Protecting Your Mental Health During The Second Lockdown:

The second  covid-19 lockdown is upon us following the recent announcement by the Government about the need to take action to try and curtail infection rates and the spread of coronavirus. And whether you believe it is the right course of action or not, or the timing is right, or even if you think the whole Covid thing is not a thing (and some people do), the fact remains that lockdown two is happening and will impact on all of us.

In many ways this Covid-19 lockdown is a whole different affair to the first lockdown back in March. Back then no-one really understood the disease or much about it, and there was a general sense of uncertainty and fear as the numbers hospitalised and those sadly dying rapidly increased. Whilst none of us knew when things would improve and how long lockdown would last back then, this time we have a time limited (at least that's what they are saying right now!!) lockdown. The daily number suggests more and more people are being admitted to hospital and once again an increasing number of people are sadly losing their lives to Covid-related deaths.

To help protect the NHS form being overwhelmed, to try and reduce Covid-19 transmissions and to hopefully save lives, I believe that moving all of my sessions to Zoom or Skype for four weeks is the right thing to do (not only that but I've had legal advice that it is the only thing to do!). Whilst rates in the East of England have been comparably lower than elsewhere in the UK, any steps that reduce contact for a short period means that your safety and well-being is prioritised.

In fact, it saddens me that so many businesses seem to have decided to continue working as they have been before lockdown. I've seen social media posts by many businesses of all types justifying continuing despite the pandemic. We all need to make money to pay the bills but if everyone keeps interacting in the way they have been up until now (including going from home to home working on non-urgent matters) then we may well find that the Coronavirus doesn't ever get far away and the risk of even stronger restrictions over a longer period continues.  

But hey that's just my two pennies' worth; we all have to make our own calls here and it's cool if you think differently (in a reasoned, objective kind of way). And so back to the topic of this article, which is about doing what you can during this second Covid-19 lockdown to protect and preserve your mental health.

 mental health second covid lockdown hypnotherapy in ely


Mental Health and Covid-19

There is no doubt that the last lockdown, and the coronavirus pandemic in general, have impacted on the mental health and well-being of many people.  

The most recent data from the Office for National Statistics (October 2020) found that more than three quarters of adults were very or somewhat worried about the effect of coronavirus (COVID-19) on their life right now.  Levels of worry have been increasing over recent months as the pandemic endures and anxiety levels have remained at their highest since the start of April.

As I've written about before, more and more evidence demonstrates that this Covid-19 pandemic is impacting on mental health for many, many people. As well as fears about contracting the virus, there are worries about the future, impacts on meeting and interacting with others, difficulties planning, impacts on work and education and many other factors that lead to these high levels of Covid-19 anxiety and stress.

Again, as I've covered in previous articles, that anxiety and stress can lead some people to turn to substances such as alcohol, e-cigarettes or cannabis as a coping mechanism (read more on the research here: Stress, Anxiety, Alcohol and Coronavirus).

There's also some evidence that Covid-19 related stress and anxiety is associated with negative body image. That evidence suggested that stress and anxiety related to the Covid-19 pandemic specifically, rather than just generalised stress and anxiety, significantly contributes to having a negative body image (read more here: Covid-19 Anxiety, Stress and Negative Body Image).

Sleep deprivation can also be an unwanted result of current stress and anxiety. There is robust evidence that sleep loss is affecting more people during the Covid-19 pandemic than previously, reflecting the fact that stress levels have risen due to anxieties about health, financial consequences, changes in social life and the daily routine (read more here: Coronavirus and Mental Health - Sleep Deprivation and Dreaming).

I've been working with many people recently where Covid-19 has impacted upon their mental health. There have been those who want to lose weight gained during lockdown or to take back control over eating and drinking habits. Others have been worried about the future and actual/potential job losses or redundancy. There have been clients whose stress and anxiety has massively increased due to the pandemic and those who are fearful of contracting the virus or who have health anxiety (for more on fear about contracting coronavirus have a read here: Coronavirus Anxiety - Are You  Suffering From Coronaphobia?). And for many others, the lockdown and coronavirus situation has just exacerbated their anxiety and stress to distressing levels.

Frustratingly for all of us who follow the lockdown rules, many people will bend or break the restrictions due to the 'optimism bias' that basically means that they think contracting coronavirus won't happen to them. This psychological bias means that us humans tend to overestimate the likelihood of positive events and underestimate the likelihood of negative events (although some mental health conditions can impact on this). I write about research on the optimism bias and Covid-19 a while back during this pandemic (read it here: Why Do Some People Break Lockdown Rules?). Individuals estimate the probability of getting infected with coronavirus, and of infecting others if infected themselves, as lower for themselves than for someone similar to them. This matters because the evidence also suggests that complying with coronavirus rules and preventative measures is linked to your perceived likelihood of personally being infected.

Mental Heath and Lockdown Two 

All of the evidence suggests that anxiety, worry and stress levels have risen during this pandemic. There has been a toll on the mental health of many.

And all of this comes on top of a background of ever increasing levels of anxiety being experienced by people over the last decade or so (Generalised Anxiety Disorder Levels Continue To Escalate). 

