How to mentally prepare for another national lockdown

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Bangla sanglap desk: Last night news broke that Boris Johnson may be preparing to impose a second national lockdown from next week. It’s natural to feel, well, a lot of feelings about this. You might be angry about the way coronavirus restrictions have been communicated and introduced. You might have fears about work and money as we return to lockdown. You might be anxious about returning to the isolation you felt just a few months ago. All these feelings are to be expected. If you struggled in lockdown one, the prospect of lockdown two: the sequel is going to feel especially daunting.

But hold on to hope, and to one glimmer of positivity: we made it through one lockdown and we can absolutely get through another. We just need to be prepared for what’s to come. Here’s how to get yourself mentally ready for another national lockdown.

Take stock of what you learned from the last lockdown

Take a moment to reflect back on your experience of the first national lockdown. What helped you through that? What negative experiences did you have? What did you regret doing – or not doing? You might have learned just how important it is to stay socially connected, or that daily exercise really does have an impact on your mood. On the flipside, perhaps you found yourself working overtime when your home was your office, or you stockpiled when you really, really didn’t need to. Don’t just let those lessons fade away and do nothing with them. Take the time to actually work out what you learned, what lessons you’d like to take into a second lockdown, and how you’ll make sure this lockdown is better than the last one. Sort out your home Use this weekend to make your home somewhere you actually enjoy spending time. ‘Ensure that your home is in order and you have arranged it in a way that you feel proud of and comfortable in,’ says Dr Becky Spelman, psychologist and clinical director of Private Therapy Clinic. ‘Having a space that you can relax in is going to be really helpful.’ It’s also worth setting up a dedicated working space, in case you’re expected to return to remote working. ‘Try to set up an area where you have a workplace that you can leave when you’ve finished your working day, even if it’s just changing to a different seat,’ says Becky. ‘This is so you can get out of work mode more easily when working from home.’

Establish a routine
Having a regular daily routine is key for adding some structure to your days in lockdown. Try to wake up at the same time each morning and have a bedtime. Have defined working hours and schedule in time for your physical and mental health. ‘Make time for exercise, make time for relaxation and enjoyment, and make time for productivity,’ Becky says. ‘A balanced schedule will make sure you’re doing everything possible o prevent experiencing depression in a second lockdown.’ Make exercise a priority You know it, we know it, everyone knows it: exercise is basically magic when it comes to reducing stress and improving your mental wellbeing. Again, work out how you’re going to make exercise work for you in a second lockdown, bearing in mind that gyms will likely close again. Work out how you can spend time outside If you don’t have a garden, you’re likely dreading another lockdown with limited access to outdoor space. We know that spending time outdoors in nature is good for us – so in preparation for a second lockdown, work out how you can get outside. That might mean hastily buying a bike for some outdoor cycling, looking up your nearest parks, or just committing to a daily walk outside to get some fresh air. Make this a priority.

Ease uncertainty around work Not knowing what’s going on is a fast track to feeling increased levels of anxiety. Get in touch with your workplace to ask what plans are in place, whether that’ll be sending everyone back home to work or a change in working hours. It’s best to get ahead of this and ask so you’re not feeling a lingering dread of what might be happening or what your employers might be thinking. Knowledge is key. Have some social time in place Don’t worry, we don’t have to go as hard on Houseparty and Zoom quizzes as we did the first time around. Hopefully we learned from the first lockdown exactly how much socialising we need to tackle loneliness. But it’s important that even if you feel reluctant to get back into the overwhelm of Zoom fatigue, you make sure you have some socialising lined up and in the diary. We’re social creatures and we’re really not built to spend weeks without any interaction with other humans. It really is important to have that regular social connection, so make sure to schedule in a weekly phone call or an outdoors meetup. Have something to look forward to Lockdown can feel like an endless stretch of doom and gloom, and while the first lockdown had an end point, by very definition of it being the second one, a second lockdown feels like it won’t be over and done with quickly. To make sure this period of time doesn’t feel completely dismal, with nothing good in sight, make sure that you always have something positive to look forward to. That might be something small, like the prospect of picking up a fresh cinnamon bun on a Sunday morning, or something bigger, like planning out how you’re going to unwrap your presents on a family Zoom session on Christmas morning. Whatever you choose, it just needs to be something makes you feel good and that’s a concrete plan for the near future. It’s all about keeping up your motivation to get out of bed each morning and always having something joyful to think about when lockdown life feels absolutely miserable.

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