A guest blog on coping in lockdown by Gary Gower, a wire fox terrier that likes to be heard.
Are we in week 3 or 4 of lockdown? What day is it? I’ve lost track. To be honest, days of the week have never made that much difference to me. I’m a dog. I’m used to hanging out at home, I’m used to sleeping at random times of day and I’m used to always wanting snacks. That’s why I thought I’d write this blog (with the help of my PA, Lucy Gower) to help you humans adjust to life in lockdown.
Have a routine for the basics. I get up every morning at the same time. I have breakfast and dinner at the same time. I go to bed around the same time. This way I know where I am. I think it’s important to have a routine for the basics in lockdown otherwise it can be easy for time to wander, for days to merge into each other and to feel a bit discombobulated.
Stretch. Part of my morning waking up routine is as soon as I’m up I do my stretches. Downward dog is my favourite. There are no sudden movements until I’ve stretched out.
Exercise. Go for a walk every day. I think it’s helpful if you go in the morning, that way you can start positive, have a think about what you want to achieve, make a plan and set yourself up for the day. My PA calls it her ‘fake commute’.
Eat well. If you can, eat a healthy, balanced diet and have your meals at about the same time each day. That helps you to establish a routine. I know that it’s breakfast first and after that its walks and in the evening it’s dinner and then a walk round the block. Don’t miss meals and snack instead. I see my PA opening and closing the fridge all the time and it’s worse if she misses a meal. I find it annoying because I don’t know if I’m getting extra snacks or not. I don’t like snack uncertainty.
Keep things simple. I’m a dog so that’s how I see life. Simple. Humans have a real knack of making things complicated. The simpler you can make your life the better. Part of this is appreciating the simple things right now in the moment. Things like having a good place to sleep, access to snacks and smelling good sniffs. Appreciate the simple things that you do have.
Look on the positive side. I have a good life. Even on the boring days when I have to do things I don’t enjoy, like having a bath, going to the vets or walking past a scooter with scary wheels, I just forget about it instantly and find a good sniff or something else that’s positive to focus on. Find your positive things to focus on. Make them simple. It can also help to list them in your head in the morning when you’re doing your stretches.
Good days and bad days. Remember we all have good days and bad days. I think this is just the natural flow of things. On the bad days, (like bath day) just remember that these feelings will pass. One the good days, (like when we went to the beach and I rolled in a dead seagull) focus on the positives in the moment. If you can, remember how it felt on the good days, and know too, that more good days will come.
Connect. Me and my PA do a Zoom lunch every week with her Lucidity Network members. It’s just to connect with others while we’re locked down. I get lots of attention. People like booping my nose through their screen and apparently it cheers people up so I’m happy to do it. Connecting with others in lockdown is important, it can give you an opportunity to talk through your own worries, help others, and get a different perspective.
Notice. I love sniffs. I spend as much time as possible sniffing the air and really breathing in all the smells around me. It helps to relax me. I think humans are usually in a big rush and forget to take time to notice. Now is your opportunity to stop and sniff the air, breathe slowly and deeply and just notice what’s going on around you as well as noticing how you’re feeling.
Do what you want. I please myself pretty much all the time (even though my PA thinks she’s trained me, I’m just playing a game with her). Lockdown is a completely new situation, and massive change and uncertainty can affect our motivation. In lockdown, if you’re not feeling motivated, doing anything is better than doing nothing. So throw your ‘to do’ list away and do what you fancy doing, until you feel motivated again. If you do all of the things I suggest in this blog, its likely that your mojo will return.
Be heard. Following on from getting motivated, it can help to tell others how you’re feeling and be heard. Personally I like to go out in the garden and bark at the neighbours. But we’re all different. My PA connects online and on the phone. It depends where your tribe is. Let others know you’re there, ask for help when you need it, and when you can, help other people too.
Get inspired. Personally I love David Attenborough. When he is on the telly I sit up and take notice. It’s like nothing else matters. He inspires me. What inspires you? Tune into it. Keep your inspiration levels topped up. Find a bit of inspiration every day.
Learn. This time at home is an opportunity to learn something new. My PA is a rescue diver and she was trying to teach me life saving skills in my paddling pool. I wasn’t very good and I accidentally drowned Christmas Pig.
I am however, going to give it another go. It’s important to keep learning. Are there things that you’d like to learn? Take that online course, read the book, watch the documentary, you could even ask your friends and family to teach you. Just keep learning.
Give. Helping others can help ourselves feel better. Apparently my Instagram makes people smile and sometimes helps them get through days when they feel sad. That makes me happy. What can you give back? For example, helping your neighbours who might not be able to pick up their shopping or prescriptions, or finding volunteering opportunities in your local community or a charity that might make good use of your skills, time or donation.
Gary time. We all need our own time and space. Slow down. If you’re at home with your partner, in-laws, children etc then acknowledge that this can be stressful at times. Take some time out each day on your own to think, breathe, notice and reflect. I often take myself off somewhere quiet. My PA calls this ‘Gary time.’ I feel much better and ready to engage again after a bit of time on my own.
Take one day at a time. It’s a marathon not a sprint. Lockdown is just part of a bigger picture of how humans are combatting the corona virus. There is no such thing as ‘back to normal’. We are all on a massive learning curve and adapting to a new world where the only certainty is uncertainty. The habits and mindset you adopt now will help you build your resilience and capacity to manage the uncertain times ahead.
Gary Gower is a wire fox terrier. He loves sniffs, tummy tickles and rolling in fox poo. You can check his words of wisdom and daily activities on Instagram.
Thank you to John Harvey for the inspiration.