How To Cope With Lockdown – And Help Those Around You

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This Article is presented by: Susan Quilliam
(born 1950 in Liverpool) is a British relationship expert who specialises in love and sexuality. She works as an advice columnist, writer, broadcaster, consultant, trainer and coach.

As lockdown continues, you may be experiencing a variety of different reactions. Here are some patterns – plus ways to cope and ways to help those you love to cope. 

The Cabin Fever Slump

Problem: However well you’ve adapted up to now, you may be reaching the point where you’re feeling the impact of heavy-duty isolation. The formal definition of cabin fever is “distressing claustrophobia experienced when a person is stuck in confined quarters for an extended period of time. “ These symptoms can include stress, irritation, exhaustion, low motivation.

Solution: Heed all the self-care advice you’ve been given. Eat well but not too much. Take exercise. Address sleep hygiene. Get outdoors as much as you can. Have human contact and actual physical contact where possible and legal. If someone you love suffers from cabin fever, encourage them to do all these things too.

The Social Duty Cull

Problem: Lockdown’s probably meant unwelcome separation from others. But what if some of this separation is welcome? You may have realised that some of your current socialising are done out of duty – or that friends you’ve seen every week for years are really ones you only want to see at Christmas. Lockdown may be a chance to focus your time and energy on people who really matter, and let the others go.

Solution: The hard way to do this is by explaining directly to the people involved that even after lockdown,  you will be seeing them less often. The easier, more indirect way is to stop being proactive, leave long periods between contact, and just let the relationship fade naturally. If someone you love wants to cull their social duties, support them to realise that stepping back from unwanted social contact doesn’t make them a terrible person!

The Claiming Crisis

Problem: Even if you’ve seemed to be coping when things were bad, long term you may have a physical or emotional crash. It is usual, when a crisis eases, for people who have soldiered on bravely to unexpectedly collapse.  Sudden illness, a repeat of old physical problems, or an emotional crisis may mean you’re trying to claim much-needed support from others.

Solution: Let those you love take the strain for a short while. In the meantime, stop completely for a few days, cancel commitments, take to your bed and let your brain off the hook by watching daytime television. If someone you love has a claiming crisis, be patient while they stop, rest, recuperate.

The Bid for Freedom

Problem: Lockdown may have pushed all your buttons to the point where you have been constantly wanting to break the rules. When restrictions lift,  even though you know you should stay sensible and safe, you may want to break out. You’re soooo tempted to go to unwise social gatherings or go on holidays to less safe destinations.

Solution: As you are allowed to do more, choose activities that, without being risky, are as different as possible from the ones you’ve been allowed to do up to now. Where have you not been? Who have you not spent time with? What have you not done? Novelty-within-boundaries will help you feel you’ve escaped while keeping yourself and those you love safe. If someone you love wants to break free, help them research and then bring a broader variety of safe locations, people and activities into their lives. 

The ‘Being Good’ Rebellion

Problem: If you’re the one who has borne your household’s emotional burdens during Covid-19, then when normality returns, you may flip into ‘What About Me?’ mode. You may find yourself unusually irritated or angry at those around you. You may be unwilling to do your normal job as the peacemaker. You’re making the point that although you’ve patiently put up with other people’s wobbles, now you want to balance the scales with a little unreasonable behaviour.

Solution: Get more in touch with what you yourself want moment to moment – and if possible, allow yourself to have it. In particular, get enough individual alone time to recharge your emotional batteries, which may be exhausted from caring. Give yourself treats – and gently say no to family members who make claims on you. If someone you love has a rebellion, try to appreciate that their pulling back from responsibility isn’t wrong or evil. They need to regroup.

The Dark Future Drop 

Problem: Even when the pandemic starts to end, we’ll still fear what lies ahead. New Endless years of social distancing? A global recession? There’s not much to like about the future. And this – understandably – may tip you into a depression or low mood and increased hopelessness. 

Solution: Yes, plan for the worst and do all you can to prepare for it. But fearing the worst will de-motivate you and make you less able to cope. Instead, hope for the best, keep things in perspective, gather all the resources you can, practical and emotional. If someone you love tips into depression, work together to plan a positive future – whatever that is for you.

Don’t hold back from seeing your GP if you feel that medication might help.

Keep Calm and Stay Kind.

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