Surviving lockdown

Surviving lockdown

This article about coping with the lockdown covers:

  • Working from home
  • Managing relationships
  • Digital detox
  • Solitary living
  • Alcohol consumption

Coping with Lockdown

In the UK we are now coming up to 2 months of lockdown, where most of us have been staying at home and avoiding social contact with others. 

Whilst there have been some minor changes in guidance announced by the Prime Minister about what we are now permitted to do, for many of us things are likely to be much the same in terms of working from home and social distancing.

The uncertainty about how long the pandemic may last and these restrictions will go on for can undoubtedly impact our mental health in a number of ways.  Here are some tips to help you thrive during this period.

Working from home

For different people working from home could have positive or negative effects. Some may find themselves more distracted, unable to focus out of their usual work environment and procrastinating more, whilst others could be more productive but perhaps at the cost of working outside of their usual/business hours because of the accessibility of work through laptops. 

Some clear positives to remind ourselves of include less time spent commuting, more time to spend with family, rest, or pursue a hobby and time to prepare and enjoy our meals.

  1. Think about how you structure your day – try to stick to your contracted hours and take regular breaks, find a specific working area to stick to if you can (ideally avoid using the space you would usually sleep in) and maintain your usual routine in terms of sleep and exercise.

  2. Maintain good relationships and contact with your work colleagues through social networks to support each other.

  3. Consider your relationships and other commitments to ensure you maintain a balance. Be conscious not to let work encroach family time e.g. by discussing work issues at mealtimes or checking your emails repeatedly after work hours. You may find flexible working hours are better if you also have children to care for, if you can work in that manner.

  4. Think about how your work habits may impact your team members e.g. sending late night emails which may set a precedent for others be working late.

  5. Speak to your manager/team about your workload, manage expectations of what you can deliver and speak up if you are feeling overwhelmed.

  6. Although you may have been saving up your annual leave for a future date when travel and social distancing restrictions have been lifted, think about using some of it to have a day off to take a break now.

  7. If you are looking after children, take advantage of apps and digital support if you can e.g. online lessons or Joe Wick’s PE classes without feeling guilty. Take more breaks so that you can intermittently give them a little 1 to 1 time and (if you’re lucky enough to have them) use their nap time effectively not just to get an important piece of work done but for something that will benefit your wellbeing such as an exercise break, mindfulness practice, reading a book or having a cup of coffee in peace.

  8. Take some time off the internet and put away devices at break times, family time and before bed.

Digital Detox

Constant media coverage of the Covid 19 outbreak and a deluge of articles, news reports, memes and theories circulated through social media platforms can lead to anxiety and stress. It is important to recognise this and try and monitor your consumption of such information. Tips to help include:

  1. Setting particular times in the day when you can check your social media accounts and news updates e.g. 20 minutes 3 times a day.

  2. Have a ‘no phones’ policy during mealtimes, play time with children and after 9pm at night.

  3. Turning off notifications on your devices so that you are not constantly distracted by them.

  4. Using credible sources to obtain your facts and information such as gov.uk or the NHS website.

  5. Taking care of whether you could be sharing potentially inaccurate information and what effect that could have on other people.

Managing relationships

Most of us have never had to spend this much time with the other members of our household and the closest we may have come to it before are the few days we spend together over the Christmas period. It is an opportunity for relationships to thrive and be fortified, but it is also entirely normal for things to feel strained sometimes, especially as our work lives and home lives have merged.

  1. Check in with one another to find out how the other is feeling and share what is on your mind. Good communication is crucial to avoid tensions building into resentment or disagreements.

  2. If you can, make sure everyone has a routine at home that they can stick to and have something to focus on, keeping mealtimes as an opportunity to come together.

  3. Establish boundaries and ensure you have some space from each other by finding an activity you can enjoy alone such as reading a book, going for a run, or signing up for a course.

  4. Try to have fun with each other e.g. dressing up for date nights in, watching a movie or playing a board game. Ensure the time you spend is quality time and try to leave electronic devices in another room or turn them off to avoid getting distracted.

