Small Comforts #2: Back to Basics

A series of blogs to help those struggling with isolation

Uncertainty and powerlessness over our own lives have become our new normal, and that’s very difficult for everyone, let alone somebody who is naturally prone to depression or anxiety. Feeling powerless can be a massive trigger for distress and hopelessness.

One of the hard parts of this current situation is not knowing how long it is going to last. It reminds me of being in the middle of a bad bout of depression when you can’t see a way out, and it feels like life is always going to be always to be this bad. It’s hard to cling on to positivity when everything around is negative.

Among the most useful pieces of advice I’ve gotten over the years is that when times are bad, you should concentrate on the (very) basics. This is the way to get through the worst days, and hopefully a better day will follow. Comfort can come from having a day where you follow all the basics and you feel less useless at the end of the day than you did at the start. Don’t underestimate the power of that.

The basics might go something like this:

  1. Eat three proper meals – nourishing yourself is a good way of self-soothing.
  2. Get a good amount of sleep – don’t worry too much if you find yourself sleeping more than normal. A nice nap can do wonders to reset a bad day.
  3. Try to get outside for some (social distanced) exercise if you can. Feeling physically strong helps a lot if you are struggling mentally. I’ve always found that being outside, in nature, is a great way of grounding myself when my head has started to go a bit mad.
  4. Get washed and dressed – Even washing your face and putting on clean pyjamas can lift your mood slightly. A nice double-cleanse at the end of the day is also a good way to be kind to yourself.
  5. Do one basic task everyday which will give you a sense of accomplishment. This is something you can think about when you go to bed at night to mark out today as a good day. It doesn’t matter what the task is: it could be cleaning; a piece of work; anything that occupies your mind and gives you back some self-worth. My task for today has been writing this.
  6. Don’t compare your life to others.  Try not to spend too much time on social media, if anything it can make you feel more isolated if you feel like everyone on your feed is having virtual house parties.
  7. Don’t obsess about the future – Now is not the time to question the bigger problems in your world. Your life might be very far from where you would like it to be at the moment but that’s ok. You might feel like you are going to be trapped where you are now forever; I know I do sometimes. Thoughts like this make me feel overwhelmed and so panicky so I literally have to haul myself out of it by distracting myself with something simple.

I realise that “focusing on the basics” might seem a bit, well, basic – I’m sure if you are at home right now looking after small children AND trying to work then you may roll your eyes at this advice! But I’m thinking more of someone who is alone, feeling anxiety for the first time and struggling with the impacts of enforced isolation. In those circumstances, the basics can often get neglected. Feeling a lack of purpose is terrible for your mental health and simple things like this may seem silly but achieving the basics when you feel overwhelmed is something to be proud of.

One last thing: I feel incredibly guilty all the time at the moment for suffering from depression, and for those feelings still being in my head during these strange times. If you feel that way too then please don’t beat yourself up about it. You’re not weak, you’re not a failure. You have an illness and that illness isn’t going to magically disappear just because a pandemic comes along. So: be compassionate to yourself as well as others. You are not alone in feeling scared, anxious or upset right now.


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