Resilience Quick Reads: Surviving the Isolation of Lockdown
Updated: Sep 16, 2022
Welcome to the third in our new series of short blogs to help you stay safe, sane and supported during the current crisis.
With the move into full lockdown we face a host of new challenges: being unable to see or help family members and friends, spending increased amounts of time in our own company or with partners and children.
Only a month ago it would have been hard to imagine the reality of our current circumstances, how our freedom of movement would be so restricted, how many of us would lose income, or that the logistics of getting hold of even the most basic of provisions would be so complicated.
In this quick read, we thought it would be helpful to focus on the intra- and interpersonal challenges posed by the nationwide lockdown.
Separation from friends and family
Although we may have seen it coming, it was difficult to prepare for the enforced lockdown.
Contact with friends and family, the people we care about most and who care about us, is essential to help us get through hard times. Research tells us that when we are able to turn to loved ones for help or advice we experience a calming of the sympathetic nervous system, which soothes the stress response and helps us to think more clearly.
Connecting with others also stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system, triggering the release of endorphins and oxytocin, leading us to feel more relaxed. When we feel calm and relaxed we experience positive emotions such as contentment and hope and this further enhances our ability to cope.
So maintaining contact with our support network is essential when we feel under threat, to help us cope and to build positive emotions.
This is what makes the lockdown so challenging for many of us. Feeling disconnected from these networks of support makes it harder for us to calm our stress response, to manage our fears about the spread of the virus, and to deal with the anxiety or distress we may be experiencing about our financial situation or our access to food.
In response to the lockdown, many of us have been scrambling to create a new sense of normality in which we can still have contact with our loved ones but in different, new and innovative ways. This may be using both new and old technology.
A lot of us are trying out video communication methods to connect with our friends and family, to take a break and share some time together. Compared with just talking on the phone, this is surprisingly effective, as face to face contact via a mobile phone, tablet or computer allows for greater quality interaction, helping us to feel much closer to one another. Although it’s great to connect with a phone call too.
Scheduling time with friends, as you would arrange a get-together at the pub or a meal out, is an important part of this new way of connecting. Research tells us that anticipating a positive event can be as good as experiencing it. So making a plan for an online get-together can create positive emotions like excitement, even before it begins. Savouring the pleasurable aspects of an enjoyable experience by telling others or making a note in your diary, can also generate lasting positive emotions.
Using humour, where possible, is a great British tradition and one that has historically been a valuable way of de-stressing during hard times. Although it’s always great to share a joke in person, we are hearing from many of our subscribers about the funny clips and posts they are sharing online. An App we are hearing a lot about at the moment is Houseparty which allows you to connect with your friends and play games together.
Sharing pictures through social media, passing on tips that are helping to lighten your mood or creating interesting topics to talk about will enhance your feelings of connection with other people and will grow positive emotions for you, your family and your friends.
And if you just want to party, there are plenty of ways to do this online, where you can dance around your kitchen in the virtual company of others doing exactly the same thing. Or try watching a film together by holding a Netflix party.
Increased time on our own
Not only do we need to find ways of maintaining our social support and connections with others, but we also need to manage the challenge of having much more time to ourselves.
Being stuck at home with the loss of our normal functions and roles can be tough. It is all too easy to become drawn into focusing on the negative, maybe feeling sorry for ourselves or asking ourselves what’s the point of doing anything. But once we allow ourselves to drop into cycles of negative thinking it can be hard to find a way out.
So, if you notice that you are preoccupied with negative thoughts that are increasing your focus on feeling isolated, try stepping back from them. Write them down, ask yourself if thinking this way is helpful or making you feel worse.
See if you can find a different perspective on the situation. There are thousands of people in this position now. So how might they be seeing this break from normal life? And how might you view it in the future when things have returned to normal?
Try asking yourself ‘what is there to celebrate?’, or consider what opportunities this change might offer you. Perhaps it is a time to explore new goals and purpose. Maybe you now have space to write that book you’ve been planning, learn a language, take up a new hobby or learn a new skill. Or maybe you can finally unwind from work, learn how to do mindfulness, sort out photos or get things done that you have been putting off.
Some of our lovely Ultimate Resilience subscribers have been sharing their own ideas with us about how they are managing the challenges of quarantine and isolation, such as learning to dance, joining an online yoga class, trying out new recipes or keeping a gratitude journal. You can even join a virtual choir.
Making a plan, scheduling activities, praising ourselves for getting things done all help us to establish new goals, build a new routine and create opportunities for positive emotions such as interest or joy.
Spending more time with family/housemates
A further and perhaps unexpected challenge associated with the lockdown is that we are now spending way more time with the people we live with.
For some of us, this may be a welcome distraction, but for others, it may not be easy to adapt to. Suddenly we are expected to be both parent and teacher to our children, a role that many of us will find daunting and perhaps unwelcome. And spending time with our partners, adult children home from university or housemates brings new challenges that we do not face when we are out at work all day.
Using prosocial behaviours will help us build stronger connections with our housemates. When we feel interested in what others are doing, appreciate them for who they are and show kindness and gratitude we enhance their feeling of inclusion and acceptance. This grows positive emotions and helps us to manage stress and anxiety. Find out more about why prosocial behaviours, especially under lockdown, are important for our own happiness in our recent blog to celebrate the International Day of Happiness this year.
Recognising when those around you may be feeling anxious or stressed will help you to remain calm and patient around them, offering help or support if they need it. And be aware of your own stress levels, taking time out when you need it and striking a good balance between having time alone versus time together.
You could even start an activity group with the people you live with. Perhaps taking some daily exercise together, celebrating successes together when you achieve goals you set or teaching each other recipes or other skills.
Remember you are all going to get bored at different times and having a strategy in place to help you manage boredom together will help. Are there ways you can make the mundane more interesting. For example, how about turning the daily walk into a competition by seeing who can identify the greatest variety of wildflowers using this App.
One of our followers has set up a fitness spreadsheet with his friends, each setting out weekly goals for core and aerobic exercise, and using a points system for the different activities to turn it into a competition.
So if we approach this period of lockdown calmly by staying connected with friends and family, organising our time and identifying some new goals and hobbies, we are more likely to be able to adapt to the situation, accept that it is temporary and make the best of it.
We would love to hear your ideas for managing during the lockdown. So if you want to share, or if you just want to join our mailing list, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org