Mental health in lockdown
Updated 5th Jan 2021 - for the most up to date coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance and information, please visit the NHS or government’s dedicated pages. This advice may differ in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The UK is living through lockdowns and local-level restrictions due to COVID-19. This means we might not be able to go to work, visit loved ones, or enjoy recreational activities. In the first lockdown, this took a heavy toll on our mental health. One survey taken in April 2020 found that 24% of adults had experienced loneliness in the past two weeks.
These restrictions are different from the full national lockdown of March 2020. You will now most likely to be able to:
- Exercise outdoors as much as you like
- Join a support bubble if you’re living alone
- Meet one friend from a different household outdoors
- Use public toilets
- Visit dentists and opticians
These changes make it much easier for single people to see friends and family. They also make it easier for everyone to get the exercise and medical care they need. But they don’t solve everything. Lockdown is still going to be a challenging time for lots of us, especially as the weather is colder and darker.
So if you’re struggling to get through the pandemic, just remember you’re not alone.
There’s plenty of help and advice available, including from the NHS, Mind and GOV.UK. You can also raise concerns with your employer, and make an appointment to speak to your GP. Remember, lots of people are going through this, so you shouldn’t feel embarrassed about seeking help.
For more advice, read on. We’ve put together some tips to help you manage your mental health over the coming weeks and months.
Keep in contact with friends and family
Whether you live alone or not, it’s important to keep in contact with loved ones. Join a WhatsApp group with friends, take part in virtual quizzes, and speak to loved ones on the phone.
Don’t forget, you can also see people in person. The new lockdown rules mean you can meet up outdoors with one friend from a different household. If you’re single, consider starting a support bubble. This will let you have close contact with the people in one other household, meaning you can visit them at home.
When you talk to loved ones, take the opportunity to communicate what you’re going through. Just chatting through your feelings can be really helpful. It’s also very likely that your loved ones are experiencing the same things.
Take good care of your body and mind
It’s not always easy to get motivated when you’re feeling depressed or anxious. But if you can, keep on top of basic tasks like cooking, staying active, and getting plenty of sleep.
Cooking and eating healthy, home-cooked meals will help with energy levels and mood, and make sure your body gets the nutrients it needs. Mind has some great resources about establishing a healthy relationship with food.
Staying active also has lots of benefits. Exercise of any kind, from walking, cycling to yoga, can boost your mood, ease feelings of stress and anxiety, and help you sleep. For free online guides, try the NHS Fitness Studio. When you exercise outdoors, you’ll also benefit from being in fresh air and around nature.
Avoid things that make you worried or sad
During the first lockdown, did certain things trigger your stress and anxiety? If so, avoid them this time round!
Common triggers include:
- Frequently reading the news
- Frequently scrolling through social media
- Watching films or TV that focus on death, grief, abuse and/or violence
If you find it hard to resist “doomscrolling” on your phone or laptop, try deleting social media apps or blocking certain websites.
Treat the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression caused by the changing seasons. Most people who have it start to experience symptoms in the autumn and winter as the weather changes and the days get shorter. One common treatment is to get a SAD lamp, which mimics natural sunlight.
If you think you might have SAD, it’s worth speaking to a doctor. Addressing these symptoms might help you generally feel better.
Try to stick to a routine
A routine can help you form healthy habits. We’ve written an article about creating and maintaining a routine during lockdown – read it here.
Get help when you need it
If you’re struggling to cope, talk to your GP. There are plenty of treatment options available, even in the middle of a lockdown. You might be able to get counselling or therapy over Skype or Zoom, or join a virtual support group. Your GP might also be able to prescribe medications to help with your depression and anxiety.