How to beat the lockdown blues: Seven morning habits to help us seize the day

Habit #1: Make your bed... you’d have accomplished your first task of the day. — Pictures by CK Lim
Habit #1: Make your bed… you’d have accomplished your first task of the day. — Pictures by CK Lim

COMMENTARY, June 8 — It can feel nigh impossible to wake up some mornings, much less get out of bed. You probably have had days like that, haven’t you? Let’s call them the lockdown blues.

It’s not sloth, you tell yourself, for you are the industrious sort, a type A overachiever. It’s not for lack of things to do; your task list is growing by the day and everything calls for your attention.

It’s not because you are under the weather — goodness forbid you should be unwell at a time like this! — for you check your temperature daily, multiple times. (Just a couple of years ago you might be considered a hypochondriac; now you’re merely following the SOP.)

No, it’s simply the lockdown blues you tell yourself, this particular brand of ennui that comes when you realise it’s safer for everyone — yourself and others — if you stayed at home, practise social distancing and check the news regularly for further amendments to the SOP or updates about vaccination slots.

You’re doing all the right things — if only more would follow suit, a more self-righteous and mean spirited soul would hiss — and it’s slowly but surely driving you crazy.

Perhaps it’s from the inactivity; you can hardly remember the last time you moved more than a few metres from your bed or work-from-home desk. Perhaps it’s the dearth of physical human touch; Zoom meetings and FaceTime dates aren’t quite the same thing.

Here’s the good news: We are doing absolutely the right thing. #KitaJagaKita means taking part in a communal effort to flatten the curve yet again. We have done it before, to some extent, and we can do it again.

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It’s worth the sacrifice when lives are saved: ours, the ones we love and those of complete strangers who are our sisters and our brothers.

Here’s the even better news: We don’t have to lose our sanity while doing the right thing.

If there is one thing we have learned from the past year of the pandemic, it’s that our mental health could be the invisible crisis we unknowingly neglect. (Understandable, when we are all busy staying safe, making ends meet, and trying to be a decent person through all that.)

One way to beat the lockdown blues, I have found, is to start the day right. A structured morning routine with new (for some of us), positive habits may help us seize the rest of the day.

Habit #1: Make your bed

It’s easy to just let our bed remain in its dishevelled condition; after all, who’s going to see it? Yet by tidying our sleeping space up — just a simple patting the bed sheets flat and fluffing up our pillows — and we’d have accomplished our first task of the day.

As Admiral William H. McRaven advised in his 2014 commencement address to the graduates of The University of Texas, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

Habit #2: Drink water

Habit #2: Drink water... or else be as parched as the desert.
Habit #2: Drink water… or else be as parched as the desert.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. No amount of expensive Korean night serum or beauty masks would do quite as much wonders for our complexion and our spirits as drinking plenty of water when we first awaken.

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Habit #3: Stretch

Habit #3: Stretch... and get some sun in your garden.
Habit #3: Stretch… and get some sun in your garden.

After hours of staying horizontal and getting all sorts of cramps in the oddest places, there’s nothing quite like a good stretch to get our blood flowing again.

If you can, try getting some sun and greenery while you are at it. I usually pair my morning stretching with a brief walk in the garden. It’s not quite shinrin-yoku or Japanese forest bathing but it’s meditative all the same.

Habit #4: Meditate

Habit #4: Meditate... and live in the present moment.
Habit #4: Meditate… and live in the present moment.

Speaking of meditative, why not try meditation? As author Dan Harris points out in his book 10% Happier, “Meditation is not about feeling a certain way. It’s about feeling the way you feel.”

Just finding a quiet spot and sitting down comfortably with our eyes closed for even just five minutes, observing our breathing the whole time, can help us live in the present moment, if only for… the moment.

Habit #5: Brew your own coffee

Habit #5: Brew your own coffee... or your beverage of choice.
Habit #5: Brew your own coffee… or your beverage of choice.

You don’t have to drink coffee, mind you. The idea here is simply to make your own morning beverage (coffee, tea or some protein shake or superfood smoothie if you’re the sort who can stomach that first thing in the morning).

More than the boost of energy, it’s the ritual of brewing your own drink that is meditative (there’s that word again — we’re slowly associating it with feeling less stressful, no?) and that wakes you up rather splendidly.

Habit #6: Write in your journal

Habit #6: Write in your journal... and practise gratitude.
Habit #6: Write in your journal… and practise gratitude.

Some of us kept diaries as children (plastered with colourful, kitschy stickers) or as especially organised dating enthusiasts (the Little Black Books of yore, before apps took care of keeping track of who you flirted with).

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This journaling is more about just capturing the first quick thoughts of the day or jotting down a couple of things you are thankful for. Gratitude might be our most powerful emotion.

Habit #7: Read (a real book)

Habit #7: Read... just a few pages to start your morning.
Habit #7: Read… just a few pages to start your morning.

Yes, a real book. The sort made of paper and bound between two covers. Reading a few pages, even if it’s a cookbook or an inspirational magazine, can help settle our rhythm to more thoughtful responses rather than knee-jerk reactions.

And after that? Let the day begin, with all its glorious challenges and exquisite beauty.

Clearly a lockdown is stressful for everyone but we can make the best of it. Since we are stuck indoors, aside from a weekly errand run for necessities, why not try a new routine?

What we learn goes beyond the confines of a nationwide lockdown; when the pandemic is over (and we must have faith that it will pass), these are useful behaviours we can redeploy in various areas of our life.

Why, these might be habits for lifelong happiness. If nothing else, your employer would appreciate you being more productive and your loved ones relishing your beaming countenance.

At the very least, Marie Kondo would probably approve of how well made your bed is. (I’m grasping at straws here but a win is a win.)

Stay safe, everyone, and may you all be well and happy always.

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