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The Impact of Coming Out of Lockdown

Woman taking time for self-care
Woman taking time for self-care

We’re living through an extraordinary social experiment. Over the last couple of months up to one third of the world’s population has been in lockdown or quarantine. THAT is a story to tell our grandchildren. (‘YES NANNA! I was there, remember?’)

How this experiment will go? We can probably make some predictions from what is known about the impact of quarantine on people. It’s worth reading these predictions because one of the best ways of dealing with the impacts of quarantine is educating ourselves about what are expected psychological reactions, so we understand that what we are feeling is normal.

Here is what research on people who have been quarantined because of possible exposure to contagious diseases tells us. The research has found that people are likely to experience a range of psychological stresses. The most common of these are low mood and irritability - others are difficulty sleeping, stress, anxiety, anger, emotional exhaustion and depression. The impacts are more marked for people quarantined with children and among quarantined hospital workers.

In these studies the stresses that led to these reactions are the same ones we’re dealing with now – the fear of becoming sick, of losing loved ones, of financial disaster. The research suggests that over the longer term, the people most at risk of long-term mental health issues are health workers, young people under 30, children, older people and those whose lives are made more vulnerable by poverty, ill health and disability.

So, part of making a good community-wide recovery from this pandemic is looking after our own mental health and supporting other people’s efforts to do the same. We need to prepare ourselves for coming out of lockdown and adapting to more changes. It’s going to be weird.

Things will look and feel different. Services, centres, public spaces are going to have marker lines and stickers where we have to stand or plastic barriers between us and other people. Folk might react oddly to us if we forget and go to give them a hug. The world is going to smell of fresh hand sanitiser.

We might feel anxious about reconnecting with other people. We might feel very daunted by the prospect of socialising again. We might feel very worried about germs and hygiene where we were calm before.

If you’re feeling affected by the lockdown you can learn skills to manage anxiety and depression – they include getting social connection where you can, practicing mindfulness and meditation, breathing exercises, making sure you get physical activity, eat healthy food and have healthy sleeping routines. Reach out if you need help.