‘It genuinely feels like my soul is being crushed a tiny bit more every day.’ (Picture: Getty)
There is something about this lockdown that just feels harder than all the others.
The days are melting into each other, time is expanding and contracting of its own accord, weekends are indistinguishable from weekdays, and our emotions are flipping between excruciating boredom and existential dread.
The novelty, enthusiasm and collective resilience that seemed to get us through the first two lockdowns seems to have dried up entirely, and people are reporting feeling flat, low and, in some cases, completely emotionally numb.
In other words, we are existing rather than living right now, and it is grinding us all down.
But what is it about this lockdown that is making us all feel so awful?
In theory, you might think that by the third time around we would be better-equipped to cope. We have had practice, we should know how to deal with the boredom, how to stay connected with friends, how to stay healthy and positive.
Why isn’t that the case for so many of us?
‘As humans, we like certainty,’ explains life coach Sam Adams.
‘When we feel uncertain about our lives and our future, we go into alert-mode. Right now, things aren’t certain. So we are more easily stressed, find it harder to focus, even difficult to sleep. Uncertainty is almost like a type of pain.’
The problem with this lockdown is that there is no fixed end-date. Rumours are swirling on social media, but no one seems to be able to tell us if we will be stuck at home for weeks or months to come.
That makes it feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. And the lack of light is harming us in other ways, too.
Yes, we are creeping towards lighter days – but progress is slow. Most of us are still finishing work in the dark, and the endless rain and freezing temperatures are making it even harder to get outside while the sun is up – which can have a huge impact on your mental health.
Layla, 31, says this lockdown is so much harder than the others because she has zero motivation.
‘All of the things I was doing in the last two lockdowns – running, workouts, reading, cooking – I just cannot be bothered this time.
‘It sounds dramatic, but it genuinely feels like my soul is being crushed a tiny bit more every day.
‘It is the endlessness of it. The first time around, I thought we would be back to normal in a few months, max. Now I have seen how this can go. I have seen how things get bad again – even when you think they’re getting better – and it is making me feel really hopeless.’
We asked Layla what she thinks makes this lockdown so much harder, she says it is the hope that is killing her.
‘The vaccine news gave us all the biggest boost of hope. There seemed to be an end in sight. But now, people are being vaccinated, but they still can’t tell us when lockdown will end, we still can’t make any plans, we are still seeing new variants of the virus popping up.
‘I almost feel like it’s better to abandon all hope – but that leaves you feeling pretty numb.’
Layla isn’t alone in these feelings of apathy. She also admitted that the lockdown has had a negative impact on her sleeping pattern – which could be contributing to her mood.
A recent study found that 37% of UK respondents described themselves as ‘utterly sleep deprived’, and this shouldn’t be underestimated in relation to emotional wellbeing.
‘Sleep is critical to out mindset and mood,’ says Sam. ‘So, if you’re experiencing poor sleep, you need to make it a priority to address it, as it will impact all other areas.’
She shares more specific tips on how to tackle disturbed sleep – along with other tips on how to cope – below:
Seven tips to help you survive lockdown 3.0
1) Prioritise sleep
Sleep impacts everything, mood, focus, stress levels and more.
Get yourself into a routine, even if you have nothing to get up for. Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time, this will put your body into a rhythm and eventually make it easier for you to get a decent nights sleep.
Also try some meditation, or something calming – like reading or gentle yoga – before bed.
2) Exercise daily
This doesn’t mean running a 10k everyday.
I know we are all feeling like we can’t do another walk around the block, so try something different if you can.
A cycle, a different route, a HIIT session in your lounge, a dance class over Zoom.
Moving our bodies moves our mood. Using energy creates energy, and this will increase your motivation too.
3) Focus on what you’re eating
If you’re like me, the Christmas usual overeating dragged well on into New year. But we are what we ingest.
So, take stock of what you’re eating and cut the crap. I’ve just been doing this for myself and I have noticed a difference in my energy already.
It’s not about counting calories, it’s loving yourself enough to give your body healthy foods.
4) Set yourself some goals
Right now, softer self-care goals is a good place to start – like trying to meditate for 10 mins a day.
For me, it’s 3k everyday of lockdown 3.0, run, walk or cycle.
If you want to set some bigger goals, that’s great – just break them down into smaller pieces. By doing this and achieving steps along the way, you have a purpose and sense of achievement when you tick something off.
5) Start a journal
If you’ve never journaled before, maybe now is the time to start. If you don’t like writing you can use an audio journal.
The power of this is great. It’s about getting your thoughts, feelings and emotions out of your head and making space for new ones, maybe more creative, happier ones.
Sharing our emotions, whether in writing or verbally, actually strengthens us. So this really isn’t to be sniffed at.
It will give you insight into yourself too. When we truly get to know ourselves we start to live our best life.
6) Divert your attention onto others
If your find yourself caught up in your own thoughts about how life is hard for you, think of ways you can think about yourself less.
The easiest way to do this is direct your attention to others. Who can you help? Who can you support? Who can you reach out to?
This is not to say you should ignore any real lingering difficult thoughts you have, but helping others is a win-win situation, you both end up feeling better.
7) Challenge yourself
While I know this situation is hard, challenge yourself to see the opportunity.
Ask yourself this question: ‘What does this situation allow, what does it make room for?’
Maybe that’s something you can start to journal on.
Finally just remember nothing stays the same forever, this will come to an end. If you catch yourself leaping forward in time and feeling anxiety, bring it back to the here and now.
Today, after all, is a non-refundable day, make it count in the best way you can.
If, like Layla, you’re feeling really despondent right now – don’t be too hard on yourself.
It is understandable if you can’t maintain your self-care routines right now, or if you’re phoning it in at work, or if you only have the attention span to doomscroll and watch trash TV in your spare time.
At the moment, just getting through the days is an achievement in itself. And remember – everyone is going through it, so you’re not alone.
Do you have a story to share? We want to hear from you.
Get in in touch: [email protected].