Lockdown Journal: Day 22 (A Mental Health Day)

by | Apr 17, 2020 | COVID-19, Johannesburg | 20 comments

If you’re new to this blog series and don’t know what’s happening with South Africa’s 21-day (now 35-day) lockdown, my first post  has all the details. Or read all my lockdown posts.

It’s Day 22 of lockdown. I decided to take a day off.

Rose in the garden
Lockdown photo Day 22: A rose with raindrops. I shot this a few days ago and have been holding it in reserve for a day like today, when I didn’t feel like taking any pictures.

Back in the olden days when I had a 9-5 job, we used to take “mental health days” — i.e. call in sick when we weren’t physically ill but just needed a day off. (Okay, I never personally did this because I was a goody-two-shoes. But others did.) Anyway, that’s kind of what I did today.

My iPhone use borders on addictive even during the best of times, and during lockdown it’s been out of control. I’ve been feeling like a slave to my electronic devices, and generally unsettled by the pressure to constantly post, read, listen, chat, respond, communicate. This feeling/behavior has been impacting my sanity. So I decided to take drastic action.

At 6:30 this morning (after switching out of airplane mode and checking quickly to make sure I had no emergency texts or emails from last night), I turned off my phone’s wifi and mobile data. I could still make and receive calls in case of emergency but otherwise I was offline. I didn’t check emails or social media, didn’t read or listen to any news, and didn’t read or respond to WhatsApp. I switched everything back on at 3:30 p.m., so I could catch up on things before sitting down to blog.

Nine hours offline may not sound like a lot. But it felt revolutionary for me. I don’t think I would have had the courage to try this pre-lockdown. But I guess that’s one of the good things about the pandemic: We’re all being driven, sometimes out of desperation, to try new things.

I needed those nine hours — especially on a weekday, when I felt like I was literally taking the time off — to reset my brain. I needed to feel that urge to pick up my phone, then deny myself that urge, then consciously let my mind wander.

I needed time accomplish basic tasks, like folding laundry and shopping and listening to music and reading (an actual book, not the internet), without thinking about COVID-19 at the same time. I needed time to generate my own thoughts, or not think at all for a bit, without feeling the need to respond to anyone/anything else.

My mental health day felt really good. I also discovered the joy of dancing — not just bopping my head or tapping my foot, but all-out dancing — alone in my lounge during lockdown. It felt nearly as good as tree-hugging.

Disclaimer: I know not everyone has the luxury of being able to randomly switch off. I’m very grateful that I do.

Reading and Listening Tips

I listened to a great podcast today called Over the Road. The podcast is hosted by Paul Marhoefer, a.k.a. Long Haul Paul, and tells stories about life as a long-haul trucker. Trucking stories feel especially poignant to me right now, maybe because trucking is such a uniquely solitary profession.

The most recent episode of Over the Road tells the moving story of a whole family of truckers from Montana. Paul is also a singer-songwriter, and the song he sings at the end of the episode is achingly beautiful.

I also enjoyed this article from the Guardian about how to politely inform friends when you don’t feel like video chatting. This challenge is real for me, and for many others I imagine. No offense to any of my video-chatting friends — I just think it’s a good reminder that sometimes we can say no without explaining ourselves.

Today’s Worthy Cause

As we all know, South Africa’s tourism industry has been hit painfully hard by the pandemic. My heart goes out to all of the small, community-based tourism projects around the country who may take months or years to recover, or not survive at all.

So when reader Kathy Sole sent me this fundraiser from Bird Life South Africa, appealing on behalf of South Africa’s community birding guides, I knew I wanted to share it.

David Letsoalo birding guide
David Letsoalo, one of South Africa’s top local birding guides. I wrote about him here.

Here’s how BirdLife SA describes this issue:

“BirdLife South Africa has trained upwards of 200 community bird guides. Those who are still actively guiding are currently being denied all guiding work by the national lockdown. Local and international tourism is expected to slump for several months, even after the lockdown is lifted. This is a devastating blow to our community bird guides who rely on local and international ecotourism in order to support themselves.

“BirdLife South Africa is raising relief funding for guides who need to sustain themselves and their families through this challenging period. We are appealing to all our supporters, especially those who have experienced the wonderful skills of our guides, to contribute to the pooled funds. All funds received will go directly to the guides.