In many ways the best things you can currently do to support your mental health are similar to those during the last lockdown. Being active, getting out in nature, limiting the amount of news you consume, expressing gratitude, focusing on what you can do and being kind to yourself and others can all support your mental health during this (and any other) time. Way back during the last coronavirus lockdown, I wrote about these things in these articles:

Coronavirus and Your Mental Health 

How To Cope With Coronavirus Anxiety

More Ways To Deal With Anxiety - Mental Health During Coronavirus and Beyond

As these articles show, there are many things that you can proactively do to support your mental health and to deal with your anxiety and stress. For me, being active is always a key component of how I stay physically and mentally healthy. And whilst bootcamp is out until lockdown two ends (boo!), there is still plenty of scope for getting out in the garden to do some workouts and particularly for getting outside in nature to run (hooray!). Recently I completed a virtual marathon challenge (covering my marathon distance in four runs) so I certainly want to build upon that, even if the weather is starting to turn colder. 

And here I am making the most of that last pre-lockdown work out at bootcamp:

protecting mental health second lockdown

In addition to my online clients I'm also hoping to use any additional time to continue my research and studying, to spend a bit more time with the kids (which mainly involves trying to coax them off their screens!) and practicing guitar after starting up playing during lockdown one.

There are a number of differences this time around though. Last lockdown was the first time we had all gone through such a pandemic. There was confusion and uncertainty and no-one quite knew when the lockdown might end. This time around it should only (hopefully) last four weeks and will certainly be briefer than earlier in the year. Whilst many people will still contract the virus, and lives will sadly be lost, we do know that health results are continuing to improve. I think we've also got better over the months at practicing social distancing and washing hands and taking personal steps to minimise our own risk levels.

We also know this time that it's ok to get outside and exercise, and you can do this with another person, so there is at least a level of social interaction with friends, even if it's just going for a walk. Click and collect services, online meetings and many other things are up and running much quicker and more effectively this time around. And it's another opportunity to appreciate and support the excellent work that our key workers do day in and day out.

However your experience of last lockdown and this year of coronavirus, please do take active steps to look after your mental health and well-being and do keep in mind that the lockdown is only for a short period and that a few more weeks after that, by Spring at the latest, everything should be in a much better place as far as Covid-19 is concerned.

If you are really struggling with your mental health then do contact your GP or get in touch with me if you want help with anxiety, worry, fear and stress.


Mental Health and Lockdown  

As you go through lockdown two and the pandemic you may find yourself sometimes wondering how, or if, you will cope and handle things moving forward. Whether it's around employment, social interactions, things you can't do right now, how things will be over winter or something else, we will all likely encounter some challenges on this journey. 

So do keep in mind that your mind is pretty poor at estimating how you will feel in the future. We are all generally kind of poor at estimating our own resilience and ability to handle challenges and set backs that may occur and we inaccurately predict how we will respond to emotional life events.

Our brains and thinking tend to persistently and erroneously predict that the emotional impact of an event will be greater than is actually the case in reality.

In other words, you are more resilient than you think you are. Whatever lockdown, coronavirus or the pandemic throw at you, you have the capacity to withstand it and to recover from it more quickly than you think (for more on this have a look at this article:.Are You More Resilient Than You Think? Dealing With Challenges Post Covid-19).

Part of this comes from how you will overlook your ability to be proactive and reduce the impact of anything you face. 

Recently I was talking to a client who was becoming distressed about a potential yet likely future redundancy. And, of course, if you sit back passively and do nothing and just wait to be made redundant then that could well be very stressful and anxiety inducing. Yet it became clear that this was also the opportunity for her to pursue different career goals, to start an online training course to get the qualification she would need. In the meantime she could promote another business she had and also seek interim employment to help cover the bills for now. 

Whatever comes your way during the rest of this coronavirus pademic you don't have to do nothing and just suffer. You can seek help ,use your time differently, look for other opportunities and make use of all the other suggestions I've covered above. Whatever challenges you face you can seek to manage, or at least, mitigate them by being proactive and taking action from now.

It's also true when I talk with people about anxious worst case scenarios. Even if we ignore whether that thing is probable and likely to even happen (because many anxiety thoughts are not at all likely or probable), and even if we don't seek to challenge or counter that thought by looking at what else could potentially happen or what evidence there is for thinking it, you wouldn't just walk head long into that perceived disaster, you would do stuff about it. You would make decisions and take action. Even if you're anxiety had somehow (incorrectly) convinced you that something bad was going to happen, you can still do things to manage the situation, whether that's actions to interrupt thoughts, prepare yourself, manage your emotions and feelings or something else. You do stuff about it.

So as you think ahead through this second lockdown and beyond remember that you can do stuff here too. There are things that the new rules still allow you to do, there are things you can chose to forgo. You can take time for self-care, to help others, to be active, to reduce unwanted thoughts and feelings, and so forth. Anxiety and stress will make you focus on particular distressing things, and can make you overlook or ignore other things that could happen, other aspects of life and what you can do that could lower your distress or help you to cope with it. 

Whether or not you think you have the resilience to deal with these coming weeks, you almost certainly can and will handle it.

To your mental health and well-being,

Dan Regan

Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket


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