Will there be another lockdown? 6 ways to cope with uncertainty and lockdown anxiety

A staggering 1.7 million people in the UK have COVID-19 in the week ending December 19, which is the highest number since comparable figures began in autumn 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics. The Government has been discussing a potential ‘circuit breaker’ (a two-week lockdown) to start after Christmas or in the new year, causing a heady mixture of heaviness, uncertainty, overwhelm, confusion and maybe a little anger in Brits. Not sure how to battle these overwhelming feelings? Express.co.uk chatted to Confidence and Mindset coach Hattie MacAndrews (@hattie_macandrews on Instagram) to find out the six ways to cope with uncertainty and lockdown anxiety.

As a nation, we were just getting back into the swing of things and merrily counting down the days until we were united with our loved ones, when boom, the Omicron hit us like a tonne of bricks.

Hattie said: “As a confidence coach, dealing with the fear of the unknown and managing overwhelm is what I do best.

“Who could blame you for feeling a horrible heaviness and losing faith when we’ve had our plans changed, dinners cancelled, celebrations postponed, all over again at Christmas for the second year in a row thanks to coronavirus.”

Hattie has revealed her most practical and logical advice to getting through the festive period amidst so much uncertainty.

READ MORE- How to cope if you’re spending Christmas alone – four things to do

Identify the Emotion

Whilst in general we’re all in the same boat, our own set of circumstances and situations are completely unique to each and every one of us.

Some are worried they will be kept apart from loved ones, others are scared about getting ill, while others and dreading working from home and potentially having children to teach if schools close.

One thing is for sure – we’re all feeling something about the potential lockdown.

Hattie said: “If you’re feeling stressed or burdened by it, then the key is to identify exactly what that feeling is, then to look at your options for managing it.

“For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you could write a list of all the things that are making you feel overwhelmed and prioritise what feels biggest.

“Start to work methodically through your list and tick off what’s important.

“Once you’ve identified the emotion that’s causing you to feel negative, you have the capability to tackle it head-on.

“Sometimes the simple act of identifying the feeling can kick start the change.”

What can I control?

As humans living through a global pandemic, it seems we have become wired to focus on the things that are widely out of our control.

Hattie explained: “The ‘what if’ chain of thought feels dominant, and ultimately results in us feeling afraid and spiralling into negativity. So how can we combat that? Start by focusing on the small things you can control.

“You may not be able to predict what will be happening next week, or in a month, but there are many elements of your day that you are in control of.

“What time will you get up? What will you have for breakfast? Where will you go for a walk? Which friend will you call? What will you cook for dinner?

“If we are forced into isolation, having at least a semblance of a schedule will help us to feel in control and in charge of our days.”

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Get creative

If you’re someone who likes to keep a busy social diary and make lots of plans, any extra restrictions can feel especially unnerving.

So what can you do about this? Get out your pen and paper, and start making two lists.

The first list is of things you can do virtually, or regardless of restrictions.

Hattie said: “Write a list of fun things to do that aren’t dependent on any rules or restrictions being imposed.

“Sign up to a funky workshop online with a friend, create a book swap with your nearest and dearest where each person sends someone else one of their favourite books, start a new hobby (cross stitch anyone?) at the same time as your colleagues and track each other’s progress, or something else that will keep you busy.

“In case you’re not already over them from last year, zoom quizzes were quite the hit.”

The second list will consist of activities/restaurants/dates/trips you will go on, as and when you are allowed.

Hattie expanded: “So rather than being wedded to a certain date three months in advance (we’re all guilty of this), try and embrace the flexibility, and know that as and when the time comes you’ll have lots to keep you entertained.”

Let go of the pressure

Did you learn a new language, train for a marathon, perfect the art of banana bread making and turn your side hustle into a profitable business last year? No? Us neither.

However, the pressure was definitely there every single time there was a lockdown or new level or restrictions.

Hattie said: “Let’s let go of that, shall we? For everyone isolated right now or potentially isolating soon, it’s okay to do nothing. It’s more than okay actually.

“While you may not be physically ill, it’s a tough time mentally and adding the pressure to be extra productive or re-arrange the kitchen cupboards helps no one.

“If you have the energy and capacity for that, then great. If all you have the energy for is binge-watching Netflix and eating the contents of the kitchen cupboards, that’s great too.

“Do what you need to do, feel what you need to feel. There’s no right or wrong way to fill the days and get through to the New Year.”

Challenge your perspective

Changing your perspective is easier said than done but is worth persisting with as it can be incredibly effective in times of stress or if you’re feeling helpless.

Hattie said: “We all view the world and our experiences through a unique set of filters, and this forms our individual perspective on situations.

“It’s more than likely at this stage, that our current perspective isn’t feeling very empowered.

“So how can you shift this? By focusing on what you can control, releasing yourself of the pressure, and asking yourself what a new perspective might look like.

“What’s another way you could view the situation? What good might come out of this? What can I learn from this?”

Last Resort

If nothing else feels appealing right now or if lockdown is announced, I give you full permission to hunker down.

Hattie said: “Turn the news off and switch your favourite podcasts on. Mute your WhatsApp groups if they are feeling intense, and instead send funny memes or watch dancing cat videos.

“If your social media is making you feel overwhelmed, restrict it, or better yet – stay off it.

“There are multiple ways in which you can not only survive this uncertain period but learn how to thrive through it.

“We’ve been here before, through longer darker periods, and we came through the other end. Even on those days, we didn’t think we would.

“Christmas is just another day in the diary, there’s always next year. The best is yet to come.”

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