Last reviewed on 31 January 2021
“If you brushed your teeth today and got showered and ate something and spent ten minutes not looking at the news then well done, it’s an achievement.”
Matt Haig, author and mental health campaigner
Do you feel like all the days are blurring and that you’re stuck? As we come to terms with another lockdown, it can be hard to stay upbeat. The pressures of work and home schooling combined with concerns about your family’s health and finances might feel quite overwhelming. If your community has suffered the impact of COVID-19 more than others, you might feel angry and upset. On top of all this, you might be missing loved ones, finding it difficult not having your usual daily routine and wondering when life might get back to some kind of normal.
This Groundhog Day feeling (the sense that you’re re-living the same day over and over and feel trapped) can be frightening so it’s more important than ever to recognise that things are changing. A huge amount of progress has been made over the last 12 months and there is now a pathway out of the pandemic. Scientists have a better understanding of how COVID-19 is transmitted, testing facilities are in place and there are now tried-and-tested treatments for the disease. Most importantly, the NHS has embarked on the UK’s largest ever mass vaccination programme, which will offer every adult in the country the coronavirus vaccine by the autumn.
Although you might be fed up of staying at home and finding it really tough to follow the official guidance right now, please stick with it. You’re doing something extremely important – protecting yourself, your family, your community and the NHS. As we head towards summer, the light at the end of the tunnel should get brighter.
In the Groundhog Day film, Bill Murray’s character initially fights against what’s happening to him. It’s only when he realises that if he reacts differently – with kindness, generosity and a focus on learning new skills – the outcome will be better. To help you feel less frustrated and more hopeful at this time, Good Thinking and Thrive LDN have put together these tips. Whether lockdown is making you feel anxious, irritable, lonely, bored or just a bit meh, we’re here to help.
It’s frustrating not being able to see friends and family as you would in normal circumstances but there are lots of ways to stay in touch. Call them. Text them. Chat to them on video. You might even like to arrange some virtual activities you could do together – like a film night, a fitness workout or a games evening. As lockdown restrictions ease, you should be able to meet up with your loved ones more easily. Staying connected (either face-to-face or remotely) can improve your sense of belonging and enables you to give and receive emotional support.
If you’d like to speak to other people who might be feeling the same way as you, why not join an online community, such as Family Lives or The Student Room. If you’re feeling anxious or lonely, there are lots of charity helplines available, including Shout and The Silver Line. If you’d like to help others, why not check on your neighbours, support a local charity or sign up to be an NHS Volunteer Responder. Giving back to other people is not only good for them but also for you – it gives you purpose and can increase your self-esteem.
Read Good Thinking’s article about five ways to good mental wellbeing and the Thrive LDN blog about supporting others in your community. You might also find these podcasts about community action, online communities and coping with isolation interesting. If someone you know needs wellbeing advice in another language, we recommend visiting the Doctors of the World website (it contains guidance in 27 languages).
Being active is not only great for your physical health and fitness, it can also increase your self-esteem, reduce feelings of anxiety and boost other aspects of your mental wellbeing. Whether you go for a gentle walk around the park or push yourself with a YouTube workout, you’ll help to create chemical changes in your brain that can improve your mood.
As Hayley Jarvis of the mental health charity Mind noted in a recent The Body Coach blog, "Being active is one of the best things you can do to help yourself bounce back in times of adversity. Getting out of your head and into your body can actually improve your ability to think clearly and break up your racing thoughts."
As well as exercising regularly, could you focus on things that keep your mind active? Cooking, reading, listening to podcasts or doing something creative, such as drawing, singing or crafting, can be a good distraction and give you a sense of accomplishment. Doing one rewarding activity each day (even just watching a new TV show or film) should help you to break the monotony of lockdown.
Good Thinking provides advice about how to manage boredom and how to focus on rewarding activities. Learn about how to kick start your health on the NHS Better Health website and how to bring your creativity to life in this article in The Guardian.
When the news is full of negative stories about coronavirus and other issues and you haven't seen your loved ones for many months, you might struggle to stay positive. That’s perfectly normal. But there are some techniques to help you focus on the good stuff and stay hopeful about the future.
During the first lockdown, everyone seemed to be using their time at home to do new things. Zoom pub quizzes. Learning Spanish. Virtual music gigs. PE with Joe workouts. Baking sourdough. Nine months on, you might be feeling less enthusiastic. That’s OK!
As author and mental health campaigner Matt Haig (@mattzhaig) posted on Instagram recently, “If you brushed your teeth today and got showered and ate something and spent ten minutes not looking at the news then well done, it’s an achievement.”
Indeed, by sticking to the rules, you’re playing a vital role in the fight against COVID-19. Embrace the slower pace. Live in the moment. Be kind to yourself. And remember that life goes on – even if it looks very different to this time last year.
Read Good Thinking’s articles about how to get enough sleep and how nature can boost your wellbeing. If you think meditation and mindfulness might be useful, listen to this podcast about taking a micropause and download the Meditainment app.
Back in March 2020, the World Health Organization noted that we weren’t just fighting an epidemic but also an infodemic. The sheer amount of information about COVID-19 can certainly be overwhelming and its content distressing – it can also prove stressful as you might not know what to believe.
Social media and messaging apps add to the cognitive overload, with conspiracy theories about the virus and fake news about vaccines causing feelings to run high. In fact, an Ofcom poll in 2020 found that around a quarter of UK adults had come across fake news about COVID-19 in the previous week.
When you’re looking for information about coronavirus, it’s important that you go to trusted sources. Try to limit your intake of online news and commentary too – ‘doomscrolling’ is not a healthy habit. Find out more in Good Thinking’s article about fake news and visit london.gov.uk for the latest COVID-19 guidance.