Will all restrictions ease on June 21? Won’t they? Will your wedding be able to go head, or won’t it? Will you be able to go back to work, or won’t you? There’s a tug-of-war going on – and it’s leaving us mentally exhausted.
While some politicians seem to think England’s ‘unlockdown’ will go ahead as planned, scientists are screaming from the rooftops that it needs to be pushed back. All the while, our own feelings on the topic hang in the balance.
Many people are waiting with baited breath to be able to reopen their business and get back to work. Others simply can’t wait to get back to some sense of normality: visiting a nightclub, attending a festival, or going to a football game.
Therapist Sophie Harris also nods to those waiting to get married, who are holding off from having children until after their wedding, whose whole lives feel like they’ve come to a complete standstill. For so many people, everything hangs in the balance – and the will we/won’t we rhetoric makes it worse.
Therapist and Counselling Directory member Shelley Treacher has clients who feel nervous about the reopening, while also feeling frustrated in isolation – a dichotomy faced by many.
“There is also nervousness around the unpredictability of all of this,” she says. “Many feel despair that things may never change.” And it’s no wonder they feel like that, considering this is the third lockdown the UK is slowly coming out of.
For the past year, there’s been a divide between what politicians and scientists say on Covid matters. We’ve seen it play out time and time again with mask-wearing, the opening of schools, and heading into lockdowns. This constant back and forth has been “one of the greatest sources of stress” for individuals who follow both the science and the politics, says therapist Grace Warwick.
And so people are stuck. Do you read everything to stay up to date with the news, and face the differing narratives about whether we will or won’t come out of lockdown? Or avoid it – and be in the dark about what may happen?
As the date approaches – Boris Johnson is expected to confirm what will happen on June 14 – it’s important to be honest with yourself about how you feel. “In order to cope, many of us have normalised the situation that we are in,” says Warwick. “We need to acknowledge it has taken its toll in many ways and, where possible, rest and be kind to ourselves.”
If the will we/won’t we narrative is starting to prove exhausting for your mental health, “it could be helpful to significantly restrict your news consumption,” says Harris. Some may find it helpful to set themselves a limit to stick to – such as once per day or once per week.
Try to focus on what you can control – rather than what you can’t. “The human brain leans towards certainty and clarity,” psychotherapist Lucy Beresford told HuffPost UK. “If we don’t get it, we often make it up. This is how faulty thinking or making assumptions come about – but they don’t always help.”
If you’re struggling with the day-to-day, Beresford advised: “Maintain a daily routine, eat nourishing foods and have a great sleep pattern. Be grateful for the little things in your day, and try to stay as much in the moment as possible.”
If you do find yourself straying to ‘worst case scenarios’, try to distract yourself from these thoughts so they don’t become too intrusive, or interfering. And if the June 21 unlocking goes ahead and you’re worried about what that means for you – or your family’s – health, Treacher advises taking it slowly and only doing what you feel comfortable with.
We know Covid spreads more in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation. The longer you spend in such places, the greater your Covid risk. If you can avoid these factors – while also continuing to social distance, wash your hands, wear a mask – it can help you to stay safe. “Everyone’s responses are different and equally valid. Only do what you feel comfortable with,” she says.
“Refocusing on what is best for yourself, rather than what others are deciding, is key. It’s usually the case that we imagine everyone else is coping better than we are, and think we should fit in with others. Chances are, millions feel the same.”