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  • Writer's pictureDominique du Pré

Lockdown FOMO?

Well actually it's more like Lockdown guilt. Let me explain.

When we went into lockdown at the end of March there seemed to be a general mood to make the best of a bad situation. We suddenly had all this time. This was the perfect opportunity to start a new hobby, learn a new skill, complete unfinished tasks. Did you plan to start running, lose weight, redecorate, declutter, read all those books...? Maybe you have used the time to do some of the things you planned.

We have been bombarded with virtual opportunities of online exercise classes, social Zoom gatherings, virtual choirs, You Tube painting classes, virtual trips to museums. You can spend your entire day being virtually stimulated, enriched and educated. You can sit all alone and virtually take part in an outside world full of opportunities.

But as lockdown continues and we haven't met our lockdown ambitions, we start to feel guilty. Just like new year's resolutions, we may have set unrealistic targets which inevitably lead to disappointment in ourselves. Also, some of the virtual activities might no longer be as fun as they first seemed but we feel obliged to continue.

And this is where social media doesn't help. We see everyone having fun, 'living their best lockdown'. There are photos of hilarious online parties and people's lockdown creations and achievements. Every social media platform is littered with scrumptious baking achievements and run routes an Olympian would be proud of. Parents are sharing amazing stories of home-schooling - "look at this scale model of a Viking ship my 4 year old has made" (accompanied by photos of beaming children seemingly living the home-schooling dream). In 'normal' times this is bad enough but at least normally we see a bit more of real, non-virtual, life to balance these images. We interact with a variety of people in diverse settings and experience the mundane alongside the exciting.

I am increasingly working with people who feel guilty they haven't fully embraced the virtual landscape of activity and feel even more isolated because it seems like everyone else is having such fun. I am hearing a lot of "I should be...". This phrase always rings alarm bells for me (see previous blog). Who is setting this benchmark of what life in lockdown 'should be' like? There is no rule book. It hasn't come with instructions. I am guessing it is the harsh and critical inner voice telling you what you 'should be' doing.

I am also hearing guilt about how we should be feeling. Clients are almost apologetic for feeing low or anxious as 'other people are in much worse positions'. Of course, we aren't all in the same boat. Our experiences of lockdown are personal and varied. I read somewhere that we are in the same storm but all in different vessels. Some of us are aboard an ocean liner, some in a sailboat and some are swimming against the current and just keeping our heads above water. Don't compare your experience to someone else's, its not helpful. There is no lockdown rule telling us we must be happy and motivated all the time.

If you identify with any of this can I ask that you please give yourself a break. We are living through a period in history that none of us has experienced previously. We face daily uncertainty and unusual stress levels. Many people are still working but in a new and different way. Many are home-schooling, again not something they expected to be doing. We are worried about our health, the health of loved ones, finance, holidays, haircuts; the list is endless. Even shopping is different. Everything is different.

Change and uncertainty are both triggers for anxiety. If you are feeling sad, anxious or angry, that's ok. Talk to someone about it honestly. You may find they are also feeling the same way. If you are really struggling there is help. Many counsellors are working virtually. Give yourself a break and focus on what you want to do rather than what you think you should be doing. What can you do that will bring you joy? What can you do that will bring you peace? If running makes you happy then run. If baking is your form of mindfulness then bake away. And if you feel like doing nothing for a bit, then do nothing. Being in lockdown is stressful enough without beating yourself up with guilt that you are not doing lockdown properly. There is no right way. Just do it your way.

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