Coping with Lockdown
We asked some of the people who use our services how their life changed during the lockdowns and what has helped them to cope through the past year.
Cheryl: The first one didn’t seem so bad. I still didn’t like it that much, but you got to go out so I could still go to the Umbrella Centre but then when the big lockdown came and we couldn’t go out of the house it made you feel quite insular, you know there was nobody to talk to, and it was really the Zoom which kept me going so if it hadn’t been for that I don’t think I could’ve coped very well at all so I was so grateful that the PSS had started of the blog ad the Zoom so to me that was really necessary. I don’t think I would’ve got out of bed I think.
Ron: I had a different experience in some ways. Because I don’t work a lot of the time I‘m doing stuff locally, I’ve got a dog and I’m out in the park, and I know plenty of people I never stopped doing that. there was talk in some countries people were just being kept in they weren’t allowed to leave the house, or were allowed to take their dogs a 100 yards and that never happened in the UK. So in some ways although I had some changes going on to my routine that was a big part of my life previously, just going about doing the normal things to me was allowed.
Cheryl: I think it depends where you live though doesn’t it. If you live near a park you’re probably better off, people living in flats, they couldn’t even get out in the garden.
Ron: But in some countries, even if you lived next door to a park you were not allowed and it was all in the news and all that panic that threw the Western world into a panic and all the rumours that were going round – so having the opportunity to just go out to my local park, not far it was legal, it helped to have conversations with people on a daily basis just about how confused we all were.
So I soon got onto not watching the news because you could just get inundated with watching the news and it wasn’t clear what to do so I think that helped me just to take step away from the media whirl that was going on and I wasn’t doing that on my own either, it was other people who were already in my circle if you like. We were all trying to make sense of it and having the conversation in the park at a safe distance but it was really helpful to be able to have those conversations at the time.
My partner has a health problem that meant she was being advised to shield so there were some issues between should I go out at all or should I be totally risk averse and I kind of stood my ground on that one and went out for an hour and a half or whatever just to get out and what I did find is there were lots of interesting conversations to be had. People trying to make sense of it, helping me to make sense of it and sometimes I’d come home and my partner would be watching the news and the statistics and it would bring me down, so I just had to try to make my own mind up with people having normal conversations but the media was toxic I found.
Cheryl: I found at home though because I’ve got problems here – that was my big issue – I get out to the Umbrella Centre or wherever I go to escape to be honest, so if I could’ve got on a train to go to a museum or an art gallery I would’ve been pleased. It’s great that there are people who’ve coped with it but there people who’ve been isolated by themselves.
Ron: Not needing to worry about a change in income or a change in lifestyle was really helpful. If someone suddenly had to be working in places where they’d now be fearful or they’d been furloughed, all that stuff, I think I was one of the lucky ones in lots of ways.
Cheryl: Yes, my son was furloughed and he’s used to going out and doing his job – he’s at FACT and doing stuff there and now he’s just isolated in his bedroom.
Andrea: Me personally with my health conditions and caring for my mum, like Ron I’ve blocked the news out because the statistics were just getting on top of me and I decided enough was enough so I started to binge watch stuff, I started off with watching Still Game. I found I was able to cope with the isolation because with my tinnitus and phonophobia and photophobia I enjoyed being a recluse. I did try going out the other day but it was too much with people pushing into you. I was feeling a bit under the weather so I just wanted to get to the nearest taxi and get home. So it’s been a bit of a relaxation. I’m in the process of writing short comedy poetry books so I’m focussing on that.
Ben: I’d just finished an anxiety management course with Nikki and it was only a couple of weeks and we were in lockdown. Because I’ve had experience of being isolated with being ill with anxiety and depression, I didn’t like the fact that’s what we’d have to do because I went out almost every day being busy and the challenge of staying in – I had to do that for self-preservation reasons because the year before I’d been in and out of hospital having operations and I’m also a full time carer for my nephew who has health conditions so to protect both of us I just had to lockdown and do what I could to get through.
Fortunately, within two weeks I was doing telephone advice for the CAB. I’m not really too keen on telephone calls, I’d rather do face to face so I had to learn a new skill, to be able to draw people out so they could tell me about their issues and their problems so I could advise them. It’s a different skill set; being on the phone is more intimate. It’s almost like there’s just two people in the room and a vast universe out there and at that moment you’ve got that person’s whole attention and because a lot of people had been in lockdown for quite a few months they wanted to unload so they confided in you because some of them hadn’t seen another person for six months or more and a lot of them had a lot of mental health issues. I’ve met a lot of lovely people by just talking to them on the phone and I got a lot of lovely feedback through my service.
The other thing with PSS, because I’m a bit tech savvy we set up the Upbeat chat so we could come together and connect on the forum and spread information and keep people connected and from that was born the idea of developing the Upbeat Liverpool blog and putting a forum on that as well so I got involved with that with Dave, Siobhan, Corinne and Richard we all came together and met regularly to make it possible. And we’ve got a brilliant service that’s referred to by all organisations across Liverpool. Even the Citizen’s Advice refer to the Upbeat Liverpool blog for people to go and get advice on anxiety or depression or meditation. It’s a brilliant blog and I’m very proud of it and proud of the people who were part of that.
Cheryl: I tell other people I know who have mental health problems because it’s great. Without that I’d be lost and it’s benefitted loads of people.
