statues in the horizon separated on a beach shoreline
Another Place by Antony Gormley.

Coronavirus welfare advice: Locked down, not locked in

The University Counselling Service is producing a series of articles and podcasts to support students during the coronavirus pandemic. This time we offer advice on ways we can avoid feeling overwhelmed during lockdown. 

Dreaming of another place, hoping for a glance of what might be over the horizon, is all we can do in lockdown. Tethered to one place, one room, one chair even, for much of the day, we work, study and try to rest. Our own company or that of the same ‘others’ day after day – with no end in sight –, can tempt our mind to lock in to static ways of thinking. Like the figures in the famous Sir Antony Gormley sculpture, we are looking out to the future but unable to move towards it.

At a time like this our foundations are tested. If these sculptural figures were not deeply secured, they would waiver and be at the mercy of the tide. Each of the statues is approximately 1.9 metres high, weighs approximately 650 kg and is founded on a 3 metre long circular steel hollow foundation pile with a flat top plate, which is rotated into a pre-augered hole on the beach. The feet of the statues are bolted onto their own vertical flat plates, which are then welded to the top plate on the pile.

As the tide of lockdown flows over us, sometimes overwhelming, sometimes hardly reaching us at all, just getting our feet wet, the ebb and flow of the experience tests how well anchored we are in our mind. Here are some ideas for building strong foundations in this time, as our sense of self continues to be tested.

Hold on

Remember, this time will not last for ever. In the last scene of the film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Frodo has fought with Gollum at the end of an epic journey and hangs above the deadly fire of Mount Doom. One hand is bleeding, and the strength of the other is all between him and death. His friend Sam says ‘give me your hand and don’t let go’. Frodo needs a friend to save him at this desperate moment; and maybe it feels weak to ask for help or to need someone in hard times. But, if we can find compassion for ourselves, maybe we can see that it’s OK to risk holding on and being vulnerable together in friendship.

Anchor yourself

Notice what seems to come adrift in you mentally when locked down, and ask what you can do to protect yourself. Try to turn with benevolence towards the distress you feel and be interested in it. See what you can do to address the things that make you feel unstable. Write it down, talk with a friend or professional, look after yourself, eat, sleep and exercise.

Dream compassionately

Our bodies may be locked down physically, but our minds can go wherever they want. Choose kind places to go in your mind, and allow yourself to imagine and be creative in the dreaming, to see what lies beyond the walls that hem you in and see what is on your horizon. What are your values, what do you hope for, who do you hope for?

Hold on, anchor yourself and dream compassionately. This place and another place can co- exist in lockdown.

By Laura Evers.

For a range of additional supportive resources, go to the Counselling Service webpages.