Here we go again: Coping with the Christmas lockdown

Here we go again. Another lockdown, another torrent of emotions. Sadness. Frustration. Anxiety. As if this year hasn’t been draining enough, the tail end of 2020 saw many of us entering a new “tier” of lockdown restrictions which – to top it all off – covers the Christmas period. While it was clear that the pandemic was still ongoing following Lockdown 2.0, perhaps even more clearly than before, a faint ray of hope shone upon us as we “non-essential” workers were unfurloughed, high streets reopened and restrictions were relaxed on Wednesday 2 December so we could enjoy the festive period with family and friends. Now, due to the government’s incompetence in controlling the coronavirus from the onset of its outbreak back in March (which, may I gently remind you, is only three months away again), our Christmas plans – though perhaps unusual to begin with – have been completely ruined. Those who don’t live with family now can’t see their family. Those who don’t live with their partners now can’t see their partners. Those who live alone now can’t see anyone. That’s not to say that we can’t still try to make the most of each other’s company as we have for the entirety of 2020 through the likes of Zoom; while incomparable to being with your loved ones, we should be thankful that we can still communicate with them in such a manner.

As the first two lockdowns, the recent news has undoubtedly affected many, including myself. Following Lockdown Numero Uno, I unravelled my emotions of uselessness due to my inability to make my contribution to society as a non-essential worker, anxiety surrounding the global situation and envy of those who remained occupied by working from home. Likewise, during Lockdown 2.0, I shared my despondence as I anticipated the recurrence of the platitudes that emerged from the first lockdown. This time, however, it’s different: while the prospect of another lockdown was imminent, I don’t think anybody was prepared to receive the news on a Saturday afternoon – and not just any Saturday afternoon, but the last Saturday before Christmas – and enter Tier 4 just eight hours following. Thus, it’s only understandable to feel that torrent of emotions – sadness, frustration and anxiety – and dwell on the shitshow that is 2020.

Image credit: The word COVID-19 written on a red background

Alas, here we are. Although it’s easy to dwell on the way COVID-19 has impacted our lives in different ways, it’s so important to remember to prioritise our mental wellbeing. If you’re struggling with the recent news, I hope at least one of the following suggestions will help you to cope with the Christmas lockdown:

  • Host or engage in a virtual Christmas quiz. Although the virtual pub quiz has almost become a cliché after having hosted or engaged in so many in the first lockdown and ideas had run dry by Lockdown 2.0, it wasn’t Christmas then – so, just like you would in normal circumstances, arrange a Christmas quiz with your family and friends!
  • Plan a virtual Christmas dinner/movie night. I’m so sorry if your plans with family and/or friends have been cancelled. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have Christmas together – plan a virtual Christmas dinner or movie night with them and make the most of each other’s company, even if it is over Zoom!
  • Get up and get dressed. Whether you’re working from home, out of office or furloughed, put on those jeans (or your preferred bottoms), apply a little mascara and make the most of the day ahead. Sure, if you need a duvet day, take a duvet day – but be sure to take care of yourself.
  • Go for a walk. Yes, it might be freezing. Yes, it might be raining. So what? Plug in your headphones and listen to your favourite artist or podcast. Call a friend and talk as you walk. Wrap up in your gloves, scarf and raincoat and soak in some fresh air – even if it’s for 20 minutes. You won’t regret it.
  • If you need to, take a social media break. We all know social media can be detrimental to our mental wellbeing and, especially if your Christmas plans have changed last-minute, how others are spending their Christmas may be the last thing you want to see. If you need to, take a break, and focus on spending time with your loved ones – virtually or physically.
  • Reflect on your achievements this year. Generally, this year has – again – been one hell of a shitshow. Notwithstanding, that doesn’t mean we haven’t achieved anything this year. Graduated? Landed a new job? Acquired a new hobby? Whatever it is, celebrate your achievements and be proud of yourself!
  • Don’t be ashamed to feel what you feel. It doesn’t matter whether someone “has it worse”; your feelings are always valid. Whatever you’re feeling – be it sadness, frustration or anxiety – feel it. But, whatever you do, please: make sure you talk to someone about it and remember – as my last blog – it’s okay not to be okay.

