Although recent weeks have been difficult for many people, when we were in full lockdown across the UK things might have felt more certain, as the rules were clearer. Now things might start feeling less clear, and there may be new challenges with some of the restrictions.
By Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind
People that are shielding can now spend more time outdoors and from 6 July, with loved ones if they wish to, but for many, continued social isolation, reduction in physical activity, and change in routine might feel difficult or stressful.
We all have mental health, just as we have physical health and we need to look after it. Things are changing fast, and many of us, especially people who are shielding, are worrying about what it all means for ourselves and for our loved ones.
It’s not all bad; there were some unexpected perks of lockdown and the imposed restrictions, such as getting to spend more time with family or housemates, finding more time for exercise or leisure activities, and getting more sleep. Others, however, have faced additional challenges, such as feeling more isolated, experiencing problems with health, finances, bereavement, job loss, or juggling parenting with working.
There are things we can do to improve our mood and wellbeing that can be built into our daily routines. Getting outdoors, ideally in an open area and perhaps at a time when there are fewer people around is great for our physical and mental health and can help reduce stress hormones and improve sleep. Even something as simple as sitting by a window and watching the birds or taking care of a pot plant, can be beneficial. You could also aim to exercise at home.
As restrictions are being lifted differently around the UK, others may well be following different rules to you, causing a change in your mood from when, in full lockdown, most people were following the same instructions.
If you’re shielding, it may seem that other people have more freedom than you, or you might feel conflicted and confused, wanting to socialise more, but perhaps that you should continue to stay at home or consider it safer to do so, or that the current pace of life is easier to deal with, as we’re less pressured to attend social gatherings, for example. It’s worth reflecting on whether we want things to return to how they were before, or if there’s an opportunity to review our priorities and really think about what makes us happy.
Changes to the rules and the risk of an increase in infections can cause anxiety, fear and panic or you might feel angry or frustrated, perhaps because people aren’t all following social distancing advice and now it’s more difficult to avoid contact with them, or that the changes will make your work more difficult or higher risk, especially if you’re a key worker.
It’s important to note that there’s no normal response to lockdown easing, and that your feelings can change, even day-to-day.
Lots of us depend on social contact to help us stay well. For people in England who are shielding, from 6 July you can, if you wish, see up to six people outdoors, including people from different households, while maintaining strict social distancing. However, this may not be possible or feel comfortable for all of us. It’s still important that we reach out as much as we can to loved ones – whether that’s via text, email, phone or video call.
Even so, if you are finding news coverage difficult to cope with, think about switching off or limiting what you listen to for a while. It could be surprisingly helpful in maintaining your wellbeing.
If you’re worried about the transition back to ‘normality’, talk about it with people you trust. If you’re concerned about the kids going back to school, contact the school about what measures they have in place to make the transition smoother. Similarly, employers should be thinking about what support they can offer – such as a phased return back to your usual place of work for example, gradually reducing the number of days you work from home. It’s possible that employers may decide that asking staff to go to their usual place of work is largely unnecessary, giving staff the option to continue to work from home most of the time, particularly if commuting could pose a risk to your health.
Self-care is really important and can make a difference to general wellbeing, but some people will also need support and treatment from mental health services. If you notice changes to thoughts, feelings and behaviours that have an impact on your daily life, last two weeks or longer, or keep returning, speak with someone you trust. Your GP surgery may be able to offer consultations via phone or online so check to see what they can do or search online for other support.
Mind has lots of information and tips.
Mind provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.
Mind has a confidential information and support line, Mind Infoline, available on: 0300 1233393 (lines open 9am – 6pm, Monday – Friday)