Not every distraction we turned to during lockdown was bad – in fact, many of the habits that were formed can remain good for us in the long run.
When the coronavirus plunged Australia into a nationwide lockdown back in March, many of us had to adapt to the challenges of working from home, feeling isolated from loved ones and losing our sense of freedom.
But it wasn’t all bad news. After the initial shock of life in quarantine, a lot of Aussies began to see some silver linings.
“I think the isolation period allowed people to re-evaluate what matters to them,” explains Nancy Sokarno, a psychologist with online-counselling platform Lysn. “When people stopped running around and chasing their tails, they were able to hone in on what’s important, reconnect with family and friends, move their bodies, challenge their minds and declutter their lives.”
Psychologist Jacqui Manning agrees, noting that while some felt challenged or stressed by isolation, others had a much more positive experience.
“People have become more aware of their physical and mental health,” she says. “They’ve been able to notice what was making them anxious in ‘normal’ life because lockdown shone a spotlight on the relief they felt when they stopped doing those things, like rushing around for appointments and activities.”
Whether it was rediscovering the joys of cooking or realising the importance of self-care, lockdown taught everyone a valuable lesson or two. Here are five worth holding on to…
5 iso habits that you should NOT break
1. Regular check-ins on your mental health
Before lockdown, busy schedules distracted most of us from what we were really thinking and feeling. Being forced to slow down and literally stay in one place gave us all an opportunity to reassess the state of our mental health.
“Emotions that were stored in the subconscious rose to the surface and people had to unpack those things,” Sokarno tells Body+Soul. “You might have realised you don’t like your own company or that you overthink things, and you had to work through that.”
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To ensure you don’t fall back into the old habit of suppressing your feelings, Sokarno recommends scheduling regular chats with friends and family to de-stress, journalling about the things that trouble you, or spending 10 minutes a day practising mindfulness, which is really just shorthand for tuning in to and making the most of the present moment.
Manning also suggests paying attention to how you react to certain situations. “Notice what makes you feel more centred and check in with how your body feels,” she tips. “Does your heart rate increase when you’re around a lot of people? Maybe you need to decompress on the way home from work – whether that’s listening to music or sitting in silence in the car.”
2. Getting creative with a new hobby
If you learnt how to knit or crochet in isolation, you may want to stick with it.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, up to 40 per cent of Australians spent more time engaging in new side endeavours over the past few months, and since studies show that people who indulge their creative side are happier and perform better at work, it’s best to keep it up.
“Give yourself permission to do those things,” Manning tells Body+Soul. “When you’re on the run, it feels like you can’t stop and read a book or do some knitting, but these moments can be refreshing and give you energy to do other things.”
3. Making time for exercise
“Exercise is a priority for both your physical and mental health,” explains Sokarno. “By exercising, you’re depleting the stress hormone cortisol and upping your happiness drug: serotonin.”
If you can’t squeeze in a pre-work sweat session, try waking up earlier for an at-home workout, or transforming your commute into an active one by cycling or alighting one stop earlier.
“It’s about discipline and creating a habit,” adds Sokarno. “If you can’t make it to the gym, do something you do have the capacity for. It doesn’t have to be a gym class at 5am, it could be going for a walk with the dog. Anything that’ll make you move your body.”
4. Spending time in the kitchen
Banana bread, sourdough, focaccia … and that was just the stuff that seemed to be flooding your Instagram feeds. Cooking had a total resurgence in the past few months, and lots of people rediscovered their passion for making their own meals. And it was to their benefit:not only do home cooks often make healthier choices, they also enjoy better gut health than those who eat out.
“Your gut is your second brain and by feeding your body good food, you can counteract the activation of mentalhealth disorders,” says Sokarno.
If you’re time-poor once again, there’s a bevy of meal-prep and fresh-produce delivery services available in Australia to help you maintain healthy habits. And for those nights when you can’t hover over the stove, opt for wholefood takeaway over deep-fried temptations.
5. Indulging in self-care
“Self-care is about so much more than pampering yourself,” notes Sokarno. “Before isolation, many thought they had to do everything at the same time, but now they’ve thought about what’s really important, they can prioritise their day based on what they value.”
Manning adds that you don’t need to dedicate two hours to a spa visit to feel refreshed. “Take short breaks of time out,” she says. “Schedule time to do the things that give you joy, like cooking.You’ll feel more energised and better able to manage your workload as a result.”
And the one you should leave behind…
70% of Australian drinkers admit to downing more booze during quarantine
GP Sam Hay tells Body+Soul he’s not surprised. “Australians have been stuck inside dealing with boredom, job losses, financial stress, working or schooling from home and a general sense of uncertainty, and this has caused a lot of people to self-medicate with alcohol,” he explains.
And while a cheeky tipple or two may help short-term, sustained high levels only lead to bigger problems. “Excess drinking can cause poor sleep, irritability and increased stress, and it can also worsen pre-existing anxiety and depression,” Dr Hay notes.
According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, adults should consume no more than 10 standard drinks per week.
If you aren’t sure how many you are downing, Dr Hay suggests it is time to pay closer attention.
“You need to look at how much you’re drinking and if it’s too much, make a change,” he says. “Take away the convenience by only going to a bottle shop instead of buying your booze online.”
If your drinking is getting out of control, Dr Hay recommends visiting your GP or psychologist to learn about strategies that can help you break the cycle before it becomes an addiction.