  5. It is sometimes easy to start to pick faults with the people that we spend the most time with, however, try to focus on the positives. Consider the different ways that they may be helping to support you during this period, or how they may be feeling too.

  6. If you can, make time to connect with others either alone or together e.g. through video calls.

Living alone

If you live on your own, the current social distancing measures are likely to feel very challenging. You may find it difficult to know how to fill your days, especially if you are not working, and become overwhelmed by the thought of how long the restrictions might continue for. 

Unless you are shielding, you are now allowed to meet with 1 member of another household in an outdoor space whilst maintaining a 2 metre distance (provided you do not have symptoms of coronavirus). For the remainder of the time you are at home consider the following:

  1. Try to avoid thinking too far ahead and take each day at a time, breaking up the day into smaller parts and focussing on one task at a time e.g. taking the time to enjoy a cup of tea in the afternoon, or spend some time pruning in the garden

  2. Try to use different rooms in the house and the garden, if you have one, for different activities and to stop you from feeling trapped 

  3. Plan your day and set achievable goals to give you a sense of satisfaction e.g. clearing out your wardrobe or trying a new recipe

  4. Take the opportunity to pursue a hobby or enrol in a course you have been interested in

  5. Connect with family and friends through video calls, WhatsApp groups or online games and you can  still maintain social distancing but have a chat with your neighbours over the garden fence or say hello to the delivery man

  6. Take the opportunity to get some fresh air and a change of environment by exercising outdoors daily, it might also help to see other people also going about their day.

Manage your alcohol intake

There can be a temptation to drink more alcohol whilst at home and many people have experienced this during lockdown. This can be due to a lack of routine, using alcohol as a way to relax and reduce anxiety, being bored, feeling lonely, feeling the strain of relationships, or to take your mind off the stream of negative news of the Covid 19 outbreak.

  1. Know how much you should be drinking – Both men and women are advised to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week. Many of us are not really sure what 14 units would look like and wouldn’t realise when we are drinking more than recommended. The strength of alcohol and size of your drink determine the units you consume e.g. 1 pint of 4% beer = 2.3 units, 250ml glass of wine (14% ABV) =3.5 units, a 25ml measure of a spirit (40%) =1 unit.

  2. Measure your drinks properly and note down exactly what you drink so that you can keep track of it. Avoid letting others ‘top up’ your glass as this makes it much harder to keep track of.

  3. Spread your units across the week e.g. over 3 or 4 days with drink free days in between.

  4. Remove temptation by avoiding stocking up on boxes of beer or multiple bottles of wine at home.

  5. Replace alcohol with something else you could treat yourself with e.g. taking a relaxing bath, or distract yourself when you are likely to reach for a drink and, for example, exercise instead.

  6. Choose weaker options and try non-alcoholic drinks and mocktails which can also feel like a treat.

  7. If you feel that you’re drinking too much and it is becoming a habit, or someone you live with has become dependent on alcohol, reach out for help. Speak to your GP via a telephone appointment or contact support services such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

There are many other ways in which the Covid pandemic and the restrictions that have come with it could affect your wellbeing, such as financial worries, worsening of existing mental health conditions and practical issues such as how to take care of vulnerable relatives. 

Stay connected with people that you trust to talk about how you are feeling, only use reliable sources of information for guidance and contact your GP or any other health professional if you feel that you are struggling. It’s always best to address problems before they get worse.

Resources you might find helpful include:

Public Health England

Alcoholics Anonymous – 0800 9177 650

Drinkline: 0300 123 1110

Al-Anon – 0800 008 6811

Calculating alcohol units

Mind

NHS 111

Every Mind Matters

The Samaritans for support if you are struggling with your mood

Relate for support regarding relationship issues

Citizen’s Advice has information on organisations that can offer help and support for domestic abuse.

Written by Dr. Sidra Malik BMBS MRCGP DRCOG DFSRH 14th May 2020

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