How Has Lockdown Impacted Mental Health, and What Can we do to Improve it?
The COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns and various other restrictions have had a great impact on people’s mental health. At the time of writing this blog post, just over 2 million people have died worldwide of COVID-19, but even more people have suffered mentally due to the circumstances of pandemic. Whether it is over fear of vulnerable loved ones getting sick, loneliness due to isolation, the impact it has had on people’s jobs, or various other reasons; millions of people’s mental health have suffered. Now in a third national lockdown, mental health has finally come to the forefront of how we are handling the pandemic, with it being largely ignored previously, which raises the question: how can we improve the nations mental health?
How has the pandemic impacted those who are isolating?
Many people living alone have felt isolated, with nobody to talk to they can get very lonely. Loneliness is one of the millions of emotions people are feeling during the pandemic, as the usual ways of seeing friends and family have been put on hold whilst we need to isolate and social distance. According to a Mental Health Foundation survey conducted in November 2020, 25%of people have reported that they felt lonely. Levels of loneliness have been especially higher in young people, the unemployed, single parents and students. With the pandemic going on for so long, and likely to carry on for a while longer still, these feelings of loneliness are likely to affect mental health more long term, leading to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and stress, making the long term effects increasingly harder to manage.
What can you do if you’re feeling lonely?
- Call, message, or FaceTime a friend, family member or mental health professional to talk about how you’re feeling.
- If you feel that you have nobody to talk to, contact Samaritans by calling:116 123 (for more information, visit their website https://www.samaritans.org/).
- Join an online class or group focusing on activities or topics which you enjoy, it could be anything from exercise classes, to meditation groups or book clubs.
- Get out of the house by going for short walks, whilst maintaining social distancing.
If friends or family members are experiencing loneliness, you can help by reaching out to them, especially if they live alone as they may not have many people to talk to. The message or phone call can make a huge difference to them, particularly if they haven’t spoken to anyone for a while.
How has the pandemic impacted work?
People’s work lives have also been impacted severely by the pandemic, with many businesses having to close initially when the pandemic first hit, forcing millions of people to be put on the furlough scheme, whilst others had to adapt to working from home. We’re now at a stage where most industries are able to work remotely, but some are still forced to remain closed such as the hospitality industry. The uncertainty over when hospitality venues will be allowed to reopen has caused a lot of stress and anxiety for business owners and employees within the sector. According to the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) one in five hospitality workers suffered from severe mental health issues before the pandemic, and the pandemic could only serve to increase this figure. Whilst these workers are still earning money via the furlough scheme, which currently is in effect until the end of April 2021, they are only receiving 80% of their wages. The decrease in income has also contributed to the increasing of the mental health issues many hospitality workers are facing. Whilst it is a difficult situation as it still unsafe for hospitality venues and other businesses who are forced to shut to reopen at the moment, there are some tips which could help improve your mental health if you are still on furlough. Mind, an organisation dedicated to improving the mental health of those who are struggling to cope, have outlined several ways to help furloughed workers manage better. These include: Establishing a routine, talking to colleagues, creating shared goals with your colleagues, creating a budget to adjust for your cut in income, looking at your personal development, seek support from your employer, and seek support from other areas.
Working from home has become the new norm for many workers, but adjusting to working remotely can be tough for employees as they are forced to find a new routine. Whilst many people prefer it, working from home can be tough for some as they feel more isolated and their attention can wander as they miss the office environment. Getting into a structured routine can help improve working from home and your mental health as you become more productive. Working at a designated place that is as free of distractions as possible, taking regular breaks and finishing work at a regular time all help to solidify a routine which can help improve productivity and allow for less stress and anxiety caused by working from home. Setting yourself tasks to do and targets to achieve throughout the day is also very helpful. A great tip for this is by creating a WEB list to help prioritise your tasks. The W stands for what you WANT to achieve, the E for what you EXPECT to achieve, and the B for what you BETTER achieve. This can help you determine which tasks are most important and prioritise them, whilst also allowing you to do the tasks you want to do and expect to complete. Once you get into a proper routine, it makes working from home a lot easier and relieves a lot of the stress and anxiety initially caused from making the switch from office to remote working.
For parents, balancing work and child care has been challenging whilst schools have been closed; this is especially relevant now, since schools have been ordered to close again until at least the February half term. If you are struggling to cope with juggling the two, have a conversation with work about the realities of your situation, and try to build it into your routine where you have distinct times for working and helping your children with school. This may mean that you are less productive at work, but the interaction can help to improve yours and your child’s mental health during these uncertain times.
All in all, the pandemic has had an impact on everyone’s mental health, whether it’s over fear of catching the virus itself, from the effects of isolating, or from having a sudden change in your work routine. The best way to improve your mental health and keeping morale up is simply by communicating, whether it’s by reaching out to a friend or family member for a chat about how each other are doing, or by talking to work about your situation and how to remain productive at home.