I wish you all as happy a Christmas as possible and an even happier and healthier 2021.

Also, know that I’m here for a chat. You can reach out to me via my contact options here.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

Lockdown 2.0: What’s different this time?

Yesterday, towards the end of my last working day for at least a month, an avalanche of gloom crashed over me as I anticipated Lockdown 2.0. It was the strangest feeling. Up until that moment, I thought I was prepared; “we’ve done it once before, so we can do it once again”, to quote every brand, celebrity and influencer comprising our Instagram feeds. Up until that moment, when asked “what are your plans for this lockdown?”, I would confidently respond: “you know, play more Animal Crossing, write more blogs and invest more time in myself”, as the previous lockdown. If I was so confident, then, what triggered that avalanche of gloom to crash so abruptly last night? What’s different this time? To be honest, I’m not quite sure. I guess that’s the point of this discourse: to decipher what it is exactly that has made me and many others feel so despondent this time around.

Image description: “COVID-19” written on a black background

With that, let’s backtrack to March: it was during this month that a 12-week long national lockdown was ordered, encouraging non-essential workers and the like to “stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives”, as the mantra back then quite rightly communicated. The vulnerable received letters, text messages and special mentions to shield from that of anybody other than those they reside with and have somebody else acquire their needs. Key workers – again, quite rightly – received praise for their astonishing efforts in continuing to prosper during such an unusual time. Although we were fighting a global pandemic, a sense of unity flooded the nation in that we each played our part to combat the virus.

As our time at home progressed, many of us engaged in virtual pub quizzes aplenty, explored our creativity through the likes of cooking, painting and writing and spent hours on end developing our own island paradise on Animal Crossing: New Horizons. This way of life inevitably became, in familiar terminology, the “new normal”. Notwithstanding, the tail end of Lockdown 1.0 saw the plethora of virtual pub quizzes convert into cliches, the lack of socialisation induce frustration and the yearn for a return to normality grow stronger and stronger.

Back in March, the prospect of a lockdown was entirely new to us. We’d never done it before, so we weren’t so sure as to what was in store (rhyme unintended). We’d never engaged in so many virtual pub quizzes. We’d never baked so many cakes, painted so many walls and written so many blogs. We’d never had so much time to devote to a video game. For this reason, lockdown was almost satisfying for many; it opened an abundance of avenues of artistry. On the contrary, it was also very difficult for many; some more so than others. Going so long without seeing family and friends, journeying to our favourite cities and accepting this reality was detrimental to a lot of us, both physically and mentally.

Come June, when many workplaces reopened for business and social distancing rules relaxed slightly, many – for the first time in three months – felt a fragment of relief. That’s right: just a fragment. Though it was relieving that we could return to work, reunite with loved ones and revisit some of our favourite locations, we all still felt a strong notion of uncertainty. Though social distancing measures were still encouraged, they were often flouted. Though you could not yet book a facial, you could get your beard trimmed. Though we were finally “allowed” to leave the house, the vulnerable and those living with them still felt obliged to stay at home. I related to the latter in particular given that my fiancé is deemed vulnerable; I did not yet feel safe to return to my usual position which, luckily for me, my employer was very understanding of and worked to cater to those of us in such situations.

Upon my return to my usual position in September, I quickly adapted to the second edition of the “new normal”; mask-wearing, social distancing and accepting that the pandemic was ongoing. In fact, I believe this was the case for a lot of us; following Lockdown 1.0, conversations typically derived – and still derive – from the topic of coronavirus because it’s happening. It hasn’t stopped. Every day, I receive notifications from the BBC App on my phone regarding “your morning/evening coronavirus update”. The reality is that people are still being affected by this horrendous disease. Hence Lockdown 2.0.

