At the beginning of the first lockdown in March, we brought together some words of hope and peace, as well as some suggestions for how to care for ourselves and others. As we find ourselves in a third national lockdown, it seems a good moment to bring those posts back. You can find part one here and part two here, as well as another post on wellbeing here. Much that is in those posts will still be true, but I want to add a few things gleaned from the experiences of the last nine months.
Please do keep returning to these posts for ideas, and add your own in the comments. This has been a long haul, and we are tired and sad and frustrated, and so now more than ever we need to be gentle.
Make a to do list With many of us finding our usual routines disrupted, it can help to have a few simple tasks to give some pattern and purpose. It doesn't need to be long or complicated, just enough to help you keep on top of the things that most need doing. And if you start your list with 'make the bed', you can easily start the day with a sense of accomplishment.
Tear up your to do list If it is bringing more pressure and guilt than clarity and structure, rip it up like confetti. We're all under enough stress without creating more, and we don't always need to be productive. Sometimes getting to the end of the day in one piece is enough.
Write a done list Juggling ministry with looking after a six month old and home schooling a four year old means there is plenty to be done around the house but very little goes to plan. I'm not sure where the idea came from, but I have found it helpful to write up what I have managed to do. 'Hung the laundry', 'loaded the dishwasher', 'took the recycling out'...it's harder to feel despondent about what you haven't done when you're looking at a reminder of what you have achieved.
Take each day at a time Some days you'll need a to do list, some days you'll put it through the shredder, some days you'll look for the encouragement of a done list. It's okay not to be consistent. Try to pay attention to what you need each day, whether that's slumming it in your pyjamas until midday or dressing up fancy for a cinema at home evening, having another go at perfecting your sourdough or crying into the last of your Christmas chocolate.
Be real This season is hard in so many ways, and I'm not sure if the fact that we've been here before means we're better prepared this time, or just means we're starting already exhausted. Name how you're feeling, and allow yourself to feel it. Lament is a normal and necessary response to times of grief and hardship, but also remember that joy is sometimes found in unexpected places. Don't feel guilty about either.
Drink a cup of tea And I mean just that. Drink a cup of tea. Nothing else (except maybe eat a biscuit). It's often convenient to grab a mug and sit down at the computer, or slurp mouthfuls between loading plates into the dishwasher, but there's not much pleasure in it. Take time over making your perfect cup, then sit down and simply enjoy it.
Shower with candles A bath may be more conventional, but hear me out on this one. It's a simple way to make an everyday task feel like a treat, and some days we will need those quick fixes.
Keep some Christmas sparkle You may know about the twelve days of Christmas, but you may not know that some traditions mark forty days, so that the Christmas season lasts until Candlemas on 2 February. You don't need to justify keeping some fairy lights up if they lift your mood, but if you do want an excuse then there you have it.
Limit screen time Cutting ourselves off from reality isn't feasible or healthy, but absorbing the entire internet isn't either. Keep informed and keep in touch, but give yourself plenty of breaks. Why don't you start now by finishing this blog and putting your screen down?