Living with anxiety during lockdown by Peter Thompson
I first wrote a blog about my experiences with anxiety around the time of the first lockdown and things have only gotten stranger, more uncertain and more challenging since then. 2020 was a lot for all of us to deal with. It was a year like no other that none of us could have prepared for. Suddenly we were thrust into this new way of life and forced to continually adapt as new government measures were sporadically and spontaneously announced throughout the year. It seemed the only thing that we could rely on in 2020, the only constant, was uncertainty.
Now as we enter a new year and a new national lockdown – lockdown 3 – we appear to have arrived right back at square one, having gone full circle within a year. The chaos, confusion and uncertainty we have all experienced over the last year has had an enormous impact on our mental health, our wellbeing and our peace of mind. With things changing so quickly and so frequently, there hasn’t been a minute to find our feet, to savour a moment of stillness or find a brief minute of calm. Amidst the tumultuous hurry of world events, the deluge of increasingly alarming news headlines and the knee-jerk pace of modern life, somewhere along the way we’ve adapted to this stress-inducing absurdity and begun to accept it as normal.
Over the last year I’ve been up and down with my own mental health, struggling to deal with sudden flurries of anxiety, intense moments of dread and panic and a pervasive feeling of unease. These feelings have followed me all year as I’ve tried continually to find some way of putting my feet on stable ground, awaiting that ‘hallelujah’ moment when the dark clouds part and the sun breaks through and normality is finally restored. But it’s been almost a year now and that moment still hasn’t come and still seems a far way off.
What I’ve tried to do over these last few months, instead of hoping the world will suddenly revert back to the way we all remember, is to just accept this is how things are - for now. There is nothing I can do, right now, to change things. I just have to find a way to live in this new, unpredictable, precarious new world of ours.
Acceptance has been key in combating my own anxiety. I’ve had to accept how I’ve been affected by all this, recognise my strengths, my weaknesses, my fallibility and accept the things I cannot change. I’ve had to accept I may need to reach out, ask for help, and allow myself to be vulnerable in ways I’m not use to. It’s so important to keep talking and let your friends, family and colleagues know how you are feeling. This hasn’t always been easy, but it has always helped immeasurably. The more I’ve done these things, I’ve been able to reclaim a little bit of calm and introduce more stability in my world, while the world outside rages on.
Throughout this period, I have tried to live in the present as much as possible and avoid fixating on the past or the future too much. I try to centre myself in the here and now and do things that I love, that make me happy and bring me joy.
I’ve been writing a lot, going for walks, listening to records and catching up on the long list of movies I’ve been meaning to watch for months now. It can be so challenging dealing with uncertainty and the lack of control we all have over this pandemic. By doing small and simple things each day that make me happy, I’ve found I’m able to press pause on all the chaos of the wider world, my own stress and overthinking, and simply control the small world that I occupy right here in front of me.
If you are struggling with your mental health during these troubling times, visit Mind.org.uk for more information and helpful resources.