It’s our third time around this dance floor that feels a little more on fire with every step. A third wave of COVID-19 has come ashore in Nova Scotia, and a strict, circuit breaker lockdown is in effect to help curb the spread. But you already know all this, because you’re either risking your life as an essential worker or you’re home, listless, in the same ass crevice of the couch you occupied this time last year. Things are bleak and you’ve earned the right to feel any cocktail of anger, apathy and despondency that comes.
The good news, though, is that you’ve survived this before—and, as the Instagram quote goes, you’ve survived every day up until this point, no matter how much they sucked. We will make it through this.
And here, we’ve gathered some of our best tips—lockdown life enhancers, if you will—to help. Are we missing your favourite form of self-soothing? Drop it in the comments below.
Embrace your body as it is—and as it changes
Trust the mutating face of diet culture and its ugly twin, beauty standards, to put even more pressure on us during one of the most unprecedented moments of our history. As people shelter in place, as routines change (and therefore eating habits flux), many of us are watching our bodies change and get bigger. Instead of diet dialogue, now is the perfect time to remember that fatness is not failure. You’ve lived through this. Others haven’t been so lucky. Let those extra pounds serve as a soft place to land during this incredibly hard time.
Take up a hobby
No, doom-scrolling until your eyes are bloodshot doesn't count. There is a joy to be found in doing something badly, just for the sake of it. For focusing on what piques your interest or feels fun—and maybe, yes, sparks joy, if joy doesn’t feel like a match too wet to light these days. It can be anything from pottery to painting to learning an instrument. Get inspired and watch your life transform—and read more on the punk rock power of getting a hobby in these capitalist times here.
Keep showing up for Black lives
Last summer, thousands of Haligonians reached out to local politicians and city councillors, speaking out against police brutality and calling for police reform. Council heard people—and made quick moves to cancel its purchase of an armoured military vehicle for HRP. But 50 percent of the councillors who received those emails aren’t around anymore. Just last week, this new council voted to add $2.7 million to the police’s budget. If you’re sitting around going “I reached out last summer, that should be enough,” let this latest council decision tell you: It’s a new circus.
Order in a local meal
If you want your favourite neighbourhood joint, breakfast place, sushi spot or dive bar to survive this, send them money. Ordering for take-out or delivery (especially if you use a local delivery service to get your meal, avoiding the costs Uber and other apps level at the small businesses themselves) is an act of delicious solidarity. Tip as well as you’re able to on top.
Make dinner an event
Joan Didion (the writer and journalist immortalized for her writing on 1960s counterculture and the person to thank for the modern culture writer type) gets right to it in the opening lines of her 2005 novel The Year of Magical Thinking: “Life changes fast. Life changes in an instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.” Over the coming pages, she examines loss, mourning and death—often returning to the dinner where her husband suffered a massive, fatal coronary, a world-shattering interruption of their elaborate evening meal routine. Didion writes about wanting to set the table, light a candle and feel fortified against the world again. It’s a small, manageable dance you can follow to add a sense of ceremony and normalcy to your day.
Sure, it might feel like a wellness trend of the leggings-clad, yoga-and-brunch set, but take a second to remember that meditation is an ancient tool used by many cultures for mental clarity and spiritual vitality. During the first lockdown, when The Coast spoke to registered psychotherapist Elizabeth Simms about staying mentally well during the pandemic, she prescribed this guided meditation to stop any brewing storm of negative thoughts, saying “We can't always cancel our thoughts. But we don’t have to give them that much power.”
Find something to laugh at
Because god knows you could probably use a laugh right now—and because you can only re-watch John Mulaney’s Netflix catalogue so many times—here’s two new sources of smiles for you to consider:
Halifax comic Travis Lindsay is one of the scene’s brightest stars. While you wait for the chance to see him perform at the likes of Yuk Yuk’s and the Ha!ifax Comedy Festival again, stream his comedy album The Kid Is Alright on Spotify or Apple Music.
