How to Escape that Locked-in Feeling during Lockdown in 5 Easy Steps

How to Escape that Locked-in Feeling during Lockdown in 5 Easy Steps

Cabin fever is a very apt term that might describe what some of us are experiencing now. It’s that locked-in feeling when the rooms feel smaller and the home a little too cosy for comfort as we long for escape and freedom without fear. The forced hibernation may have led to an increase in anxiety and low-level depression for some of us. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy provides an easy-to-implement gloom busting solution through what is referred by the experts as Behavioural Activation.

Cognitive Psychology tends to focus on the individual and his or her ability to work through inner perceived struggles through individual achievement-based goal sets.  One of the many tools available to produce more positive results is referred to as Behavioural Activation. It asks us to create a sustainable routine, an achievable action-oriented implementation plan that is scheduled in advance. By taking small steps to achieving bigger goals, we start to improve our own life flow and sense of self-worth. And, we begin to feel more focused, creative and productive resulting in improved mental and emotional wellbeing.

How to use Behavioural Activation in the Home, Office or Home-office

Find a quiet space that will allow you the opportunity to reflect on your current goals, current situation and the current actions that you’re taking or not taking in achieving them. Understand your sleep / wake cycle and eating patterns as well as the supplements you take, when you take them and how. After about 10 minutes or so proceed to Step 1.

Step 1: Identify Routine, Necessary and Pleasure Activities

Create three columns on a piece of paper and title each column with Routine, Necessary and Pleasure respectively. Start to list what you feel are the most appropriate activities in each of these columns.

Routine activities include things like sleeping, house-chores, washing the dishes, preparing meals, walking the dog, cleaning and ironing for example.  

Necessary activities include those for which there will be a negative consequence if they are not done. This list might include things like creating a monthly budget, paying bills on time, grocery and food shopping, children’s schoolwork etcetera.

Pleasure activities might seem like non-essential activities, but they deserve equal credence. These are activities that you either know you already enjoy doing such as watching TV, reading a book or working out as well as those things that you would like to try out such as origami, baking or yoga.

Step 2: Create a Path of Effortless Ease

On a second sheet of paper, again, create three columns. This time create a header for each column according to level of difficulty to implement the activities. Easy, Medium, Most Difficult. Difficulty is a personal reflection and you might want to factor the time it will take to accomplish each activity too. You may want to consider being specific about what, where, when, who, why and how more difficult tasks need to be achieved. 

Refer to the items on the first page and this time, reorganise them to your perceived level of difficulty. If the activity is more complex, consider breaking it down into several tasks or required steps. Each column on the second page will now contain a mix of activity that are Routine, Necessary and Pleasure based.

Step 3: Review and Diarise

Use a diary. Feel free to use an existing written one or a digital one such as those found on your computer or handheld device such as phone or Touch Pad. If you have access to none of these, consider creating a weekly plan with seven columns on a single page of paper with Monday through to Sunday as columns. You can then also stick this to your fridge or mirror.

Plan activity one week at a time. We suggest starting with the upcoming week only. Each day should include a mix of activities from the least difficult section initially and make sure there is a variety from the Routine, Necessary and Pleasurable columns too. It is important to remember to work SMART (Specific Measurable Achievable Realist and Timely) and to KISS by Keeping It Sensationally Simple. Factor in a little breathing space for breaks and unforeseen activities and surprises that may crop-up, as they do.

Step 4: Get the Ball Rolling

Start. Just start. Motivation will come when you start doing the planned activity. Do not wait for a wave of motivation to strike you. Set your alarm to wake up at a certain time daily and place it out of reach until you are forced to get up to switch it off. Keep a red pen handy and pat yourself on the back with a hearty red tick after completing each activity. Be present. Focus on what needs to be done first and remember this mantra: Progress Not Perfection.

Step 5: Harvest an Attitude of Gratitude

While completing each task, say thank you even if you’re not sure why you’re saying it. There is extra in the ordinary and magic in the mundane if we harvest an attitude of gratitude. At the end of each day, review your accomplishments and add in any activity that you did that wasn’t planned. Tick each accomplished activity with your pen or write done next to it.

If relevant, check to see whether you’re able to slot in any unaccomplished tasks into the following day. Review what worked well after the first week and note what was harder to do. And remember, easy does it. After all, it’s about balance and consistency. It was the tortoise and not the hare who won the race. Instead of being disappointed about what you didn’t achieve, focus on what you did get done and adjust your planning the following week to be a little more realistic.

It was Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield who twice served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the mid-1800s who said, “Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.” We couldn’t agree more.