Six conflicting feelings that are normal in lockdown
Lockdown is like a warped version of your least favourite rollercoaster as a child. One that I am itching to get off. I’m talking about the emotions that come with a rollercoaster; the feeling of ‘I can cope with this’, until the ground falls away and suddenly we’re sent skyward, feet first. That false sense of security when you can see the loading bay, but then you’re thrown into one last upside down, and you’re right back where you started, feeling uneasy.
Over the course of these past nine weeks, I’ve experienced a scale of emotions. And I’ve constantly thought, am I the only one, not coping? Well, it turns out, I’m not. And although we all may not be in the same boat, we are all in this together and any emotion you might be feeling is valid.
Counsellor Deshara Pariag noted that COVID-19 has triggered a dramatic change to every part of our lives, which leaves us grieving for what once was and struggling with the lack of jurisdiction we now have over our lives. “The virus can spark frustration, and sometimes feelings of helplessness due to the lack of control, structure, and routine we are so used to having every day of our lives, and being confined to one environment on a daily basis.”
We might feel joy one moment, and then crushing sadness the next. Angry at our situation, and then guilty for taking things for granted. If you’re swimming in a sea that keeps bringing waves of different feelings, I’ve rounded up six of the common ones to tell you it’s OK, to not be OK right now.
Six feelings that are normal in lockdown
For some, spending uninterrupted time at home, not having to go to work can bring absolute joy. Whatever joy you have found, it’s something to be treasured.
You might rejoice in the little things, like stopping to hear the birdsong now that rush hour is very quiet, or finding joy in a hair wash. Think of these as little treats, and relish how good they feel.
With joy, there can be guilt. Guilt that you may be enjoying this time, whilst others struggle and suffer. The key here is to not be too hard on yourself, or critical of how you’re making the best of a bad situation.
You can still empathise with those who are not so fortunate but you have a duty of care to yourself to see this through the best you can. If that means relaxing in the garden, because no other duty calls, that’s OK.
Our brains are already working overdrive, trying to process this ‘new normal’, with many of us bringing a work environment into our relaxation space and that in itself can hamper any motivation. Burnout, a state of perpetual, chronic stress, is very common at times such as these. It’s often associated with work overload, but you may be struggling with emotional burnout, trying to understand, examine and make sense of lockdown.
If this is the case, it’s important to try and tap into a self-care routine that gives you daily respite from the noise. When you truly relax, you can reassess how you can make small changes to help work through the current situation with a healthy state of mind.
You might be going through grief in the traditional sense of losing a loved one, and with restrictions on how you can pay respects to the deceased in place, anger comes into play too. But you might also be grieving for normality. Deshara notes, “Due to the sudden changes in what is our normal reality of staying home – this has triggered the common emotion, grief. There have been redundancies, furloughs, separation from close family members, and isolation for many across the nation.”
“This has been difficult for those that are not able to see their elderly relatives – it could be described as a feeling of sudden loss, not having the freedom to see people as and when desired. This has led to feelings of sadness, loneliness, and uncertainty due to this dramatic change and it can be difficult to manage these conflicting feelings.”
When you’re faced with this kind of grief, try and get creative with your whole family, involving each and every one of you. If you can’t physically touch your relatives right now, send them a hug that can be cherished forever, try alternative methods to a zoom call with crafting afternoons, or even suggest a family bake-off from afar.
Caroline Butterwick writes in her article, ‘Creative ways to stay in touch’, “Staying in touch with friends and family isn’t just about being sociable – it’s something that actually supports our wellbeing.”
Deshara notes that feelings of grief and loneliness can often lead to anger, “ruminating, thinking and analysing the situation.” It’s natural to feel anger because this isn’t how you planned on living this year, and lots of occasions have been postponed.
To combat your feelings of anger, try and focus on the things that are in your control. Whether that’s something as simple as cooking your favourite dinner tonight or enjoying a walk in the sunshine at lunchtime. Simple things that bring joy.
As this Happiful article notes, “It's important to have fun dates in the diary, little milestones we can achieve when we're in such strange times.” The article explains how you can create things to plan ahead for, and to look forward to.
Because our situation is dependent on a number of things, not only is it hard to plan for the future or look forward to anything, but it's also hard to simply comfort ourselves - because there's no end date in sight. You might feel lost, particularly if you are furloughed or have been made redundant, as a job often gives us a sense of purpose.
Practitioner Psychologist Dr Ute Liersch notes that a routine brings us comfort, and says, "It makes us believe we can navigate life because our future is mapped out. We know that children go to school, that the tubes are overflowing and then that work is done. Lockdown has wiped away the map of daily life, and now we are lost. We're likely to feel lost until we find a new normal or, in other words, until we create a new daily and weekly routine."
Although we may feel lost and sometimes hopeless, this time may actually be useful to find out what it is we actually want in our lives, what fulfils us and brings us satisfaction.
In Rachel Coffey’s article, ‘Why now is the best time to invest in yourself’, she says, "The way we approach life going forward will also be different. That’s why now is the precise time that we need to look after ourselves and get ourselves in the best mental shape of our lives,” and she explains just how we can do this.
Whatever you’re feeling right now, hold on to the fact that this will pass, we may not have a definitive end date, but take comfort in knowing that you can and will get through this.
If you are struggling, it’s OK to reach out for help and speak to a professional therapist who can offer practical strategies to cope with the feelings of overwhelm you might be struggling with. Many counsellors are now offering online services so you can speak to them at your convenience.
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