Anxieties caused by changing lockdowns
It seems like every day we wake up there's growing uncertainty in the world, I guess the only certainty in the world is uncertainty. To sum up in a nutshell how things are just now, I'm going to turn to renowned wordsmith that some of you may be familiar with, Ms Katy Perry. This songstress performed a song called "Hot and Cold", the lyrics of which seem to resonate more than ever now. "You're Hot, then you're cold. "- that's Scottish weather for you. We've moved on from summer almost without a thought and who knows what season it is now? "You're yes, then you're no" - that's those plans rapidly changing based on local lock-downs. One moment you can say yes to plans with friends and family, then in the blink of an eye, that optimistic yes, is suddenly a heart-breaking no. "You're in then, you're out"- to be honest, the way things are now, we’re more in than out. "You're up then, you're down" - from the highs of optimism to the lows of everyday reality, you are absolutely up, then down. "You're wrong when it's right". - everyone has an opinion, no one seems to agree. "It's black and it's white" - as clear as things seem to become, the less clear they get. It's actually quite interesting how these lines can resonate with our anxieties over the current situation, and in particular the ever changing local lock-down situations. As cases continue to rise across the country, the government is constantly reviewing ways to keep us and the most vulnerable safe by dynamically changing restrictions on a local level. While these measures are required, it is totally understandable to feel a little overwhelmed by it all, and a little bit anxious about the uncertainty that comes along with it. This can especially be true in regard to restrictions with family in different parts of the country where at times different rules apply. You begin to question - is it worth making plans, or will they have to change? Is it going to get worse before it gets better? Will I get to see my family in the next few months? Will panic buying start again as local lockdowns mean that shops get closed? Mentally, You're up. Then you're down. So many questions with so much uncertainty, it's natural to feel you are struggling at times and normal to feel anxious around the uncertainty. Whilst many have come to accept the crazy situation we find ourselves in, it is the uncertainty that will drive most people's fears and anxieties. Many may have felt safer from the virus during full lockdown, and now feel afraid that the changes could cause a rise in infections. For those of you studying, be it at school, or even those studying for further qualifications in any line of work. You may have enjoyed educational establishments being closed and now feel worried about returning. This could be because you’ve felt less anxious during lock-down, or that lock-down made you feel safer from bullying. Maybe you’re feeling relaxed after a break from studying and are now worried about the pressure of returning to your studies. Maybe you’re worried about getting into “study mode” when there’s so much else going on in the world. You may even have also felt closer to your family, neighbours or local community during lock-down, or had better housing during this time, and don’t want this to end.
At the time of writing the first draft of this, I got a notification about how my local area is going into a local lock-down which has thrown some plans I made for my annual leave into real uncertainty. And as I try and write my final draft of this, Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon are on the TV outlining the tougher national methods in trying to manage the pandemic.
So what's the best way to handle this uncertainty and manage our anxieties?
How do we cope?
Firstly, to understand HOW to cope, we have to understand what coping is. Thanks to the incredible charity MIND for these great points, and pieces of advice.
Coping is our ability to respond to, and deal with, unpleasant, difficult or stressful situations. Our ability to cope with things can vary – we can cope well one day, and poorly the next.
Coping strategies - are things we choose to do in unpleasant situations, to manage our emotions and help us get through them, or to lessen how it will affect us. There are both positive and negative coping strategies.
Positive coping strategies - are healthy ways of coping that are good for our well-being in the long term.
Negative coping strategies - are unhealthy ways of coping that can harm our well-being or cause other problems. They may feel impulsive or urge-driven. We also may not realise at the time that we’re using negative strategies to escape from something. Negative coping strategies can be eating too much or not enough, drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs, legal highs, smoking cigarettes or vaping and self-harming.
One of the best ways of coping is one of the simplest ways. Speak to people, let people know how you feel about the situation. The term "We're all in this together" rings more true in this situation than it ever has. If you discuss your fears around how things are you might discover how others are coping, especially as some areas may be going through restriction changes at different times than you are. Your managers and peers can offer personal support to you, or someone you trust, though it’s important to recognise that they aren’t counsellors. They can provide a listening ear, but may have their own anxieties too. Try not to burden them for this reason but at the same time, don’t suffer alone.
It can be helpful to try different ways of addressing these worries. For example, you could set aside a specific time to focus on your worries – so you can reassure yourself you haven't forgotten to think about them. Some people find it helps to set a timer, or you could write down your worries and keep them in a particular place – for example, you could write them in a notebook, or on pieces of paper you put in an envelope or jar. By doing this it allows you to think about them rationally, and for many it acts as a way of addressing them. With things changing all the time, it might be useful to write or consider what is getting to you now, and what can’t get to you just now.
Try to get enough sleep - Sleep can give you the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences. Have a look back at an earlier blog about the importance of sleep. When we go to bed, our minds are sometimes racing with the madness of the day, especially just now when every single day there is a report or speculation on how things are going to change in our everyday lives. A rested mind is a healthy mind, and will allow you to cope better with the challenges that you face.
Think about your diet - Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels. I know that sometimes with all the speculation, changes and uncertainty that sometimes you just don’t feel “up to it”. But, by not properly managing your diet, or even eating proper food at proper times, you’re putting your resilience at risk. If you don’t have the energy, or mood to deal with the things that are bothering you, things will surely only feel worse, right through to not being able to sleep or rest correctly if your body is not nourished.
Try to do some physical activity - This has been a recurring theme through every mental health blog. Exercise can be really helpful for your mental well-being, so I won’t elaborate on this too much, as you’ve heard it several times before.
Plan and control what you can - Feeling in control can and will help your mental well-being. In a time when so much seems out of your control, finding things that you can be in control of are incredibly important. It can be as simple as planning activities you know you can do, down to changing routines to suit your physical and mental well-being in line with what is permitted at that time.
To close, this blog is a little bit of a different one for me to have written, as I’ve revised it countless times over the past few days while writing it, as the restrictions around me went from just the “new normal” of masks and distancing, to localised lock-down to a full scale national change.
As one who suffers from anxiety and depression, the move into these tougher times has felt like a gut-punch. The more I felt optimistic of moving forward, the more we feel like it’s getting harder to see the end game.
I feel heartbroken that my 10 month old child will miss more time with his grand-parents and extended families. Not only do I feel sad for him, I feel sad for them.
I feel angry. We’ve done so much, we’ve come so far, yet we seem to be going further back.
These feelings are all normal, and expected, and highlight even more the importance of coping well, talking and keeping active to keep mentally healthy.
To close, I’ll borrow the words of our own First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon,
“All of this is incredibly tough – and six months on it only gets tougher.
And though it doesn’t feel like this now, this pandemic will pass.
It won’t last forever and one day, hopefully soon, we will be looking back on it, not living through it.
So though we are all struggling with this – and believe me, we all are – let’s pull together.
Let’s keep going, try to keep smiling, keep hoping and keep looking out for each other...if we stick with it – and stick together – I do know we will get through this.”
Please do check out MIND on the below link for some great advice and support for all ages, including some brilliant resources for young people/teens.