This is an article about lockdown - big surprise there, I’m sure. But I’ll save you the information I’m certain you’ve already heard before; the number of cases, of deaths, the symptoms of Covid-19. Those are not the topics I want to discuss. Of course, the health implications of the pandemic are various, but the psychological effect of an international lockdown is often understated. With some 2.6 billion people around the world in some lockdown or other,  separated from their friends and possibly family, thrown out of the usual day-to-day routines humans as creatures of habit stick to, how is this going to effect us? What, besides the containment of the virus, are the effects of lockdown?

When one finds themselves forced to remain indoors, the question arises: what should I do? How do we as people of motivation, constantly focused on school or work, occupy ourselves, when those things we’ve been working towards get cancelled? I myself, have been working towards my A-Levels for two years now, and in an instant the goals and motivations I had were dashed with the government’s cancellation of this summer's exams.Had all the effort I’d put in over the last two years been for nought? Of course the answer is no, but in the moment, when a long prepared for plan fails, it is hard to see that. I instantly became burnt-out, I still had teachers setting me work to do, but suddenly little motivation to do so, as if now that there was no exam I had no reason to work. I found that this despondency was shared by my peers: the throwing off of plans had almost made us apathetic towards the world. This is probably going to be one of the biggest concerns regarding the lockdown: the mental effect. 

You might feel also, that being forced into your home is almost suffocating. The world you are used to exploring and existing in on a daily basis is now reduced to the four walls of your bedroom - with no foreseeable end to the confinement . Consolation and solace can be found in the fact that by restricting yourself to your home, and by sacrificing the freedom of the world outside your doorstep, you are saving lives, but undeniably the feeling of your world becoming smaller is one that is strongly felt. The government has said that you are free to get a daily amount of exercise, and you may find it restorative to feel the touch of the early summer sun on your skin, but there is almost a begrudging thought in your head, that soon you will once more have to return to your confines. At night you might even dream of the outside, recall again the touch of the sun on your skin, the smell of freshly cut grass. You long to be out there, and then, instantaneously (as many things are in the lockdown) you wake up again, not outside, but inside the 4 walls.

This is the unfortunate reality of the situation and the depressive feeling it instills can make you feel hopeless and alone. But if this lockdown proves nothing else, it is that the thought you are alone in your torment is false and that the torture of inaction will not be forever. You dear reader, are not Sisyphus, forced to push the boulder up the hill by yourself only for it to roll back down and start again, even though it may feel like that. Your fellow human beings, your neighbours, your friends, your family: they are all suffering as well. That’s not to say, "suck it up",or that the feelings you are experiencing are wrong, but rather that you may find comfort in the idea that everybody else is going through it too. You are not suffering as an individual, you are part of a collective, and a collective must, above all other things, work to support each other. Whether that be calling a friend, smiling at a stranger when you pass them on your daily walk, asking your elderly neighbours or family members whether you can grab them something from the shop. And equally, that means supporting those outside of the lockdown, the key workers: the nurses and doctors, the shelf-stackers, the bus drivers, the teachers. These are those on our front lines who don’t have the good fortune to be able to stay inside, they don’t have the opportunity to lie in (and indeed in the case of NHS workers possibly get much sleep at all). Essentially, if there is a rebuttal to Margaret Thatcher’s statement that “there is no such thing as society”, it is the current reality we find ourselves in. 

So as a collective, what can we do to tame the boredom and impending burn-out that prolonged enclosure causes? Simply enough, you have two options. Option 1: if you feel so inclined, and if inspiration so grabs you, be productive. Learn a new instrument or language, do that one thing you’ve wanted to do for ages but never got around to, write, draw, make art. I implore you reader, if you are of the mind that you will never get this much free-time ever again, so you want to work, do it! The famous example is Shakespeare who wrote King Lear during a plague, that is not to say you have to compose something as brilliant as King Lear, but rather that lockdown should not stop you from creating your magnum opus. Option 2: be unproductive. Yes I know that sounds bizarre - how does one tame boredom by doing nothing? What I mean is the polar opposite of Option 1: yes, you will never have this much free time again, so why stress yourself with work or crafting a King Lear level masterpiece, when you could simply take care of yourself? Binge watch that Netflix show you’ve heard so much about, don’t exercise if you don’t want to, play, or read the book you have always meant to get around to (if you don't already have a library card sign up online with your local library and gain immediate access to their digital consortium).These options should present themselves to you daily, the second you wake up within your confinement and you become aware of yourself. Consider if you are in the mood to create beautiful things, or in the mood to be entertained by them. Either options is right and you can do one one day and another the other day (or even both in same day if you feel like it).

In addition to our society, as a collective we exist on a planet, the “pale blue dot” as Carl Sagan put it. And for many years, our presence has caused our pale blue dot to become polluted. So besides the psychological element of lockdown, the environmental one is hopeful. There are reports of animals coming back from the brink of extinction, returning to their natural habitats, of greenhouse gas emissions reducing, of waters becoming cleaner. I raise this point not to claim that it might be better were we to stay inside forever, but rather that real change can occur from this pandemic. Throughout history, the coming of a pandemic or plague has led to mass change in the ruling of the world. Take, for example, the Black Death, which having killed so many led to a realisation of one of the key concepts consumerism runs on ‘Supply and Demand’ - the supply of peasants was reduced, and hence they were in higher demand. Therefore, when they were being taxed so relentlessly by Richard II and his regent, they rebelled in the Peasants Revolt of 1381. Equally, we are given an opportunity, our collective has now been allowed time to reflect, and has been provided evidence of our impact, the effect of our footsteps on the pale blue dot, and can rally for change. Human civilization which emerges post-pandemic cannot return to our normality prior to this crisis. We cannot be deluded into believing we are powerless individuals nor heedlessly return to polluting our environment to the detriment of life itself. We have been given the tools for change which we should not waste.