Last month, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a province-wide lockdown from December 26, 2020 to January 23, 2021. Since then, the Ontario government has declared another state of emergency as well as a stay-at-home order, ordering all Ontarians to stay à la maison for at least 28 days. Of course, this order could be extended but since this isn’t the first COVID-19 lockdown, I’m a bit more prepared on how to deal with the boredom, depression and loneliness that I will no doubt be facing again during this lockdown. To anyone else who wants to get ahead of these negative feelings you may experience during lockdown 2.0, here is a list I’ve compiled of 8 things that I will be doing differently during this lockdown.
- How I start my day
When time was something hard to keep track of during the first lockdown last year, I got into the habit of waking up around 3 or 4 pm...I know, that’s pretty bad. I really messed around with my sleep schedule - since I woke up late, I would be up late at night and the cycle would just repeat. I noticed this was a big problem when I realized I wasn’t awake when there was still daylight which made a significant negative impact on my mental health. Since then, I’ve made the effort to go to bed at a reasonable time so that I can wake up the next morning and spend my waking hours while the sun is still up. This is definitely a schedule I will carry into this current lockdown because it makes me feel like I have more hours in the day to be productive.
I’ll also be starting my days during lockdown 2.0 by not spending so much time on my phone while I’m still in bed. I’ve gotten used to picking up my phone, checking my notifications and using social media as soon as I wake up which, in the past, I used as an excuse on myself by saying it helps to wake me up. But this time around, I want to actually make it out of bed before I start using my phone for any reason. I want to avoid spending hours after I wake up still in bed just on my phone because ultimately, it just doesn’t make me feel productive. But even if all I want to do that day is just be on my phone and not check off anything on my to-do list, I should at least still do my everyday tasks like brushing my teeth and eating breakfast before I spend endless hours on TikTok.
- How I plan my day
Before the pandemic hit, I used to always plan out my days (mainly the tasks I would like to complete each day) at least one week in advance. I would write out all the school assignments and tests I had, what days I would do work/study, what club commitments I had, etc. But during the first lockdown, I stopped planning my tasks for every day of the week. Granted, when the first lockdown came into effect last year, I was basically finished the winter semester. I didn’t have due dates or study sessions anymore to put in my weekly planner and so I stopped using my planner altogether which was ultimately a bad move for me. Not planning out even the most seemingly insignificant tasks in my planner (like ‘make bed’ or ‘clean room in the afternoon’) made me lack the motivation to do anything at all and sometimes made me feel very down and depressed.
I’m a lists kind of person - I make lists for almost everything to organize my days, thoughts, plans, etc. And so when I didn’t have a daily to-do list during the first lockdown, I saw every day as there being nothing to do (whereas I know that some people may see this as a free day of endless possibilities, I personally just prefer more structure to my day). Over the summer of 2020, I started using my planner again and making a to-do list of tasks for every day of the week. I wrote down things that I needed to do that day, from tasks as mindless as ‘take a shower’ to plans that benefited my social life and mental health like ‘virtual movie night with friends at 8 pm’, and this really helped me to feel like life was ‘normal’ again. Seeing even the smallest tasks on my list motivated me to do them and once I could check them off, I felt productive which uplifted my mood and made me feel happy.
Since the summer, I have been using my planner, making to-do lists and checking off completed tasks every day. I highly recommend using a planner or having some sort of list where you can visually see all of the things you have set for yourself to complete because I truly believe this bit of structure in your everyday life will help you feel less helpless and more motivated, less hard on yourself for not getting things done and more satisfied with yourself when you’ve checked off even the easiest task that day.
It is important to note, however, that you don’t need to fill every day with 40 tasks you want to complete by the end of the day. Listen to your body, your mood and how capable you feel each day before you start moving; there will definitely be days where you can’t even check off one thing on your list and that is 100% okay! In my experience, when I had days where I could barely make it out of bed or I just simply didn’t feel like doing anything that day, I didn’t push myself to clear my to-do list. Instead, I listened to what I needed that day and did that. It’s a myth that you need to utilize all the time you have during lockdown to do something productive or things that will get you ahead in life. But having some sort of structure to your days is a good practice that I highly encourage.
