Being in lockdown is a mental health minefield. From juggling relationship and family challenges to work/life balance and healthy eating, things are chaotic and challenging.
Even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have spoken out about the impact on our mental health right now. And, along with how to cope, another thing that’s likely to be on your mind is when all this will end. That depends, of course, on the country you’re in.
But whether your lockdown situation is newer, or weeks down the line, it’s possible you are looking for clues as to when things will be ‘back to normal’.
Each day that passes when they’re not, and you don’t hear an official bulletin about an end date, can start to weigh on your mind.
Performance Life Coach, Shelley Bosworth, explains: “For many of us, this will be one of the most uncertain times of our lives. We have no idea what the coming days, weeks and months might bring and when we are uncertain, we create our own stories.
“We need answers, it’s human instinct and when we don’t have answers we create our own,” says Bosworth. “Often, we start creating a ‘worst case scenario’ future, a future that hasn’t even happened yet, leaving our attention completely diverted… it’s a vicious circle.”
We grieve for our old lifestyles, adds psychologist Karen Kwong. “Everything normal about our lives has been turned on its head – so it feels like constant chaos,” she says. “Stress tends to come when past issues affect your thinking about what might happen in the future.
“Living in the present makes you more aware of this moment. By noticing things, it increases awareness and clarity of your thoughts and feelings, as well what you have around you such as spring flowers, the sunshine, family, friends.”
One day at a time helps you slow down
Right now, there’s an underlying feeling of panic to our days. What will the news say next? Will we have enough food, and is our exercise ‘allowed’, for example.
We have nerves bubbling away, and they get worse when we start to think about what the situation might be like the next week, or next month. If you see other countries coming out of lockdown, there’ll be a jealousy there too.
It’s time to switch off from those influences, says Bosworth. “Living day to day allows us to stop worrying about the ‘what ifs’, focusing on the present instead.
“It’s important to take the time to slow down and appreciate the little things. We need to see the positivity surrounding us, to catch our breath, to think about what we want and need for ourselves, and to be.”
Keeping one eye on the future (sometimes)
So should we abandon the future completely? Not completely, argues Bosworth. It’s always important to keep a little eye on the future; to have hope and see a light at the end of the tunnel. However, putting a sole focus on the future is wasted energy, especially when we are surrounded by so much uncertainty.
“Know this will end and trust that we will get through this. However, don’t look back on this time with regrets either… appreciate what you have, learn from it and do the best you can.”
Kwong suggests taking time during your daily routine to be more mindful. From pausing as you brush your teeth, to really trying to feel for the beat if you have music on. “As you eat, don’t shovel like you’ve never eaten before. Savour every mouthful – the smell, texture, taste, sight,” she adds.
In the meantime, follow these four practical tips from Bosworth to get you through the day, one day at a time.
1. Start a gratitude diary. Take five minutes every day, either in the morning or the evening, and write down three things you are grateful for.
2. Plan or diarise time every day, however small, just for you. That could be for something like exercise, or a TV show you love, a phone call to a loved one or just lying on the bed in the afternoon sunshine.
3. Switch off social media and stay away from the TV and spend time doing something you love. Read, run, walk, yoga, music and dance – whatever brings you joy, do it. Don’t worry. I know that’s far easier said than done, but try to remember that worrying won’t change anything.
4. Every second spent worrying is a wasted second. When you catch yourself doing this, ask yourself honestly: ‘How likely is this to happen?’ Try to divert your energy and ask yourself instead: ‘What can I do to resolve the situation?’
If the answer is nothing … well there’s your answer. If there is something you can do, grab the moment and do it!