To answer the question at the outset, I think I’ve deciphered what’s different this time is that, although many of us explored creative outlets old and new during Lockdown 1.0, we were all impacted by the cliche of virtual pub quizzes, the lack of socialisation and the yearn for a return to normality; when businesses began to reopen and social distancing rules were relaxed, we were finally reunited with familiarity. Now Lockdown 2.0 has arrived, we know what’s in store, and we know that the implications can be detrimental. So, let’s focus on the good that came out of Lockdown 1.0 and implement them in Lockdown 2.0; book in those Zoom catch-ups with your family, friends and coworkers; bake those cakes you didn’t get to the first time around and play those video games to your heart’s content. Remember: this lockdown is necessary to help stop the spread of this cruel disease and, one day, this will all be a distant memory.

Stay safe!

Love,

Little Pav ♡

Things I wish I’d known before starting Animal Crossing: New Horizons

I’ve always been a gamer girl. Growing up in the early noughties with an older brother by three years who has owned all the PlayStation consoles to date, and would play classics like Abe’s Odyssey, Tekken Tag and Grand Theft Auto, I always wanted to get in on the action. Likewise, I have owned many – if not almost all – the Nintendo consoles, including the Nintendo 64, Nintendo GameCube, Nintendo Game Boy Advance, Nintendo Game Boy Advance SP, Nintendo DS Lite and Nintendo Wii; even my mum possessed the very first Game Boy which my brother and I would continue to play Speedy Gonzales on for hours in our childhood years. For my 21st birthday back in 2018, then, it was only inherent that I wished for the Nintendo Switch. (Gamer Girl or Nintendo Nerd? Either is fine by me.)

When I gratefully received such, not only was it accompanied by the incredible The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild (Ocarina of Time was one of my favourite Zelda franchises growing up!), but I also rushed to my local Game to acquire Mario Kart 8 (the Mario Kart series has also been a long-time favourite, of course) and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (who doesn’t love DK?). While I loved all three of these games, I spent hours of my summer following my 21st predominantly rekindling my driving, dashing and drifting skills on Mario Kart 8.

When Nintendo announced that they would be launching an Animal Crossing franchise for the Switch soon after I obtained the console, I was ecstatic to say the least. Animal Crossing: Wild World was my most cherished game on the DS Lite and, alongside my second-year university studies, I was glued to Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp from the App Store. When Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH) finally released on the Switch back in March this year, I purchased it on March’s much-anticipated payday and quickly became obsessed. It was also at the end of March that the UK quarantined as a result of the global situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic which, for us avid gamers who would be furloughed for the following three months, paradoxically enabled the gift of time to invest in such games.

Image description: My Animal Crossing character in front of her house

The graphics on ACNH are incomparable to any of the other Animal Crossing franchises; they are insane! I remember literally uttering “wow” under my breath as I roamed my brand-new island and glanced at the sea surrounding such. I remember thoroughly enjoying the way I had to accomplish a multitude of tasks before I could obtain the museum, the shop and the tailors on my island. I remember feeling a wave of nostalgia sweep over me as I encountered some of my favourite characters from the Wild World franchise. If you are a Nintendo lover or an Animal Crossing fan like me, you will understand exactly what I’m talking about.

Eventually, as you unlock the ability to terraform your island after reaching three stars and having K.K. play outside Resident Services, I went a little too far. Because I had so much time to play this game due to being in lockdown, I became a little terraform-happy and attempted to renovate my entire island. I had plans: I planned to create a more distinct town centre, a specified residential area, an orchard  – you know, the typical ACNH ideas you might have gathered from YouTube – and I was ready to make this island my own from scratch. Alas, once I’d relocated all my residents’ houses to one side (which costs THOUSANDS of bells, by the way *cries*), knocked down all my raised land and chopped down all the trees, I was lost. “Where the fuck do I begin now?”, I pondered. Basically, I’d fucked up. I realised that I’m not as innovative as the YouTubers I watch and I’d made a mistake as to wiping ev-er-y-thing. Then it dawned on me: “I have to start again”.

