THE Omicron coronavirus variant has forced more restrictions on Brits who have now been told to once again ‘work from home if you can.’
During a press conference last night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Plan B restrictions coupled with more boosters should hopefully be enough to hold off Omicron.
But what if, as January rolls around, we are faced with more restrictions and we are once again unable to see our loved ones?
Social isolation is hard and the coronavirus pandemic and multiple lockdowns emphasised this, as many of us were unable to meet up with friends and family in person.
It was previously reported that the coronavirus pandemic could cause a surge in mental health issues due to the uncertainty surrounding lockdowns.
Speaking to UK Times, Dr Lynne Green, Chief Clinical Officer, at digital mental health care platform Kooth said there are some things you can do to prepare yourself for more restrictions.
“As the potential of yet another lockdown looms, it would be understandable for people to spiral into a cycle of negativity and hopelessness regarding this being a never ending vicious circle.
“We can learn a lot from positive psychological approaches and research into the prevention of post traumatic responses to negative events which may help to prevent this from happening”, she said.
Glenys Jackson, Clinical Lead for Mental Health at Bupa UK Insurance explained that having anxieties about new restrictions is understandable.
She explained: “With new measures set in place, there are a lot of resurfacing emotions for everyone to process.
“It’s a normal and natural response to feel anxious when faced with uncertainty and situations that are beyond our control.
“After everything we’ve been through in the last two years, there are lots of ways people are experiencing anxiety, coinciding with the announcement of further restrictions.”
One of Dr Green’s top tips is to keep perspective, as she says that people can often fall into a trap of catastrophising when it feels as though things are going wrong and this is particularly true when people feel a sense of ‘deja vue’.
She explained: “It is important to remember that having a setback is not the same as being back to square one.
“We have made huge strides in combating this virus and we continue to be better informed every day.
“Be aware of all or nothing words like ‘always, never, every’ and instead try to introduce some checks and balances to your language and thought processes.”
It’s also important to think of the positives, Dr Green says, as even though previous lockdowns have been challenging, there have also been some positives.
She said these include spending more time with family, reducing travel commutes and getting a better work/life balance and having an opportunity to press the reset button on a number of routines and practices that perhaps were unhelpful to us.
“No matter how small, consider whether there were any benefits to lockdown and focus on them to keep a balanced, healthy mindset”, she added.
Another way to prepare yourself is by commicating with others but also your own thoughts and feelings.
“There is evidence to show that writing things down can have healing powers for physical difficulties not just emotional ones.
“If you struggled with the loss of normal social routines and contact in previous lockdowns, it will be particularly important for you to consider how you might ensure ongoing communication should another lockdown be mandated”, Lynne said.
While it might be easy to think of how this situation is having an impact on your life, Dr Green says that it’s important we help others.
She said: “When it comes to adverse events, research comparing post trauma reactions in individuals exposed to the same situation has shown that helping others is a protective factor in terms of preventing a later traumatic stress response.”
If you’re really struggling and feel like you can’t cope, there are things you can do to get help.
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
UK Times previously launched its You’re Not Alone campaign, to remind anyone facing a tough time that there is hope.
Dr Green said people deal with things differently and explained that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
“Anyone who is filled with dread and anxiety at the thought of having to deal with this again should not feel ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help; there are many support services out there – including digital ones if face to face services are not available – please use them and do not suffer alone”, she added.
Glenys said that lockdowns can be overwhelming and that it is important to just take some time to switch off if you’re feeling anxious.
She said: “If what you are reading or listening to is making you feel overwhelmed, try to turn it off. If you’re unable to, pay attention to how your physical body has been affected by what you’re reading.
“You may feel more tense or experience physical signs of anxiety, like a racing heart or nausea.
“If you experience any of these signs, switch off and bring the physical symptoms under control by using simple – but effective – breathing control exercises.”
It’s also important that you go at your own pace as what’s right for someone else, won’t necessarily work for you.
She said: “Take things slowly and be kind to yourself. It can be overwhelming as we’re processing and accepting more restrictions, so it’s understandable to feel irritated and frustrated (which lead to increased anxiety). It is important to remember to pace yourself.
“Breaking your day up can help make everything seem a little more manageable. If you’re finding it difficult to concentrate, set small achievable targets for yourself, such as cooking a nice meal from scratch, or watching that film you’ve been meaning to see.
“This will give you something to do and promote a sense of satisfaction or enjoyment.”