Mental health and... lockdown
After a year quite unlike any other, we find ourselves still in the midst of restrictions on our lives and a good deal of uncertainty about what the rest of 2021 looks like - although there is the definite sense of light at the end of the tunnel finally.
No matter what your circumstances, there’s no denying the past year has been tough for everyone in some way, with different work and living situations all presenting their own unique challenges for people. The chances are that this period will have had an impact on your own mental health or that of someone you love, whether you’ve experienced mental health issues in the past or not. With many of our usual outlets, coping mechanisms and distractions removed for such an extended period of time, it’s no wonder that keeping on top of our mental health may have become more and more of a challenge.
Recent research from the Mental Health Foundation showed the extent of loneliness had risen between March and November 2020, with a quarter of UK adults surveyed saying they felt lonely in November compared to 10% in March. Similarly, the percentage of those who felt they were coping well with the stress of the pandemic had dropped by 11% to 62% by November.
Earlier in 2020, the Great British Wellbeing Survey also found there was a 38% increase in the rate of people who reported feeling anxious more than once a week after the first national lockdown. Those who said they experienced feelings of anxiety every single day also leapt by 42%.
Although the list of positives you might have been able to find in the warm, bright days of last spring and summer might have dwindled during the colder, darker days of Lockdown 3, there may well be habits that some of us would like to keep even when all this is over, whether that’s the chance to work from home more regularly, keep spending quality time with our immediate family or simply remember that it’s sometimes good to slow down occasionally.
We asked some of our mental health ambassadors how Lockdown 3 was affecting them.
The most difficult thing about Lockdown 3 has been dealing with the feeling of having lost a whole year, I think, which makes you miss friends and family even more keenly.
The lack of in-person interaction, aside from my husband, does have a negative effect on my mental health over extended periods as I’m a naturally sociable and extroverted person. Being unable to see people the way I once did is very draining. However, having a little more home time and down-time has been a nice way to recapture hobbies. I have been so very busy for the last 4 years that actually having periods of boredom at weekends has been a pleasant refresher.
On balance, compared to the first lockdown, I’d say I feel more positive as I’ve grown more accustomed to it; I’ve adapted to effectively working from home, carrying out my errands and inspections in a safe manner. I’ve also made a more concerted effort to stay in touch with loved ones. I miss hugs! And just popping round to friends or family for a cup of tea - tiny human interactions that went almost unnoticed before.
I’ve found having a routine is the top thing that helps - regular meals and time to get outside, all things which fluctuated with varying negative effects in those first few months.
My main piece of advice to anyone struggling would be, don’t wait until ‘it’s over’ to do things that make you happy. Granted, going on holiday or out for dinner might be off the table but if there’s a hobby you love or want to try, find some way to try and replicate it at home. I know there are limits, but finding ways to reclaim things, however small, really help me. If I really, really can’t do them in any way now, then I spend time planning them in the future.
I realised midway through last year that I spent a lot of time intending to be okay or happy after it was all over. Things got easier when I accepted what was happening was here for some time, and what I needed to do was make it work for me and make myself happy in the now.
The most difficult thing about Lockdown 3 has been balancing home-schooling with an increased workload compared to the first lockdown. Not being able to meet up with people regularly does get me down, but having more time to run definitely helps - I am probably the fittest I have ever been!
On balance, I probably feel less positive this time. Like most people I cannot wait for this to be over and for life to return to normal. I’m missing getting to meet up with my running club and colleagues, and have the opportunity to go to the pub with my friends!
I find it’s important to remember to be kind to yourself and take time to check in with your own feelings, so you’re not just drifting through.
My one piece of advice to anyone who is struggling right now is that admitting you’re not OK is absolutely fine, and even normal in these unprecedented times. Making that first step to seek help - perhaps making contact with someone like LionHeart - will make a massive difference to you.