Find a Sense of Control on Lockdown

The other day I wanted to go to a movie theater. I grabbed my phone to check the movie listings, only to be reminded that wasn’t possible right now.

Lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, self-isolation and social distancing are the right things to do to save as many lives as we can. Doing the right thing does mean that the freedom we knew, and often took for granted, is compressed – at least temporarily – and that sucks.

The days of, “I want to, so I will” have come to an abrupt halt and shifted to “I want to, but I can’t.”

I call this Compressed Freedom. It’s temporary and it’s for the greater good. Fundamentally we are still blessed to live in a free country. We are free to do, be and believe, we’re just not free to go outside of our homes whenever it strikes our fancy. If we focus on the lack of control, it will feel like we’re an innocent imprisoned. If you choose to focus on the silver linings, it’s an opportunity to reset and recharge and rise stronger ready for the post-COVID19 phase of life. 

Those of us blessed to live in the free world and had our basic needs met pre-COVID 19 (for many, that security has collapsed) are experiencing a new level of restriction that, if not addressed, will have ramifications on our overall well-being and mental health. We need to talk about the reality, find ways to cope and feel a sense of control or the negative psychological impact will be the next health crisis overloading our hospitals and morgues.

The compressed freedom isn’t just applicable for people who are forced to stay home. It works the other way too impacting the people whose choice to stay home is eliminated. Frontline workers have been drafted to step into harm’s way, working in a war zone against an invisible enemy. These aren’t brave enlisted soldiers, they are store clerks, members of the public service and health care workers, who find themselves at risk, when they didn’t sign up it.  

Another way our freedom is compressed temporarily relates to free enterprise. Business owners literally can’t open or serve their customers like they did just weeks ago. Many have taken years to get their businesses rolling, and it took days to watch their dreams free fall. Where I live in Ontario, Canada, all non-essential businesses were shut down by the government early in the pandemic.

The resilient companies are focused on pivoting and finding new ways to serve. I love the stories of hair salons delivering hair dye, coffee shops grinding bags of take-home coffee beans (Thanks Black Walnut!) and manufacturing plants retooling to produce hand sanitizer or parts required to fight the pandemic.

First-world life as we knew it may be gone for a while, but for a willing participant, there is still a lot of freedom to be had within the new physical confines. It’s our choice to find the silver lining.

This is a time when building resilience muscles is critical. The purpose of daily resilience is to give you tools to navigate that reality in the best way possible, not delete the challenges. We have to be able to hold space for the duality in life. There is hope, joy, peace and laughter to be found in the midst of chaos, uncertainty and an economic downturn.

If we get so sucked into the negative reality that we won’t give ourselves the freedom to still experience the good, then we lose even more. Sitting home, being miserable, obsessing about factors out of your control just adds to the misery. It doesn’t do anything to change the pandemic at a global scale. Yes, stay informed and be realistic about the situation because living in denial or numbing out to the worst feelings won’t allow them to flow and be processed effectively. What’s within your control is how quickly you come out of the negative spin and how you choose to respond.

So, with our physical freedom compressed, what are you free to choose?

Here are 20 choices within your control:

  1. Your reaction to the chaos.
  2. The number of times you complain in a day.
  3. The distance you leave between you and others when you have to be in public. In Canada, our reference for the appropriate distance is at minimum a hockey stick.
  4. The kindness you show others at home, in public and virtually.
  5. How many times you say thank you to the people who are on the front lines.
  6. The amount of negative information you consume. You have the freedom to turn off the news.
  7. The creativity you explore to find alternative ways to make money virtually.
  8. The words you choose to describe any situation. Words have power and can suck you into the depths of despair if you choose the worst adjectives.
  9. The household projects you *finally* complete. (You may find, being busy wasn’t the real reason you didn’t do those chores before, and truthfully you just actually don’t want to clean out the closet.)
  10. The effort you make to connect more deeply with family and friends virtually or at home.
  11. Your willingness to be self-aware of your response to external factors and find ways to improve.
  12. The commitment you make to learn, so you come out of this experience a better, more knowledgeable human.
  13. The activities you engage in each day within your confined space.
  14. The depth of connection you are willing to make with others.
  15. Whether you are a positive light or a negative force when engaging with others. Yes, it sucks, but dwelling in the darkness will just make the suckage harder.
  16. The amount of positive information you choose to consume.
  17. What you eat. (The meme that made me laugh the most “When this is over, do I call the producers of My 600 Pound Life, or will they just find me?”
  18. The number of times you laugh in a day. Thank you to all the comedians and producers who have shared their gift of humor with us online.  
  19. How you channel your creativity.
  20. The kindness and grace you offer yourself as you navigate uncharted territory. There will be good days and bad days and that’s okay.

Sure, your freedom may be temporarily compressed, but there is an abundance of freedom to be found in your confined space if you’re open to looking for it. Maybe once we get to the other side of this and experience our next normal you will be grateful for the time you had at home. Afterall, a month before this happened, many people were complaining about how busy they were, and that they never had any downtime to be at home. Well, now you’ve got the time – what are you going to do with it?