This article was co-written with Psychology student Molly Chatwin who conducted a survey to find out about how people are managing to cope with lockdown. Molly discovered that many families use amazingly creative strategies in their response to the Covid-19 lockdown. She also found that some people in her survey were really struggling. We present the results of her survey together with some helpful research to help readers make sense of what is really happening out there. Please read on for more….
The Covid-19 lockdown in the UK is now entering its fourth week. How are we coping? Has the social distancing measures and isolation started to affect your mental well-being yet? Researchers have found that periods of quarantine and isolation could lead to increases in anxiety and depression in both humans and in animals. Contact with others seems one of the essential ingredients in our well-being as a species.
In families, we have been asked not only to live at home, but also to work from home. We are only allowed to go outside for necessities and exercise once a day. This could make anyone feel very trapped, especially as our relationships depend so heavily on physical presence, according to attachment theorists such as John Bowlby. This sense of feeling trapped could manifest in feeling overwhelmed, irritable, and de-motivated. The negative psychological impact could be even worse for elderly people and those who normally live alone, who may now have little or no direct contact with other people.
Previous research and theory tells us that we can expect many people to experience reduced well-being in these challenging times, but many suggestions have surfaced from a wide range of sources, including mental health professionals, on ways people can stay mentally healthy and well during the Covid-19 pandemic. Here at The Psychology Consultancy, we suggested the Covid-19 Five-a-day, based on many decades of psychological research on resilience. The Covid-19 Five-a-day is a set of five areas that people can focus on to improve their resilience during lockdown. You can read more about the Covid-19 Five-a-day and the research that underpin the five areas here.
The Covid-19 Five-a-day
- Have some fun! Shared humor and laughter are great ways to combat stress and help people to feel connected.
- Take time for me! Take some time out every day to look after yourself. Everyone needs a little personal space to ground themselves and get some perspective. “Time for me” also includes self-nurturing activities such as taking care of your appearance, finding creative ways to get exercise, creating moments of downtime, and finding ways to relax.
- Cultivate compassion. Being kind to yourself does not always come easy. Use this crisis to develop ways in which you can be more accepting of yourself and more helpful and tolerant of others.
- Interact with others! Social distancing does not have to mean that you cannot interact with other people. You should really try to find creative ways to keep yourself socially connected. A phone call to ask someone how they’re getting on, an email or a face to face contact (at a safe distance) can help to meet your need as a human being for contact with others.
- Be positive! Remaining positive is extremely important in this crisis. Set yourself a daily routine, keep a healthy sleep pattern, and manage the amount of information you consume and your social media to avoid becoming overloaded with negative information.
How do people really cope with lockdown?
We were interested in understanding what people really did with their days in self-isolation and which of these areas were most important to them. To do this, we created a short survey to collect some data from a small group of friends and family just to see how they were approaching the lockdown in terms of the areas covered by the COVID-19 Five-a-day. Our survey does not qualify as scientific research, but we believe it illustrates some of the variety of reactions and responses of ordinary people, like you and me, to the current lockdown. We had 28 responses covering a wide range of experiences, showing just how creative people are in dealing with the current situation.
Here is a typical example of two people who responded to our survey (we changed their names to protect their identities.):
Sarah is a 53-year-old Mum of 2 teenagers: “I make sure that I get up at a normal time and do my regular exercises. I then have a routine as usual by showering and doing my hair and make-up. I then do my housework such as the washing and decide what we are having for lunch and dinner. I try and go on and do jobs I do not have time to do such as sorting the cupboards. As the weather has been nice, I am taking the opportunity to sit out in the sun. I have downloaded Headspace to help calm any anxieties as I am struggling to sleep, and it helps me. We all sit together in the evening and eat dinner together to be family”.
Charlie is an 18-year-old young adult: “I get up each morning and go for a run and have a shower and then do some schoolwork. I tend to like watching Netflix and playing my Xbox. I like to also do workouts in the evening, and I watch a bit of Youtube. I make sure I still chat with my friends via Snapchat and facetime”.
And what about the Five-a-day themes? Here are some excerpts, in their own words, from what our respondents told us about the coping strategies they developed.
Fun? Too soon yet. We have plans to watch films, play board games.
Not many opportunities for fun at the moment, but mostly video call chats and sharing jokes via Watsapp.
Baking, playing games and dancing around to music
Playing with my dog
Making each other laugh to keep spirits high, reassuring each other things will be okay and these hard times will pass.
Memes mostly, other than that I’m really struggling, not gonna lie.
Doing just dance with my daughter.
Taking time for me
Every morning after breakfast I have an hour or two ‘me’ time it really helps reflect on what is going on. I write a journal every day to reflect. One day I’ll look back and see how far we’ve all come.
