Postcards from lockdown
Wish you weren’t here?
Studies completed during the first weeks of lockdown have shown an unsurprising increase in levels of anxiety, depression and stress. Less predictable, maybe, is that younger people appear to be suffering the most.
Teenagers and young adults have arguably lost more than older adults by spending more time at home. Many that are not already living at home have returned to self-isolation with their parents at the family home. Those recently acquired freedoms suddenly removed, forced to become children once again, separated from their social groups and partners.
In a recent survey for the American Enterprise Institute, young adults reported feeling lonely much more often than older people. They found 48% of 18-29 year olds said they experienced loneliness a few times in the last week, compared with just 20% of over 65s.
It’s important to recognise the difference between loneliness and isolation; loneliness is the subjective sense that your social needs are not being met, isolation is when you are physically separated from others by choice or necessity. It is also possible to be solitary and isolated but in a healthy emotional condition. At the same time, you can spend all your time surrounded by family but still feel lonely because you don’t have the kind of meaningful connections you need.
It is easy to see all the problems and difficulties we face at a time like this but there are many benefits too. Life for many, especially in big cities like London is much slower now we are not rushing around so much. Clear skies, cleaner air and quieter streets are all contributing to a more relaxed feel than usual.
Parents are spending more time with their children and more time with each other, too. Friends are checking up on each other and actually speaking to each other more frequently. Somehow, it feels to me like we are all more connected, in a strange but healthy kind of way.
The information and direction from the authorities seems to change every day. There is a lot of advice out there on how to survive the current conditions, so here are my seven top tips:
1. Maintain as much routine and rhythm as you can manage
Stick to the same bedtimes Sunday to Thursday as you would when working and treat the weekend like a weekend. Sleep is highly underrated at the best of times, sticking to your regular sleep cycles will keep you grounded.
2. Plan your meals a week in advance
Not only does this make food shopping and cooking more efficient but it will ensure that you are eating healthily. It gives more structure to your days and allows you to schedule time for other activities.
3. Limit the amount of time you spend reading or discussing current events
Catch up once a day if you must but keep your exposure down to a minimum.
4. Be conscious of screen time
Too much TV, internet or social media will have a negative impact on your mood and your quality of sleep.
5. Where possible, spend some quiet time on your own
Even if this is at night just before you go to sleep, or when outside the home taking some exercise. Go to a pleasant, relaxing place in your mind. See, hear and feel what it’s like to be there.
6. Reminisce about happy times spent with people you love
Rehearse in your mind a time in the near future when you can be with friends, relaxing and enjoying yourselves.
7. Avoid ‘chewing over’ negative memories or past experiences
Look forwards and focus on exciting new possibilities and potentials.
It's important to recognise that the symptoms of anxiety are temporary and not a part of who you are - they will pass.