Over lockdown if you happen to be out of work at the moment and your to-do list is slowly being reduced to tasks like brushing your hair, you may end up in the same boat as myself; riding waves of overthinking and overcoming emotional spirals. With so much more time on our hands, I think brains are seizing the opportunity to conjure up long lost memories, trauma and wonderful questions such as: Is this really what I want? Looking at our lives from within our isolated bubbles and, more often or not, relying on our own perceptions is causing quite the emotional turmoil for some. Within this some, I stand, hand raised and admitting ‘I’m struggling also’. Distractions are limited and accessibility to the usual coping mechanisms scarce. It’s a very uncomfortable feeling to look at your life in such an examined way, looking inside ourselves through an unusual and unplanned situation. It throws everything up in the air.
While waiting to come down, we catch ourselves asking questions about what we want, how to make the most of this time and are we happy. Some pretty deep questions, adding pressure to our daily lives. This pressure for me began as I noticed things starting to close again in the Autumn. Shops began to close, emails came in explaining the plans of action for closure, every second headline reading ‘Lockdown: Round Two’. When change struck the first time in Spring 2020, I remember telling myself to remain positive and use this time to rest. It was relatively new and I grabbed the extra time with both hands, walks were adventurous and I used my spare time to indulge in cooking and catching up on the latest shows. However, the second national lockdown placed a feeling I could not describe at the time. One that clung to the corners of my smile, adding an extra weight to lift. The motivation and positivity much harder to conjure up. Instead of seizing the change, I surrendered and sunk into my bed each morning with a ‘What’s the point?’
This feeling was suffocating, dark and unkind to my brain. It caused me to do mental gymnastics every day of what to do, to be active or not, to be social or not, to do work or not. Each task felt so much harder to complete. After a while, coming into the New Year and the harsh nature of a third national lockdown caused myself to retreat. I lost myself.
When we speak of losing ourselves, I think it’s important to look into what that exactly means. First, when do we know ourselves? Usually I know who I am most when asked for advice, or when explaining why I chose to do something. For example, when asked why I chose to study film, I speak of the complete adoration since I was young for the screen and how images could make you feel. I’d tell people of that amazing feeling when leaving the cinema, that feeling for me bubbles up and I could talk for hours. This passion has stayed with me, showed itself in various ways but has always remained. Alternatively, a friend may tell me of an injustice they have experienced and I suddenly fire up with passion, love and loyalty. These moments I have never felt more grounded, my feet never more comfortable in my shoes. Yet, 2021 has brought the most uncertainty the world has faced in a long time. My shoes may be on the ground, but I have no clue where exactly my feet are and my reminders have never felt so far away. This sense of loss appears and I begin to retreat.
Some tell-tale signs of losing yourself may be:
- Becoming less sociable and secluded
- Lack of motivation
- Sleeping changes such as sleeping too much, or restless nights
- Overthinking and increased anxiety
- Imposter’s Syndrome
- Increased need to compare and fear of inadequacy
- Feeling lonely
- Impulsive decisions including change in appearance
So how do we come back home? Excellent question and one I’ve been asking myself a hell of a lot. When mindlessly watching rom-coms recently, one film with a glowingly blonde pregnant woman spoke of nesting. For those who haven’t experienced this, nesting within pregnancy is a term best described as the process where the pregnant women may have the sudden urge to redecorate and prepare for their baby’s arrival. Well, I’m certainly not expecting and don’t suggest to start making major life decisions when not ourselves, but I do suggest making your own nest. My partner compared me to a bird when I explained this trapped feeling, they described Covid much like a cage which clipped my wings and kept me from the freedom we had before government restrictions. So we still can’t leave our cages, but that doesn’t mean they have to look like a cage. Investing in small decorations, motivational quotes, a new brightly coloured cushion or even creating a new Spotify playlist can help with reminding you of what makes your space, your space. We have looked at the same four walls an awful lot right now, some wee changes may shake things up and encourage you to remember what you love. Framed pictures of your loved ones is a great idea for your home-sick heart. This starts to build a bridge of your physical environment to your mental connection. Humans need reminders of who we are and it helps if we can visualise them. A Pinterest mood board, or for the more crafty a physical one, can inspire new aspirations and goals you may forgotten amongst the doom-scrolling.
Speaking of doom-scrolling, negative news can completely take a toll over your mental state. Mix that with the unattainable expectations pasted over Instagram of toned bodies and productive queens, you’ve got yourself the comparison goblin whispering: “You’re not doing enough.” Shut that goblin up! Social media is one of very little available ways to connect with people just now, so a detox isn’t the most achievable. Try muting news notifications, instead maybe try to dedicate a time for a catch up with broadcasts. Install an app such as Forest or Cleverest which provides productive timers encouraging keeping away from your phone. I’ve started using this for an hour a day, either spent reading or focussing on uni work. A clearer mind will have more space to hold positivity and to remind yourself of little hobbies. I know, I don’t exactly love that word. It somehow holds a lot of pressure, demanding us to be able to reply with acrobatics or wakeboarding. Things we enjoy doing, that help pass the time and give light to our day. Much longer than the word ‘hobbies’ but you get the point. Rediscovering old hobbies can help in the journey to finding ourselves. Try and embrace your inner child and take up finger-painting or dancing in the kitchen or living room. Scientifically, Psychologists have found shaking our bodies to be incredible mood boosters. If you’re like me and are more introverted: writing, reading, drawing or even becoming a pen-pal are some hobbies to get involved in.
Lastly, creating a goal that is achievable just now in uncertain times can provide that spring of motivation a lot of us are searching for. Goals could include small tasks like a weekly workout, a daily walk, taking more photos, improving baking skills, or signing up for an online course. It may be emotional goals like journaling every night or creating more honest boundaries with friends or colleagues. It is important to note that this goal works with you. Everyone may be in the same boat, but we all respond differently with different abilities. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just pushing forward and waking up each day is enough. Be gentle and be curious about this new change, in the world and in ourselves.
Losing ourselves isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it’s the shift of something bigger, it may even lead to some fresh revelations. Don’t be scared of the in-between. It can allow for growth and indicate to the things that mean the most to us.
I’ve grabbed my ticket home. It’s bloody terrifying to find your feet but they are there. Maybe just a new pair of shoes this time.
Looking forward to our next chat,