How to deal with the uncertainty of lockdown and beyond

Last reviewed on 18 June 2021

As COVID-19 restrictions are changed in line with the government's roadmap and the vaccine programme continues to be rolled out, you might be feeling relieved. But you might also feel anxious or stressed and perhaps even angry that some rules are still in place and that the full easing of restrictions has been delayed to July at the earliest. However the new normal looks and however you feel about it, it’s useful to have some techniques to help you adapt to what might happen next.

  1. Remember that life is always uncertain. Think back to previous experiences and how you dealt with them. Did you predict that something bad would happen just because you were uncertain? What did you do to get through the situation? Did worrying about the worst-case scenario change the outcome? Recognising the need for certainty and predictability means you can do something about it. You can then pause and try to let go of it. Try using this technique – 1) Recognise, 2) Pause, 3) Let go, 4) Repeat – to help keep your worries in check.
  2. Focus on what’s in your control. We all have much more control over what we do than how we feel. While you can’t control the virus or the lockdown restrictions, you can stick to a routine and enjoy the small things, like making a delicious meal or watching a great film. If you're worried about the impact of the new restrictions on your job, speak to your employer. Completing this kind of activity will help to distract you and give you a sense of achievement. You can also download the NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app, which is the fastest way of knowing if you're at risk from coronavirus.
  3. Be in the present moment. If your mind keeps wandering back to the uncertainty of the coming weeks and months and you’re experiencing a spiral of ‘What if...?’ questions, you could try some breathing, mindfulness or meditation techniques. Check out the Meditainment app and our podcast about mindfulness.

You can find out more about how to accept uncertainty in this worksheet by the Centre for Clinical Interventions and you might also find it useful to watch our video mini-series in which members of the Speakers Collective talk about how they are dealing with lockdown.

So, what else can you do to look after your mental wellbeing at the moment? The team at Good Thinking, London’s digital mental wellbeing service, have put together these tips to help you. You can also get recommendations for NHS-approved apps if you’re feeling anxious, stressed, depressed or having trouble sleeping. Simply go to the Good Thinking home page for more information.

You might be anxious about how you'll get back to ‘normal life’ once the COVID-19 restrictions change. Many others feel the same way when lockdowns are eased – a survey in 2020 by Anxiety UK revealed that people were particularly worried about using public transport, going shopping and returning to work or education.

  1. Talk to someone you trust. Tell a family member or friend how you feel so they can support you. If you’d rather speak to someone you don’t know, there are lots of helplines available, such as Anxiety UK, Mind and No Panic.
  2. Follow expert advice. Try to get your information directly from the UK Government or NHS and limit your social media intake.
  3. Be kind to yourself. Continue to spend time doing the things you enjoy. Eat healthily (check out our tips) and make the most of being able to go outdoors more often for exercise and fresh air. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself if you’re worried about leaving the safety of your own home though. Do it in small steps – maybe start by meeting a friend in your local park for a socially-distanced chat.

Take the Good Thinking anxiety quiz or anxiety self-assessment to get recommendations for NHS-approved wellbeing apps.

Listen to our podcasts about mindfulness and OCD.

Use the Centre for Clinical Interventions' Anxiety workbook.

Although stress is a perfectly normal reaction to some type of threat (it prepares you for ‘fight or flight’), when you’re facing an ongoing threat, it becomes something quite different. You might find that your mind is full of worries because you feel restricted or trapped.

  1. Focus on what’s in your control. When we focus on something that we can do, which has some sort of end, we feel more effective and less trapped. This could be as simple as doing some chores, creating a playlist or calling a friend.
  2. Stay connected. Even if you can’t be with your loved ones right now, try to stay in touch via phone, text, email and video chat.
  3. Get enough sleep. Being stressed might mean you’re finding it difficult to sleep but being tired can make you feel even more stressed. Try to stick to your normal bedtime routine and leave your digital devices out of the bedroom.

Read our article about stress and take the Good Thinking stress quiz.

If you’re normally out at work all day and busy with family, friends and hobbies the rest of the time, you might be finding things rather boring right now. As a result, you might feel restless, frustrated, lethargic or even angry and you might have been hoping that the restrictions would be eased more quickly.

  1. Be open about your feelings. Let your family and friends know how you’re feeling and encourage them to open up to you too. Use WhatsApp, FaceTime and other ways to stay in touch.
  2. Get productive. Take a new route during your daily walk, cook a recipe you’ve not tried before, read a book... Doing something different each day will help to stimulate your mind and combat any feelings of boredom. Check out our tips for developing a new healthy habit.
  3. Reframe your thinking. Try not to see this time as being ‘boring’; see it as an opportunity to slow down and spend time with your family at home.

Read our articles about managing boredom and connecting with nature. If you’re worried that your boredom is becoming something more serious, like depression, you could take the Good Thinking low mood quiz to get recommendations for NHS-approved wellbeing apps.

Loneliness is the unpleasant feeling you get when the contact you have is not the contact you desire. For many older people, in particular, loneliness and isolation are a big issue during the coronavirus lockdown.

  1. Stay Connected. Now that you're allowed to mix with other households (within certain limits), try to meet up in person as well as finding other ways to stay in touch, such as phone calls, emails and text messages. Let friends and relatives know how you’re feeling and ask for help if you need it. Hopefully, you’ll be able to see more people face-to-face soon.
  2. Find a new routine. Get up at your usual time and try to start your day with something to get you going. If you aren’t able to do your favourite activities, such as meeting friends, playing cards or going to a pub quiz, could you do them online instead?
  3. Focus on the present. Mindfulness and meditation techniques can be very useful to help you stay in the moment. Check out the Meditainment app and our podcast about mindfulness.

Read our article about coping with loneliness and listen to the Good Thinking podcast about mindfulness.

Finding it hard to fall asleep? Waking up in the middle of the night? A survey published in early June 2020 by King's College London/Ipsos MORI found that almost two-thirds (63%) of people in the UK say their sleep has been worse than usual during the coronavirus outbreak. Good Thinking is here to help.

  1. Start a sleep diary. For seven days, write down when you go to sleep, what time you wake up and how energised you feel during the day.
  2. Prepare for sleep. An hour before bed, start to unwind and detach from the day. Leave your digital devices out of the bedroom and instead read a book or listen to some relaxing music.
  3. Practice mindfulness and other sleep techniques. To help transform your sleeping habits, take the Good Thinking sleep quiz then download NHS-approved wellbeing apps, such as Be Mindful.

You might also find the Good Thinking podcast about sleep and the Centre for Clinical Interventions' Sleep workbook useful.

If you’re a parent or carer, you can find lots of wellbeing advice for children and young people on the Good Thinking website.

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