12 ways of Avoiding Apathy and/or Environmental Depression right now
Lockdown number 3 has knocked many of us for six. Despite the predictability of it all, we’ve reached January and suddenly it feels like all the joy has been sucked out of the world. Our motivation seems to have evaporated from our New Year’s resolutions as well as our general ideas to be refreshed and rejuvenated and now many of us feel this massive apathetic slump.
From my experience, personally and professionally, the reason we feel like this seems to come down to the fact that the lockdown rules have to some extent eradicated so many possible opportunities for joy. And not only that, the stuff we invented and created last year back in March to get us through this isolation can seem redundant now. I read back on a very similar article I wrote during the first lockdown and the last paragraph now sounds jarring with its easy optimism.
As a therapist, to now encourage taking up a hobby or just getting dressed in the morning would seem almost condescending. We know how to survive now, we know how to put a positive spin on this, we’ve done it for ages! But you know what, painting is boring now and frankly I have housework to do, and of course I’ve been getting dressed - I have a whole new wardrobe of comfortable Zara knitwear for Zoom angles and comfy joggers and slippers for under the desk.
The coping strategies we adapted for last year have become habit, which in one sense is fantastic that we are now adept for survival, but it has sadly removed some of their power to elevate our moods through achievement, focus and joy. On top of this, it seems that the lethargic behaviours we developed over Christmas; being easy on ourselves and accepting the convenience and comfortability of our own homes has meant that many of us have fallen into acceptance of this ‘hibernation mode’ and this has slipped into the new year. This means that in addition to not having anything environmental that can make us feel excitement, we also lack the motivation and inspiration to find some. The fight or flight response is gone, we are just existing.
Unfortunately this time around, we are likely going to have to work quite hard to find motivation or inspiration, because we do need a bit more. One leads to the other in a cyclical fashion.
I have come up with a list of ideas of things you might want to actively think about injecting into your life to make you feel better. I’ve done some of the work for you. However, selecting a handful of points that resonate with you, the items that evoke that ‘yeah that seems like an important thing I am missing that usually makes me feel better’ response, that is up to you. Then thinking up how you can fill that gap unfortunately also relies on your own creativity, though I have added some ideas.
Once you’ve thought about these things once though, you can apply it weekly if you like. Working week by week can help us focus on the here and now and distract us from that long tunnel that seems to lay out in front of us. Just put some good things in this week, and then we can do it again for the next one, and hopefully we will find some fulfilment and satisfaction again. Hopefully. Some of these are also fleshed out more in this article as well if you need more help.
(Ideas: being a great Dad, working on a project, career)
The body gives in to lethargy and this is linked to our mental states. Don’t let the body trick you into thinking you need to remain horizontal.
(Ideas: getting out of the house, a brisk walk, lift the weights you bought last April, dance party with the kids)
(Ideas: Doing something you are really good at, do something rewarding at work, reach out to the community, write a blog to share your experiences)
(Ideas: Read a book, walk with a podcast, a phone call with a friend, a candlelit bath)
5. Routine (Certainty)
(Ideas: Actively plan to do some of the things on this list this week, having lunch every day at the same time to punctuate it)
6. Variety (Uncertainty)
(Ideas: Mix up your routine, do something nice before starting work, try a new way of working out, let someone else choose your Deliveroo order)
7. Sociability (Connection with those who are meaningful to us)
(The idea is that we get most stimulation and benefit from those we care most about or connect the best with)
8. Helping Others
(Ideas: Donate to the food bank, get to know your neighbours and offer to dog-sit or get them groceries, see if the local community has any online volunteer schemes, help a friend having a hard time)
(Ideas: Buy a new game for the xbox, take a new running route)
10. Self care- indulge yourself once in a while
(Ideas: Go out and buy yourself a coffee and a pastry, binge watch Netflix with a bottle of wine, treat yourself online shopping)
11. Dreaming and curiosity
(Ideas: Research luxury resorts or exotic locations you might actually be able to book at some point, make a list of what you want to do when we can do things again)
12. Goal setting
The idea here is that sometimes we need to push ourselves cos actually we do really want more. (Ideas: beat your step count each day, complete a whole cookbook, apply for something slightly out of your comfort zone that you’ve been wondering about)
I hope this helps. Not all of them will feel in your capability or maybe even relevant to you at all, but it’s only 17th January and these themes have emerged in my own, my friends and my client’s lives in a big way, so maybe if we can put a bit of work in (unfortunately often the case with mental health and happiness) we can get a head start and avoid the depressive feelings that can come about because we aren't connecting with joy or fulfilment.
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