Making it clear that this is what I require. We all need our own space, especially if you are living in a claustrophobic household with multiple people. I ensure I play my PS4, thus I am communicating with various people.
I live alone so I’m almost continually having compulsory “me” time. I find it helpful to switch the tv off and avoid the rolling news and trying to focus on odd jobs and doing normal activities eg reading / music
Being okay with going and spending time alone in another room just doing what I feel like doing at the time.
Time apart from other half, breaking down daily chores, watching aTV and playing PlayStation.
When kids are asleep. Too tired for me time. Me time is sleep.
Relaxing baths and reading my book
Time to read and listen to music. Reading my book or napping when my son is asleep. Watching tv in the evenings. Baths etc.
Face masks, abs, bath bombs
Reading, colouring, Netflix, cleaning and organising
Hiding from the kids in my bedroom
Time to spend on myself that I wouldn’t have usually, such as being able to pamper myself and relax with doing some yoga.
Yoga and personal development
Doing some shopping (doorstep drops) for elderly family or arranging their affairs from home.
Remember that I am healthy, and to appreciate that I don’t have the virus. Staying in so avoiding other people; trying to reduce the risk.
Focus upon being grateful for what I have and enjoying simple pleasures like relaxing in the garden/ enjoying fresh air/ nature.
Interacting with others
I’m having a lot of family time so we’re playing board games and also watching lots of box sets .
Facetiming my daughter and friend who don’t live with us having fun with the filters
Me and the family have breakfast lunch and dinner together, we chat and laugh during this. Played board games, and FaceTimed grandparents who are hilarious trying to get the phones to work!
FaceTime, writing letters, texting, the APP houseparty is a good one to try!
Calling people, writing postcards, facetime and spending more time with my mum than I have in years
Face-time, group chats, Facebook groups and PS4. At times like this, we can all forget about the negative sides to social media and appreciate how connected we all really are.
Trying not to involve myself in conversations about corona virus much or for too long.
Reminding myself to be grateful for the good things such as my current health, friends & family’s health and that I can use this time to get so much done. Trying not to think about what might happen or trying to think too far ahead.
Taking each day at a time.
Keep as much of a routine as I can and exercising.
Keep in contact with friends and family over phone/face time Think what’s important to me Planning things for the future.
Working towards my OU degree, realising what really matters in life, proactively thinking about how I am saving money and how I can continue when this pandemic may be over, appreciating the little things, and openly working on my emotions and communication.
I have a strong … faith, so prayer … and linking to groups I hadn’t had links with before as well as my own church.
We have a jar – things we can do in isolation, and things we want to do when we get out of isolation, so we have things to look forward to after all of this blows over. We try and not have the news on, only in the morning because that can bring so much negativity.
Think what’s important to me Planning things for the future.
Trying to stay off social media as much as possible, check the news once a day and no more as it can be scary & also remind ourselves we can only take things one day at a time.
These are just some of the many and varied ways in which our respondents told us they were coping during this lockdown. When we considered all of the responses in our survey, we generated the following word cloud which shows the relative importance of the different themes in their responses.
The word cloud shows that friends, family and various forms of communication are extremely important to most people. But the most frequently used word across all the responses is the word “time” and this shows how so many people appreciate the precious gift of time that this lockdown gives them: Time to complete tasks and projects that were left undone , time to spend with children and family, and time to reflect on ourselves, our goals and the future. It is also important to note that not everyone was having an easy time of it: Some of our respondents acknowledged that they were struggling to cope. There were relatively few responses to the survey item on cultivating compassion, especially self-compassion. This highlights an area of need for so many of us, namely, that we do not tend to be very kind to ourselves. Perhaps as the current crisis confronts us with the necessity of being kinder to one another as a society, we could take this opportunity to be kinder to ourselves too?
We would love to hear your views on this article, the answers it gives and the questions it raises for you. Please give your opinion by submitting a comment or get in touch by completing the contact form below. If you liked what you read, please like the post and share it with your contacts.
If you are interested in finding out more, you can consult the following resources which we found very helpful in writing this article.
Bowlby, S. (2011). Friendship, co-presence and care: neglected spaces. Social & Cultural Geography, 12(6), 605-622.
Hossain, M. M., Sultana, A., & Purohit, N. (2020). Mental health outcomes of quarantine and isolation for infection prevention: A systematic umbrella review of the global evidence. Published online. Accessed via: Google scholar.
Kokare, D. M., Dandekar, M. P., Singru, P. S., Gupta, G. L., & Subhedar, N. K. (2010). Involvement of α-MSH in the social isolation induced anxiety-and depression-like behaviors in rat. Neuropharmacology, 58(7), 1009-1018.
The home of compassion focused therapy in the UK: http://www.compassionatemind.co.uk
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