Gillian Harvey: Why you don’t need to ‘win’ at lockdown – however you’re getting through it is fine

Read the latest column from freelance writer, author and mum-of-five Gillian Harvey.

Browsing social media, you’d be forgiven for thinking that everyone except you is spending lockdown in a crazy whirl of activity – baking, self-styling, yoga and of course complete career and image reinvention.

And that’s great. For those who find they have more time on their hands, it’s wonderful to have so much help, so many suggestions about how to pass the time productively.

But it’s important to remember we don’t have to ‘win’ lockdown. And while this time brings us together in many ways, we’re not all going through the same experience. Some are under lockdown in tiny flats, others in giant houses. Some are going to work in supermarkets or hospitals. Others are furloughed. Some are working from home.

Spending time in the house is easy for some, for others – who may have problematic relationships or mental health problems – it may be torture.

Online, it can feel as if everyone is springing into action. There are tips for home-schooling, tips for marketing your business. Some are encouraging people to be productive with craft. Others looking at how we should dress, what we should eat. Comedy memes. TikTok performances.

These tips and suggestions are great – they brighten our days, inspire us. Some of us may come out of lockdown changed for the better: leaner, meaner or more dangerous to know.

Others are going through real hell – illness, loss, fear. Those shielding someone vulnerable or diagnosed as ‘at-risk.’  People working on the frontline. Those whose relatives are struggling in hospital.

I think it’s amazing that so many people are trying to help others at this time. Whether it’s Joe Wicks’ workouts (it took me 2 days after a particularly squat-based one to get up the stairs without wincing), or ways to make cupboard food more interesting, it’s great that we’re trying to inspire each other.

But one person’s social media high might be another’s social media low. Has anyone felt lockdown pressure? It’s not always great to find that others have nailed home-schooling when my kids are practically feral at this point. And no, I don’t feel like learning a language or getting abs (I haven’t seen my stomach muscles since 2012).

At the same time, some of the output might be invaluable to someone else, going through a different kind of lockdown.

If you use this time to take a course, lose a few pounds or find great ways to market your business – that’s fab. If you bond with your family, teach your kid a few chords on the guitar – well done!  If you plant seeds, try a hobby, make great plans for life on the other side of lockdown, that’s fabulous.

If you’re struggling, feeling alone, or feel as if you’re the only one who isn’t celebrating gin-o’clock with friends and family on Zoom, try not to worry. If you’re going through the worst of times, unable to connect with others or suffering ill-health then the fact that you’re getting through each day is an amazing achievement too.

If something on social media isn’t serving you at the moment block it. You don’t have to bake cupcakes with the kids if you just can’t. If you’re feeling depressed, you might not be able to learn a new language right now. If you’re worried about distant family, it’s OK to go easy on yourself.

Find the thing that lifts you up and focus on that. Whether it’s chocolate, chick-lit or challenging yourself physically and mentally. Whatever works.

We’re in this together.

But this is your journey. And you’re doing just fine.

Gillian Harvey is a writer and mum-of-five. Her debut novel Everything is Fine is out with Orion in May 2020.