“BirdLife South Africa is contributing R20,000 in seed funding to this initiative in solidarity with our community bird guides. If you would like to reach out to a specific guide you are welcome to do so privately.

“Donations to the Community Bird Guide Relief Fund can be made via EFT to the general BirdLife South Africa bank account using the reference format “BG_initials_surname”.”

BirdLife South Africa
Bank: First National Bank, Randburg
Branch Code:  254005
Account Number:  62067506281

There’s also a SnapScan code so let me know if you’d like me to forward that. Also, there is an application form for birding guides who want to apply to the relief fund.

See you tomorrow!


  1. violetonlineisonline

    Thanks for ALL the tips, especially re donations, wish I could give to everyone. (Sadly I cannot)
    But also, I switch off for just two or three hours a day. Its hugely helpful.

    • 2summers

      Yes, I might try that from now on – now that I know I’m capable.

  2. Louise Whitworth

    I used to ‘Love planning digital detox holidays, in a lot for the husband who is obsessed with his phone. I wanted him to be forced to switch off as I found it easier to do. Tankwa Karoo NP rest camp and the domwe island in Malawi were my favorites no contact holidays.

    Now ‘I am the one always on my phone, always! maybe it’s an extrovert thing but I want everyone to zoom me! John hates video calls and still hasn’t done one yet and he gets annoyed that most evenings I’m on the phone instead of watching movies together or something

    Thank you for the bird life recommend. I love the photo especially! My dad was always a very avid bird watcher until he started losing his eyesight but he still knows bird calls very well now, even the silly ‘boring’ garden birds. Bird guiding is such a rare and beautiful talent!

    • 2summers

      That’s interesting that you and John have switched roles. Corona changes everything.

  3. AutumnAshbough

    It’s hard to take a break. Good for you. I’m fortunate to have Andy pushing TV Shows and movies right now. Some of them are so engrossing that you really do forget the madness for a while.

    The Arts are essential.

    • 2summers

      It’s interesting, everyone has been getting into TV shows but I’m struggling to do that. (The only one I’ve watched is Tiger King, which I almost regret.) Maybe tonight I’ll force myself. Which ones have you been enjoying?

      • Joy Meyer

        I enjoyed Crashing on Netflix. Another Phoebe Waller-Bridge series. Loved Fleabag just in case you haven’t watched it. I feel you not being able to commit to series now.

        • 2summers

          I haven’t heard of Crashing! Will check it out.

      • AutumnAshbough

        We got completely sucked in by “The Morning Show,” “Gentefied,” and the “Mandolorian.” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” was also good.

        • 2summers

          Wow, I haven’t even heard of the first three. Are they on Netflix?

          • AutumnAshbough

            Gentefied is. Mandolorian is Disney+, and The Morning Show is Apple. Oh, Derry Girls is on Netflix and quite funny.

          • 2summers


  4. Jen Tyler

    Loving your Blog and have been following for a year ( possibly more )…I can’t keep track of time these days! Thank you for the effort of daily blogging, your tips and insights and the suggested NGO’s to donate to and small business’s to support. Much appreciated! As a born and bred Highvelder now living in Slaap Stad your blog is a block of nostalgia I regularly walk. I will always miss Johannesburg. Take care and stay safe! 🙂 xx

    • 2summers

      Thanks so much Jen. A block of nostalgia you regularly walk! I love that.

  5. David Bristow

    BirdLife is a wonderful organisation, I once had the unexpected and unplanned privilege if being taken through the Kurisa Moya Forest with David L. What a star. Non-working guides of the world unite, or untie, as it is.

    • 2summers

      David L. is a very special person 🙂

  6. Catrina

    Thanks for the link to that Guardian article – a very enjoyable read!
    And well done on staying offline yesterday.

  7. Joy Meyer

    I actually deleted most of my social media apps at the beginning of the year and it really helped me stay focused and productive. Now with lockdown I feel like a digital detox feels impossible but maybe I should try. I am listening to BBC Radio 6 and I must say it makes me feel better listening to voices even if their British and that has really helped. Having two productive days also helped. ☺
    Take care Heather ♥

    • 2summers

      You too, friend. I also find BBC news relaxing. I listen to their podcast almost every day 🙂


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