- How often I use social media
Not only is it a general New Year's resolution of mine to use social media less, but it is also something that will definitely help me during this lockdown. During the first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, I resorted to using my phone and laptop to keep me entertained and busy when I was bored in the house, in the house bored. TikTok became my new favorite app (clearly) and I started using Instagram a lot more - I would catch myself opening the app and refreshing my feed way too often to the point where I would close the app when I thought I was done using it, just to open it up again because there was really nothing else I did on my phone.
Instagram was something that did not provide me quality entertainment or comfort in any way during the first lockdown. In fact, it made me very nosey; I would be on the app for hours, falling deeper and deeper into a dark hole of insta-stalking (yes, I’ll admit that I’ve done it but really, who hasn’t). I’m definitely not proud of that and I know now that boredom + social media (where it’s become so easy to see someone’s network of friends/family, activity on the app, etc.) is not a good combo or way to pass the time. To shed this toxic trait and make sure it stays behind in 2020, I’ve set up a time limit on my phone for the Instagram app - I can now only use the app for 30 minutes a day.
When I first set this limit about three weeks ago, I thought it wouldn’t be too hard to abide by. But truthfully, it is hard sometimes because I’ve become so used to using Instagram for hours at a time. And honestly, there have been times where I’ve disabled the time limit for the day when my phone sends me a warning that my time is almost up. However, when I am able to abide by this time limit, I find myself feeling light and good about not ‘creeping’ on anyone’s profile which overall, is really great for my mental health. At this point, I don’t blame myself for disabling my Instagram time limit sometimes because I’m still learning to change my bad habits and adjust to the healthier choices I’ve set for myself. Social media doesn’t have to be an enemy. It’s important to exercise a healthy relationship with social media because the last thing I’m sure you want is to be brought to the point of toxic habits and cloudy mental health, especially during a pandemic and lockdown.
- How much time I spend on Netflix
I know that Netflix and Disney+ have been super popular past-times for almost everyone staying safe at home. But for me at least, Netflix had really taken over my life during the first lockdown. I know everyone says that but it’s true! I would spend all day watching movies and TV episodes and getting that ‘continue watching’ prompt pop up on my screen multiple times in one sitting. Yeah, I really planted myself in my bed or on the couch literally all day.
For lockdown 2.0, I’m vowing to not spend so many hours on Netflix which is especially hard now that I’ve discovered a love for RuPaul’s Drag Race and 13 seasons of the show are available on the site. But nevertheless, I will be controlling my binge-watching because I found that in the past, spending almost my entire day on Netflix really limits my productivity. Now I know that I don’t need to be productive every day during lockdown, but I at least want to cross off some of the tasks on my to-do list every day (if I’m up for it, of course). This means that I can’t spend as many consecutive hours watching something on Netflix as I used to. This will also benefit me in other ways like giving my eyes a break from staring at a screen and forcing myself to step away and do a different activity. It will also be a motivator for me to do school work or chores if I reward myself with watching an episode of my newest favorite show once I complete the task at hand.
- How I spend my money
I’m almost ashamed to admit that I was definitely someone who fell victim to purchasing almost everything I saw in those ‘Things I bought off Amazon that are totally worth it’ videos on TikTok during the first lockdown in 2020. I always loved online shopping (I sometimes even prefer it over in-store shopping) but the first lockdown really intensified my online shopping addiction. It was a hobby for me to spend money and buy things that, let’s be real, I really didn’t need. Not only is this a reflection of my poor money management skills, but it also reflects how bored and sad I was during lockdown.
This time around during lockdown 2.0, I will consciously make the effort to not online shop so excessively. Just because it’s so easy to do or I’m bored out of my mind or I’m sad and need a quick pick-me-up, doesn’t mean I need to make my bank account cry. Honestly, the amount of money I could have saved from not shopping when I was bored is embarrassing for me to admit. I really could have done without a lot of the purchases I’ve made during the first lockdown so I really want to change how I spend my money by being more conscious of my spending. Now, I’ll just live vicariously through all the TikTokers and YouTubers who share their hauls online. But if it gets to a point where I find myself adding unnecessary things to my Amazon wishlist again, you better believe I’ll stop myself this time. We’re saving and making money in 2021, not spending it on unnecessary items or using ‘retail therapy’ as an excuse. How about in 2021, let’s just not, okay? Let’s just not make my future self angry at my past self for buying things just because I was sad or bored. Let’s just be happy, healthy and wealthy this year, Lisa.
