This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Here in the UK, we've officially been under lockdown since the 23rd of March – although it feels like a lot longer. As someone on Twitter put it recently: “It feels like January, February and March were all different years.”
That said – aside from mass unemployment, the rapid spread of an infectious virus and a continuous feeling of intense collective anxiety about our futures – many seem to be doing okay. We're baking sourdough now! Getting really into books! Signing up for eight-week French language tutorials! The other night, I painted a bunch of tech decks (remember those?) with old nail polish! Haha. Good times.
But a week or two really isn't that long in the grand scheme of things. Italy and Spain have been under lockdown for close to a month now, while China has been under an even stricter lockdown since the 31st of January (although theirs does seem to be loosening). So, how will things pan out for us in the UK? Will we still be going to club nights on Zoom at the end of our first month? Or will we just stare out the window until it's “bedtime”.
We can't predict the future, but we can ask those who have been in this situation for slightly longer than we have. As such, we spoke to a few VICE colleagues and friends in Italy and Spain about how we might be feeling after our first month of lockdown. Here's what they had to say.
THE MOOD WILL TAKE A DOWN TURN
“In the beginning, everything was reduced to memes and laughs, online plans, meetings to do sports and Zoom parties with friends you haven’t seen in three months,” says Ana Iris Simón, Staff Writer at VICE Spain. She's based in Madrid, which is at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Spain, and has been under lockdown since the 14th of March. “After that, as the number of deaths began to increase – leading to an ice-skating rink being used as a morgue and a congress centre as an ICU – and as companies started to fire people, the atmosphere has started to change.”
Leonardo Bianchi, News Editor at VICE Italy, agrees. He's based in Rome, which has been under lockdown along with the rest of Italy since the 9th of March.
“By the third week, music and chants stopped,” adds Leonardo. “I would say that we are experiencing a ‘lockdown fatigue’: everybody knows that it will be long, but nobody can imagine how long. And that is really stressful and mentally consuming.”
THAT SAID, YOU'LL GET INCREASINGLY USED TO THE CIRCUMSTANCES
“Psychologists say it takes 21 days to get used to a new routine or situation,” says Ana, “That has been the biggest change: we’re now used to these circumstances. Quarantine jokes and memes are over, but being so overwhelmed about being locked up is over as well. We’re conscious that we’re going to have to be locked up longer than we first assumed.”
“It was very eerie in the beginning, but after almost a month you get used to it,” Leonardo adds. “Because you know that everyone is following the ‘stay at home’ prescriptions that national authorities gave us. And eventually, you get used to more and more people donning masks, or to the queues outside grocery stores.”
YOU'LL PROBABLY CHAT TO YOUR MATES LESS
“At first, calls flooded in as we were all trying to wrap our heads around this new situation. Now I don’t want to have the same conversations with tons of people, so I’ve slowly put a stop to that, and many friends have done the same,” says Alice Rossi, Editor-in-Chief at VICE Italy, currently based in Milan. “I’ve also blocked most of my group chats – you don’t want to spend too much time going through endless messages revolving around the same topics, and no one will make you feel bad for that now.”
Ana in Spain says a similar thing: “In the beginning, we organised a reading club, we planned fitness routines online guided by a friend of ours who’s a fitness trainer, online drinks on Saturdays… And we did do all of those things the first week, but each time we’re doing less and less. Firstly, because it’s exhausting doing video calls all day and attending responsibilities, just as we did before confinement.”
“I've decided not to look at my phone during the afternoon and not check it until night falls,” she adds. “I do speak with my family and friends, but I try not to overdo it.”
BUT YOUR WEIRD NEW HOBBIES AREN'T GOING ANYWHERE YET
“I think the overall energy level has waned a bit but mostly people have found new outputs,” says Alice. “Many are still baking and cooking (posting photos of your homemade pizzas is a huge trend, as you can imagine), but other leisure activities are a bit less publicised, as if people don't want to show off as much as before. More and more people in Milan are now trying to do some charity work too, like volunteering to bring groceries to people in need, or collecting donations to hospitals or NGOs.”
“Some people are still trying to act like everything’s normal (except for the fact that we’re all locked up at home), so still are spending time – and, above all, showing it on social media – with all those hobbies and new activities,” adds Ana. “But this kind of behaviour is being showed less and less as time goes on.”
“The first piece of advice I’d give is the following: get prepared and don’t give yourself false hope – like thinking that after two or three weeks it will go away, and you will get back to your normal life,” says Leonardo. “That doesn’t mean you have to freak out or be depressed; it’s about knowing that we’re in for the long haul.”
He continues: “There will be some dark moments, of course. You may be separated from your parents or your partner; stuck in a flat with roommates you don’t get along with or isolated at home alone (which is my case); overwhelmed by the news (turn it off if you are, by the way) or by daily updates on active cases and deaths. Sometimes, you will find relief in reading a book, playing video games or watching TV; sometimes it simply won’t work. It’s incredibly difficult to strike a balance between despair and (mild) optimism. Don’t blame yourself if you can’t, just keep trying.”