How To Break Away From This Emotional Rollercoaster Of A Week

The updated lockdown restrictions have created more questions than answers – and it's toying with people's emotions.

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Confused, anxious, exhausted – these are just some of the emotions Britain has endured as a collective, as last week’s front page promises of “freedom” quickly turned into the drip feeding of information about the updated lockdown guidance.

Mass confusion first reared its head when the UK government announced its new ‘Stay Alert’ slogan for England – while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland stuck firmly to the ‘Stay Home’ message. Then came prime minister’s Sunday evening address to the nation, which has since been described as “divisive, confusing and vague”.

Things ramped in the 24 hours after Boris Johnson’s speech, when foreign secretary Dominic Raab gave incorrect advice on meeting parents in the park. The government then unveiled its 51-page lockdown recovery strategy, which happened to contradict some of what had been said the night before.

The past few days have been mentally exhausting. And therapists have told HuffPost UK the confusion caused by this mixed messaging – plus the lack of clarity – has lead to people feeling even more anxious during what is already a troubling time.

Jennie Cummings-Knight, a psychotherapeutic counsellor and BACP member, also believes the prolonged uncertainty, where none of us know when life will go back to normal – or if, indeed, it will go back to how it was before – is weighing on people’s minds. “I think that’s really hard,” she adds.

So, how can you keep these feelings of anxiety at bay?

1. Accept this is how you feel

Feeling confused, agitated or frustrated this week? You’re not alone – remind yourself of that. It’s good to acknowledge how you’re feeling and actually sit with it for a bit – don’t try to push it down or hide it.

“I think a lot of people are perhaps trying to be falsely jolly about the whole thing, and I don’t think that’s helpful,” says Cummings-Knight.

“We need to acknowledge that it’s difficult for us all and it does bring up very primitive emotions of fear and anxiety. No certainty is in place at the moment.”

2. Limit your news updates

It might seem obvious but if you’re finding the confusion – and subsequent information overload – to be a bit much, step away from the news and social media. “Limit exposure to updates online,” advises Cummings-Knight. “Perhaps do a quick update daily, if you must, maybe not as often as that.”

One reason we might be unable to prise ourselves away from social media and the news, she adds, is that we’re looking for a way out of the current situation. “We’re so keen to [do this] that we’re trawling through the information, [asking] what can I find to make things a bit easier?”

But it’s unlikely you’re going to find it. Instead, turn to self care on days when your emotions feel up in the air.

3. Remind yourself of the basics

Updating yourself on the new lockdown guidance, including details from the 51-page report on the UK’s recovery strategy, is pretty exhausting. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, take it back to basics.

What do we absolutely need to be doing right now? We need to remember the basic hygiene messages and social distancing rules that have been present throughout the outbreak. “They’ve been consistent,” says Cummings-Knight. “So you’ve got your attention to personal hygiene, the risk of transmission through touch, social distancing, and the essential guidance of limiting contact with other people.”

Try to keep these fundamental rules in mind when you go to the supermarket, consider returning to work, or meet a mate in the park. “People feel better when they feel they’ve got some control,” she adds. “It’s that feeling that you’re doing something and you’re playing your part.”

4. Pay attention to your mental health

Throughout this pandemic, Cummings-Knight urges everyone to keep a close eye on their mental health, and treat it as importantly as physical health.

If you’re able to, prioritise a daily walk to get fresh air and a change of scenery, she advises – and don’t be afraid to get creative while following the guidelines. There have been instances of people considered clinically vulnerable going on an early morning walk, for example, to reduce contact with others. Remember, if we don’t exercise in some way, we’re likely to have other health problems.

Human interaction can be really important for mental health, especially for those who live alone. As of Wednesday, the new advice is that you can only meet one person from outside your household in the park or a public space – remember to stay two metres away from each other if you do meet.

For those struggling to get by, have a browse through HuffPost UK’s How I Cope series, where we share the self-care tips that are helping us get through – and adjust to – the coronavirus pandemic.

5. Create your own certainty

People are emotionally torn at the moment, says Lucy Fuller, a UKCP psychotherapist and Counselling Directory member. “There’s the fear of the virus which has been drummed into us for quite some time and there’s this real need to get back to normal – along with the anxiety of what the new normal is,” she says.

She acknowledges that this emotional state can cause anxiety, so urges people to make their own certainty for what happens next. “Think carefully about how you want things to be,” she suggests.

People should make their own plan, while adhering to the government guidelines, and then adopt that plan with certainty, she says, knowing that they’ve weighed up everything and decided: that’s best for me.

“Break it into manageable chunks and allow yourself to change your mind,” she advises. “So if you go to work and social distancing isn’t happening, you have already said to yourself: if it doesn’t look safe, I’m going to come away again.”

You might decide you still want to stay at home as much as possible and continue with your one daily walk – or perhaps meet up with one friend in the park once a week. Whatever you decide, make it clear in your own mind.

Useful websites and helplines:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email:
  • Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on