- How I virtually socialize with family and friends
During the first COVID-19 lockdown almost one year ago now, I didn’t take the widely shared advice to ‘check up on your friends/family’. When I did though, it was almost always through text or phone calls. But over the summer and just the past year in general, video chatting has become a very popular form of communication. With platforms like Zoom and FaceTime that make it so easy for us to connect with others virtually and see their faces, it’s honestly a shame that I didn’t jump on the bandwagon sooner during the first lockdown. This time, I’ll be making the effort to connect with friends and family via video chat more rather than just through text messages or phone calls. I’ll no longer take for granted this ability we have that, even in a small way, bridges the gap of distance between ourselves and the people we love.
Looking into some activities that can be done during virtual gatherings (besides movie nights or PowerPoint presentation nights), here are two websites with various games you can play online with those you’re video chatting with: Backyard.co and Jackbox Games.
- Where I do my school work
I recently got a desk in my room and let me tell you, it was definitely something I should have gotten sooner. During the first lockdown last year, I remember reading Her Campus articles sharing tips on how to make working/schooling-from-home better and one of the tips was to have a designated space in your home/dorm for doing work. I overlooked this tip at the time because 1) I didn’t have a desk and I didn’t feel like spending money on one (especially because I didn’t think a year later, we’d still be going through a pandemic) and 2) I thought that there were plenty of comfy areas in my home where I could do work like my bed, my living room couch, or kitchen table. But the truth is, you really do need a designated space to do your work.
My bed was way too comfy to do work in. I used to sit in my bed and work on my laptop and yes, I was comfy, but sometimes I’d get too comfy and end up falling asleep. Not very ideal for someone who is trying to get work done. Eventually, I stopped falling asleep while doing homework in my bed but this proved to be a bad thing when at night, I couldn’t fall asleep. I realized that by working in my bed all day, I was subconsciously associating my bed as my workspace where I shouldn’t fall asleep because I needed to get work done. So at night, even if I was laying down, all the lights were off and I had my sleep mask on, I still had a hard time falling asleep.
Since getting a desk, I only use it for doing school work, watching Netflix and video chatting with friends. Having a separate work/laptop space from my relaxing/sleeping space has really benefited me in both respects. I now associate my desk with productivity and my bed with sleeping (and maybe watching a few TikToks before I go to sleep).
- How I end my day
The main thing I want to change about how I end off my days is what time I go to bed and my nightly routine. To avoid the sleep-late-wake-up-late cycle, I will be making the effort to go to bed every night at a reasonable time. Of course, this is subject to change on the nights when Zoom hangouts or virtual movie nights with friends run late, but the important thing to keep in mind is consistency with this sleep schedule. If for the most part, I am able to go to bed at a reasonable time 4-5 nights of the week, I know that I will wake up early and feel well-rested even on the days I go to bed later than planned.
Other habits I will implement during lockdown 2.0 to help me get the best sleep include better bed ‘hygiene’ (like not watching Netflix or eating in my bed), using a sleeping mask for my eyes, taking melatonin gummies (when needed) and setting up my essential oil diffuser to run through the night. These habits will ensure that I have a proper wind down before bed which will ultimately aid in my quality of sleep.
Living through a global pandemic can be very rough at times, to say the least. I know that for me, it definitely did not have a positive impact on my mental health. Having gone through the first provincial COVID-19 lockdown nearly one year ago and every day leading up to today, I have been able to see what works for me and what doesn’t, in terms of making life a little bit easier, more manageable and less blue. All of the habits and practices that didn’t work for me during the first lockdown, I’m leaving behind in 2020. This year during lockdown 2.0, I’ll only be doing what’s best for me, my mental health and overall well-being.