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Second Lockdown: Tips for mental health & wellbeing

As we are placed into the second lockdown of 2020 (in the UK) we may continue to experience feelings of fear, uncertainty and anxiety about how this lockdown will impact our mental health and wellbeing. Although we have already experienced a lockdown previously, the second lockdown poses many challenges that we have to overcome:

  • The second lockdown is occurring during the winter months of the year. Where shorter days, poor weather and decreased social contact may take a toll on our wellbeing normally. The current lockdown may exacerbate these feelings.

  • Prior to the second lockdown, we may have experienced brief ‘normality’ in our lives as restaurants, cafés, gyms and other leisure activities had re-opened (albeit restrictions applied).

  • We may also continue to experience doubts about the duration of the second lockdown and we may feel uncertain about what the future will look like afterwards.

So how can we best manage these feelings and try to support our wellbeing during the second lockdown?

Worry & Anxious Thoughts

As the lockdown and uncertainty about the future continues, we may experience anxious and worry thoughts (e.g. the “what ifs”). However, often we do not just have one worry thought on its own, instead it is usually accompanied with more and more worry thoughts that build up. If you feel that your worry thoughts continue to build up you may want to STOPP:

Stop and take a step back – Try to stop your thoughts in their tracks by pausing and taking a step back, either mentally or physically, take a step back.

Take a breath – Mindfully take a breath. Notice all the places you can feel your breath (mouth, nose, throat, chest). Just take a brief moment to focus all your attention on one place and the sensation of breathing there.

Observe – Notice what thoughts you are having. Are they facts or opinion? If they are opinions are they particularly helpful? If they are facts, is there anything that you can do in that moment to change the facts? If you said no, it might be helpful to move on from these thoughts.

Put in perspectives – Try to see the situation as an outside observer. If there is someone that you value in your life, what would they say about the situation? What advice would you give them if they were feeling this way?

Practice what works – Do what is most helpful for you. For example you might find it beneficial to practice journaling, mindful breathing or other mindful activities, or something that you enjoy, like reading, playing music, watching tv.

Getting Outside

Spending time in nature can be very beneficial for us, it can help us to increase our mood, our ability to regulate our emotions and increase our self-esteem and energy levels. Being in nature can also help to decrease worry, stress and anxiety. If you are well enough, try to get outside during daylight hours. This may be a brief walk to your local green space or just a brief walk around your neighbourhood.

Once outside, you might like to try grounding techniques or other mindful activities, such as mindful walking.

If you are unable to get outside, bring the outside in! See if you can bring some plants or greenery into your living space. Set an intention to spend some mindful moments taking care of your plants.

Connecting with Others

Although the second lockdown has meant that ‘social distancing’ rules have changed, we don’t have to be distant from connecting with others. We may be physically distant from friends, family and colleagues but we can still remain socially connected to them.

  • Checking in and having catch ups with friends and family virtually, for example scheduling activities together.

  • If you have an employer, ask them what they can offer to support connecting with colleagues.

  • Is there a sport or activity club that you’ve always wanted to join? See whether they are offering virtual sessions.

  • Showing kindness to our local communities, for example checking in with isolated neighbours and vulnerable individuals.

Being Kind to Ourselves

Despite experiencing and surviving a global pandemic and a subsequent second lockdown, we still might be placing a lot of pressure on ourselves to be productive and to be the best version of ourselves. However, the constant changes and uncertainty is extremely stressful so it is okay for us to not be our 100% best selves during this time. We might notice that we’re being hard on ourselves and thinking negatively about ourselves. So during this time, it may be particularly helpful to practice self-compassion towards ourselves:

  • This is a moment of suffering: acknowledge what you’re feeling and that it’s difficult, accept it for what it is and allow it to be there without judgement.

  • Suffering is part of being human: whatever difficult thing you’re thinking or feeling right now is a natural ad inevitable part of being human. We all experience difficult feelings and they are part of what it means to be human.

  • May I be kind to myself: set an intention to be kind to yourself and put it into action. What can you do immediately as a compassionate response to how you’re feeling? What can you do later today to show compassion to yourself?

As the second lockdown may take a toll on our wellbeing, it is important that we take the time to support our mental health and wellbeing. We may do this by managing our anxious and worry thoughts, getting outside, remain connected with others and being kind to ourselves!

Please refer to official guidelines.

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”Jon Kabat-Zinn

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