The contemplation to start all over again on ACNH is not an easy one. You can’t, for instance, select an option to “reset” your island or move to another new island; the only way to restart is to delete your save data from the Nintendo Switch menu and start from the very beginning like you do upon purchasing the game. By the time you reach said level, you’ve usually obtained a lot of furniture, clothing and perhaps some of your favourite characters, and – as my fellow ACNH lovers would know – this takes hella time. Nonetheless, I was not prepared to rebuild my entire island from scratch because – again, if you know, you know – terraforming is tedious af.

And so, I started my island again and, this time, I played logically. From the beginning, I placed my museum, shops, tailors, home and characters’ homes carefully. As I was experienced, I knew exactly what I had to do in order to reach three stars and unlock the ability to terraform. When I could terraform, I had every intention to not tamper with my island’s natural landscape but to instead use every inch of it to its advantage. Thus, I finally reached four stars and I was satisfied. Not elated, but satisfied. Nevertheless, as I attempted to follow the requirements to reach the esteemed five stars, I couldn’t do it. If I didn’t have enough flowers, I’d plant more flowers. If I didn’t have enough trees, I’d grow more trees. If I didn’t have enough fencing, I’d build more fences. I was doing everything I needed to and yet I could never achieve the five-star mark. I don’t know what I was lacking, but I was obviously lacking something.

“What did I do to remedy this?”, you ask. Well, I started again… again. I am now in the process of developing my third island from the beginning. And, again, I have plans. Big plans. What’s different this time is that I’ve come to terms with the fact that I may never achieve the perfect island (I mean, I do aim to reach five stars this time!), and that’s okay. I’m not a professional gamer who knows every nook and cranny to gaming (ha… ha…). I’m not YouTuber who is getting paid to create the “BEST FIVE-STAR ISLAND EVER!!!1!11!”. I’m not going to lose anything if I don’t achieve such an island. The only person I want to create such an island for is me. But, hey: there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do it right!

In a way, I’m thankful for the time I had to experiment the game in all its glory. Now that I’m back to work and therefore don’t have as much time to play it as I did during lockdown, I’ve realised that there are some things I wish I’d known before starting Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Whether you are new to ACNH, are contemplating restarting or have recently restarted your island like me, too, here are some tips I wish I could have shared with my pre-ACNH-obsessed self:

  • Choose an island layout that works for you. There are so many articles available on how to choose the best island layout from the start, and most of them recommend that you choose one that has Resident Services in the middle and an even spread of land surrounding such. To be fair, my latest island very much resonates this because – as I said – I am now on my third attempt and I thought I’d follow the advice (however, I did have to reroll multiple times until I was offered such a layout which was frustrating af), but my previous island differed from this and still worked nicely.
  • Keep everything that you obtain. In the beginning of the game, it’s tempting to sell any items you obtain that you don’t particularly like from other residents, balloons from the sky or visitors like Wisp in order to make more bells, but you can make use of all items available anywhere on your island. Already own something in a different colour? Use both; you gain more points for having unique items on your island. Unsure what to do with something? Keep it; you might just obtain more items that work with it to create a specific area. Don’t like something at all? Gift it to another resident; it enhances your friendship with them.
  • Don’t strive for perfection. Maybe the reason I’ve restarted ACNH so many times is because I’m a perfectionist, or maybe it’s because the game really is that frustrating when it comes to placing buildings accurately, designating a specific amount of space for a particular area or continually attempting to achieve those five stars. In any case, remember: it’s just a game! If, like me, you’re no professional gamer and aren’t trying to achieve an amazing island for anyone but yourself, don’t beat yourself up if your island doesn’t look like a YouTuber’s whose life revolves around filming themselves accomplishing the impossible in every game. Be patient and enjoy the wonder that it Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

To my fellow ACNH lovers, hmu with the reasons for your love-hate relationship with the game (and your Friend Codes while you’re at it, if you like)! To those who don’t own the game and are considering investing in it, prepare yourself for a whirlwind of fun, fondness and frustration!

Happy gaming!

Love,

Little Pav ♡