring theme for many of us. ‘Trying to be good to myself and doing something each day for me.’

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