From lockdown to relaxation of covid rules: tips on looking after your mental health
Page last reviewed: 04 March 2021
For many of us, the gradual easing of lockdown brings longed-for opportunities (even if at a social distance) – to see friends, play sports, resume contact with family in ‘real space’ or get back to work that we value.
What are the mental health challenges, and what can we do?
We should be prepared for the fact that the end of lockdown might be as hard for us as the start was.
Our mental health tips: about finding routines, staying connected, eating well, and taking exercise apply just as much now as they did at the start of lockdown – arguably even more so as we remain in a period of high stress but with more demands on us.
Because our situations are unique to us, it is really important to try not to judge ourselves harshly based on what other people are doing. Everybody is facing uncertainty and challenge – and we have no choice but to move through it as best we can with our own coping mechanisms.
Fear and anxiety
Fear and anxiety are possibly the most common emotional responses any of us will feel as we approach the release from lockdown. Finding a way to pull ourselves through lockdown took a lot of our emotional energy and we may have found a place that lets us cope, and that we don’t want to leave behind just yet.
It’s important to acknowledge that these feelings are reasonable, and to expect them. It’s only by building up tolerance gently that we can move through these fears.
If possible, take things at your own pace – but try and challenge yourself to try something different each day or every couple of days. It’s very easy to allow the seclusion that was necessary in lockdown to become deliberate isolation as lockdown ends. Celebrate small wins (and big wins) and try and keep a note of what you are achieving.
Tips on coping with fear and anxiety
Coping with uncertainty
Focus on the present – you can only do your best with what you have today. With regulations changing frequently, and lots of conflicting media discussions, try and keep a focus on the moment. Mindfulness meditation is one way of bringing your mind back to the present moment.
Bring things that are certain back into focus – whilst a lot of things are uncertain at the moment, there are also things to be hopeful about. Try to record and appreciate good things as they happen. Try and take opportunities to reset and relax.
Talk to people you trust – it’s important to talk about how you feel. Don’t dismiss your concerns or judge yourself too harshly. You may also be able to find your tribe online, but try and get outside perspectives too.
Looking after children and family
During lockdown, those of us with caring responsibilities have supported our families. For parents and carers, returning to work is likely to provide a distance that might be much welcomed and needed – but also prove challenging emotionally when family closeness has been such a support to so many during lockdown. We have more detailed advice for parents here.
With pupils going back to school, this will mean another change in routine and, in the short-term, more disruption.
A similar situation arises for unpaid carers: perhaps the physical or mental health of the person they care for has deteriorated during lockdown and their own needs have changed. This will mean new assessments and changes in service provision.
Grief is something many of us will have experienced during the lockdown. Many people will have faced the loss of someone close during these past months, and with attendance at funerals restricted, and non-socially distanced company only very recently available to very specific groups, this has been doubly hard.
As we start to move out of lockdown it will be possible to see people again, and to provide support to those close to us who have been bereaved, although at the moment this must be socially distanced and cannot involve a hug – unless you are a single parent with children aged under 18, or a person living alone, who has formed a ‘bubble’ with one other household. You can find our information on dealing with loss and bereavement here.
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