Comedian James Mullinger swapped England for New Brunswick a few years back and has been making a career out of his wholesome love for the Maritimes ever since. Early on in the pandemic, he released a one-hour comedy special for free in lieu of a cancelled tour. Now makes as good a time as any for a first or second viewing.
Read a Halifax-set story
A lot has been said about the power of escapist literature lately, and for good reason. But what if it’s your own city that you feel disconnected from? What helps heal a homesickness for Halifax when you’re still here? Try reading a vivid retelling of the places and spaces you’re longing to see. A short reading list to get you started includes Francesca Ekwuyasi's Giller Prize-longlisted Butter Honey Pig Bread; Crocuses Hatch from Snow, Jaime Burnet’s debut novel that follows the lives of four disparate Haligonians in Halifax’s gentrifying north end; and Rebecca Rose’s book chronicling Halifax’s queer history, Before The Parade.
By now, you know the drill: Wearing a mask helps keep us all safer, reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmitting—and, aside from wearing them over your mouth and nose, and wearing them in any public indoor space, you know it’s best practice to keep ‘em on in crowded outdoor spaces, too. But what about wearing two masks at once? Some experts are now saying doubling up on masks could provide extra protection against the more contagious variants of C19.
Get outside often
Sometimes, when we spend too much time scrolling, going into a vegatative state staring at screens, what we need is the cool ice cube of nature to melt on our hot brains. Even if you’re not ready to go full-on forest bathing yet, there’s something about fresh air that makes you breathe deep—and sometimes, those deep breaths can take the edge off a bit. (Just remember that, even outdoors, masks are required if physical distancing proves impossible.)
Become literate in poetry
Reading a poem isn’t the same as reading a novel, since each space and line break is packed with its own meaning and emotion. If at first this sounds intimidating, don’t let it be. As Halifax Poet Laureate Sue Goyette told The Coast last spring, “Right now we're getting a real masterclass in being vulnerable and not knowing. And check, check, check: Poetry understands all these feelings and poetry is a great genre and way of thinking into the unknowable.” The genre is as much about the space between words and the feelings you get from it, Goyette adds. Get your feet wet with this dissection of a poem by lauded verse-slinger Arielle Twist and then just read a ton of poems, from haikus to couplets, from ancient to modern, and see what makes you feel something.
Stay off Amazon
With news that a new Amazon warehouse is on its way to Dartmouth, it feels like watching late capitalism itself set up a distribution centre within the city limits. The most well-known workplace hell to exist in modern times, working at Amazon is a literal death sentence to many. Instead of participating in Jeff Bezos’s living nightmare, put your money into the hands of small biz owners in your own city—it’s the surest way to help keep Halifax’s unique identity.
Keep your local event ticket
As Jeremy Webb, artistic director of Neptune Theatre, told The Coast: “By keeping your tickets for the show, or the event or the concert you’ve invested in, what you’re doing is you’re saying to the arts community: ‘You matter and I have this 20 dollars, 30 dollars, whatever it is, and I can leave it with you right now, as an investment and as a belief that you’re going to come through this.’”
Maintain your friendships
A Zoom happy hour might sound like your own private hell these days, but chances are you’re more in need of social interaction than you think. Facetime or phone a pal; plan a socially distanced trip to the park; send someone a text telling them how rad you think they are. Community only exists when we all work on it, and showing up for your friends reminds yourself you have some.
Stream a local TV show
It’s been a hell of a year for TV, with everything from sports documentary series to niche forigen dramas having their splash in the mainstream. But, what about bingeing something set closer to home? The CBC series Diggstown—a Halifax-set, Halifax-shot story about a high-powered lawyer and the race and socio-economic issues surrounding her—is currently filming its third season. Having won three nods from the Canadian Screen Awards and even been picked up for American airplay on BET, it’s already a runaway hit. Lockdown is a great chance to get caught up on seasons one and two, streaming for free now on CBC Gem.