Having a Lockdown Meltdown?
Published 10th February 2021
You’ve done so well for months, holding it together and staying positive. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, the dark cloud of doom has gathered over your head. A heavy sense of sadness, fear and overwhelming anxiety has folded itself around you and won’t let go. The scary thing is, this is not like you. You’re not used to feeling like this and panic starts to set in – will you ever feel happy again?
I’m sorry to say that I am treating an increasing number of patients with these feelings. Some more extreme than others, but all similar in that it is the first time they have felt like this. Even the most robust, emotionally stable people have had mini-meltdowns recently.
Whilst it is distressing to experience and to watch a loved one go through this, it can just be a temporary reaction to some pretty unsettling things happening in the world. Never before has anyone under the age of 90 experienced such unpredictable change in the world. Even during the wars, we were able to group together for support and reassurance. It turns out that despite social media being heralded for years as a “connector of people”, it just isn’t up to the job when what you really need, is a real life person in front of you.
It is currently thought that around 19 million adults in Great Britain are reporting high levels of anxiety (that’s around 37%). With the ONS reporting that the percentage of people reporting high levels of anxiety have significantly increased. Whilst this is not a surprise given the worries and restrictions brought about by the Covid pandemic, what has caught my attention is the detail behind these statistics.
Prior to CV19, married people showed the lowest level of anxiety of all the groups. Post CV19, these levels jumped up significantly, so more than 4 in 10 people who are married reported feeling high levels of anxiety. It is reported that these people are more likely to be homeschooling alongside other commitments and in particular, married women and single mothers have suffered the most.
Women are more likely to have made larger adjustments than men (gov.uk), to manage the house, work and childcare which has led to an increase in distress. Also women are more likely to have more close friends than men, so they have felt an increased loneliness.
Control the controllables
It can be very overwhelming when the outside world seems to be out of control. The acceptance that other people’s actions and decisions are having a direct impact on your ability to live your life the way you chose, is tough. We don’t like it when we can’t control our environment. There are very few people that are so laid back it doesn’t affect them ever. We will all have a mini-meltdown (or a big one) about this sooner or later.
So what can we do about it? If you are someone who likes to plan and organise things, then let’s do that. What can you control in your world that will have a positive impact? Let’s start with some basic but fundamentally critical things:
- Human Contact
If you can optimise these factors, then most other things seem to fall into place. I’m sorry that they are not revolutionary or exciting, but Human Beings are simple creatures that operate well when these needs are met.
As we are all spending so much more time inside our homes, let’s make it a place that you like to be. I’m a big believer in de-cluttering your home (despite the efforts of the 3 hoarders that I live with!). Get organised and if you can, have clearly defined spaces for working and living. My children and I are all working from the kitchen table at the moment. At the end of the day, we clear everything away, open the windows to let some fresh air in and try to transform the space back into a kitchen. You don’t need to spend any money on making your home a nicer place to be, just a bit of re-organising can work effectively.
This is probably the most difficult need to meet at the moment. The words “socially distant” are used more regularly than I care to calculate. Whilst we can’t hug our friends and family members, we can communicate our feelings with words. I’d encourage you to pick up the phone rather than text and ideally meet a friend for a safe walk if you can. Even though there will be no physical touch, let’s get as close as we can emotionally by looking at a real face and hearing a real voice.
I hope these suggestions help a little bit. Please reach out to a friend or perhaps an agency such as The Samaritans if you need support. It’s normal to have a reaction to these difficult, challenging times. Luckily, we are not all having our “bad days” on the same day. So hopefully you will reach a friend who is able to offer some gentle, positive help. Don’t forget, I’m always on the end of the phone if you need someone to talk to.