Anna is in her second year of studying French at the University of Oxford. She is currently locked down with her family in Hampshire.
There is no right way to do lockdown
The reactions to the COVID-19 lockdown seem to fall into two broad camps. On one side are the do-ers. ‘Shakespeare wrote King Lear in lockdown!’ ‘There’s never been a better time to work on your abs!’ ‘I just planned a themed dinner for my family, including costumes. What have you done today?’
‘NOTHING AND THAT’S FINE’ screams the other camp, the one I very firmly found myself in. I rolled my eyes at the endless stream of home workouts and 30-day writing challenges. How tone-deaf can you get? I thought. For so many people, this is not a period of potential. It’s a period of fear and uncertainty and danger. It’s not very supportive of you to assume that everyone has the time or energy to become a better person right now.
And I do still think that’s a bit true. We are living in a dystopian film, and a boring one at that. Expecting anyone to be able to operate as usual, let alone more effectively than usual, is unfair and downright insensitive. Having said that, I also find it difficult to get out of bed unless I know I have to get something done, and I find it difficult to feel better unless I get out of bed. So I do get where they’re coming from.
But these goals get damaging when they become just another thing to have failed at. And all in all I’m much less likely to be able to accomplish anything during a time when my normal life seems to have been totally upturned.
It seems to me that working towards a specific goal might be the perfect motivation to make you do at least one thing every day, but it can also make me feel really anxious and full of dread at what I have set myself up for.
However, I have found that spending days crying and looking at photos of happier times, although irresistible, is exhausting.
I think it’s best to try to complete tasks that are realistic. Call your friends, not to discuss coronavirus, but just for a chat. Do some of your schoolwork – no one’s expecting it to be perfect, or even particularly good. Help with the laundry, not because you want to, but because it’s something to do.
If you’re not mentally or physically up to things like that, that’s completely OK. But if staying busy does help you, that doesn’t mean you have to write a masterpiece or figure out how to end world hunger. Start small.