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Coping and building resilience during lockdown

It’s a year now since the start of the first lockdown, 365 days where our lives have changed dramatically. Covid hit suddenly with little time for us to prepare for the challenges we have had to face and it’s no wonder the fear and uncertainty surrounding us has led to so many people feeling anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed.

We’ve faced loneliness and Isolation. Humans are social creatures and being cut off from family and friends has been difficult for most. Not being able to kiss, or hug loved ones, being stuck at home with too much time to think, and not being able to do the things we usually enjoy…these all impact on our sense of wellbeing. People have lost loved ones, having to grieve without the support of those closest to them.

Employment has been a significant source of stress, along with the financial implications that come with job loss or furlough. Many companies have changed to working from home which comes with its own challenges, lack of routine, loss of camaraderie and support from colleagues, and having to juggle working responsibilities with childcare (often whilst trying to support children/teens who are also struggling with the changes they are having to face).

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. No matter how healthy your romantic relationship, being together 24/7 can be stressful. If relationships were already struggling, being unable to escape can cause increased tension, and incidences of domestic abuse has increased.

As if this wasn’t enough to deal with, there is the fear surrounding Covid itself, the threat of becoming ill, and the constant reminders about the worst possible outcome of this on both ourselves and our loved ones.

It’s become easy to fall into unhealthy ways of coping to try and manage the stress and uncertainty of these times, drinking more alcohol, smoking more, eating an unhealthy diet. How easy is it to just stay in our pajamas all day?

Covid is undeniably a big part of our lives but its not every part. We need a break and some sense of normality to help us navigate these difficult times, and there are things we can do to try and start achieving this.

Routine – One of the most important, fundamental things we provide for our children, right from the start, is routine. A routine makes us feel safe and provides a certainty that we are currently lacking in many areas of life. What was your routine like pre-Covid? Can you start to replicate that now? Even if you’re working from home, set an alarm, get up, dressed, and in a mindset to start the working day. A recent study has shown it can be beneficial to even get in the car and drive around the block to mimic the commute to work.

Set boundaries – This is another one that is particularly important if you’re working from home. If you don’t have an office you have to leave at 5pm its easy to continue working way past your clocking out time. Its important to maintain a work/life balance and put in boundaries. You managed before if you still had a ‘to do’ list tomorrow and it’s ok to put yourself first now too.

Take a break from the news. Its important to be aware of the current situation and how to keep ourselves safe, however watching the news 24/7 or persistently reading updates can be unhealthy. Set a limit on how often you allow yourself to watch/read about, the current situation. Perhaps this could be at a certain time each day, or when a major update is due.

We know that we all need a sense of enjoyment and achievement to remain mentally healthy. How we achieve this may need to be different in our current situation but perhaps make a list of things that you enjoy, things you wanted to try but previously haven’t had the time to do. Is there a hobby you would like to try? It could even be something as simple as watching a favorite show or listening to your favorite music. For achievement, is there DIY you’ve been putting off? Is there an interest you would like to pursue further via an online course? (There are many low cost, and even free courses you can take if finances are a barrier). If you’re not sure, this is a perfect time to use an activity diary to start to notice what activities give you a sense of enjoyment and achievement, what doesn’t serve you well, or what times of day you would benefit from adding in meaningful activity. (If you would like to use an activity diary, Get Self Help has an easy to use one here: (https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/ActivityDiary.pdf).

Stress management is more important than ever right now. Maybe you could start to practice some relaxation, meditation, yoga, or download a breathing exercise app? There are stress management and mindfulness courses currently running online which can help with learning these skills (your GP will be aware of the local courses running in your area). Mindfulness can be particularly useful right now when there is so much uncertainty about the future. Try to focus on the present, use your senses to ground yourself in this moment, rather than getting caught up if the 'what if's'.

Connect with loved ones. We may not be able to visit friends and family but making the effort to maintain these relationships, whether by telephone or online, is more important than ever. You could even arrange an online ‘party’, a game of bingo or a quiz. You could write a loved one a letter, or send a bunch of flowers as a surprise for them.

Looking after yourself physically can also have a positive impact on mental wellbeing. Try and eat healthily, exercise, cut down on alcohol and tobacco, and maintain a regular sleep schedule.

Be kind to yourself. You are trying your best in a situation none of us have ever (or ever expected to) experience. If you’re struggling to cope that’s understandable. Don’t beat yourself up. Notice how you’re talking to yourself and try to be kind not only with what you say to yourself, but the tone you use. Try and make little changes and don’t put too much pressure on yourself all at once. Do something nice for you, maybe buy yourself something, wrap up in a blanket with a cuppa and watch funny videos, or have a relaxing bath.

Most importantly, if you feel you need it, seek professional support. If your mood is so low you cannot manage with self-help strategies, anxiety feels too overwhelming to cope alone, or you feel unsafe, either from yourself or someone else, it may be time to seek support from your GP.

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