Ben: The team at the Wellbeing Centres were able to get that service quickly up and running to support people which is a big ask in challenging times how would we support people remotely but it’s worked, people feel connected and you feel supported.
Cheryl: I think people who didn’t know PSS might have come across it because we’ve all advertised it on Facebook and various other places and if it’s helped people get through this time I think what we’re doing is worthwhile.
Ben: We’ve continued to be creative as well - the songs we’ve done with the Strumbrellas - we’ve met Ian who’s talented with his music so these things that you’ve learnt that are new that you may not have learnt if you were separated by going to different Wellbeing Centres.
Cheryl: I’ve sent the blog to people in Canada and Poland so I’ve started meeting people on line from different countries as well so it’s been really interesting as well. So there are some positives.
Ben: And the best thing to do was to stay away from the news because some of the stories were so traumatic and the more you listened the more anxious you became so it was no good for your mental health at all so I tried to avoid it as much as possible.
Gaynor: The only thing that’s kept me going is being on here and the people that I’ve met on here. I just want to thank everyone who’s put everything on here.
Ged: PSS have been there for me and going on this has helped me.
And in a separate chat, here's Jess.
The things that affected me most were the fact that we did have Covid and I was very, very concerned about anyone getting it including myself. So I knew that initially it was a time for being patient, sensible and also grateful for our own health and not having the virus when the situation was a lot worse for many other families. For me personally, being a bit of an introvert - and I think I actually have social anxiety – not having to socialise therefore seemed like a massive relief to me personally. A lot of other people were complaining about Lockdown and I was finding it a bit difficult to relate to that. I was very concerned about the extroverts and how they were going to cope with confinement. But it just made sense to avoid direct contact with people to minimise the spread of the virus. So it didn’t affect me as much as it did others.
It also coincided with me applying for counselling which made a massive difference. I always thought it would make a difference so perhaps that’s why it did. I think doing the counselling during lockdown gave me time and space to work through my issues - So again that was a positive. The counselling addresses our personal issues, obviously everyone has different things that affect them - so I think that helped as well. It helped me to clarify a lot - I was able to process my thoughts in a better way and start to deal with things that had happened in the past. I can’t say I’ve dealt with everything but it’s helped an awful lot. There is a lot of processing to do while doing counselling but I definitely feel it was worthwhile - it felt really liberating. It felt safe (I was able to do it over the phone in the comfort of my own home - so I was relieved I didn’t have to go anywhere). It felt a bit strange at first but I soon got used to it. Thinking about the positives helped.
I felt my counsellor was supportive and respectful and non-judgemental – just like the support I think we get at PSS – I was very relieved about that. I think feeling comfortable with your counsellor helps you open up more. I felt that during my counselling sessions my cognition and communication improved significantly. I was quite tearful working through several issues - then it just became so much better.
It definitely did have a positive impact on my wellbeing and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who needed it. I also felt that I could express and manage my emotions better so that helped massively as well. I think it’s also important to be open and honest and listen to what the counsellor has to say, to take it on board and to believe that it’s going to make some difference is very important too. At least that’s what I thought.
The counselling gave me hope that I was changing for the better and I felt my confidence grow as a result of it. It did make a big difference to me - I’d definitely recommend it to anyone. (People actually told me they’d noticed a change for the better).
Following on from the counselling I realised that I was actually already taking responsibility for my mental health and I was trying to do something about it by attending PSS, by using the blog (which I found really helpful in lockdown, seeing all the familiar faces and kind and supportive people that really helped). I also did a bit of research as well, I got into Psychology which I found interesting. I just wanted to understand my mental health a bit more and try and do something about it.
Finding a new hobby (Poetry) helped me cope better too – it was a good distraction when I could see times were becoming difficult but I also did it because I enjoyed the process or found it a stimulating challenge to do. I think the process of producing poetry made a big difference to me, because it just took me to another place. It took me away from worrying thoughts and helped me relax. I found it helpful when I got very anxious to do something completely different and I soon forgot about how I felt in that moment. It was actually seeing Corinne, who was very enthused about something she’d seen on her travels and she recited a poem about it on the Blog and that’s what drew my attention to Poetry in the first place.
Believe it or not I had a go at exercising during lockdown but I must say my attempts were very spasmodic. (It came in fits and starts). When I did exercise I found it beneficial but difficult to maintain. (I think a lot of people would under the circumstances).
Texting regularly with friends helped. Keeping spirits up and sending things like jokes and puzzles, sharing photos and recommending films to watch, all that sort of thing made a difference. I felt all that was important as well. Hopefully me being supportive towards others made a difference too.
One thing that really helped was experiencing people being patient and supportive about my social anxiety. It made me feel that I was accepted and not judged.
I decided to tell myself to take a different perspective on things because being miserable wasn’t helping! (to adopt the Fake it ‘til you make it approach). I think it was being aware of the harm I was doing to myself with negative self-talk that had become a habit I suppose.
I made a decision to try to make the poetry I wrote positive as well. I thought I’d enjoy doing it more that way. I knew if I started dwelling on something negative I’d feel worse and also I thought - Who would want to read that? I took this approach with a few things like Pilates for example – this is going back a bit before lockdown. I probably wasn’t in the best of places (I was grieving and feeling depressed) but I told myself, it’s exercise, it’s getting me out and that’s beneficial and there’s a sociable side to it (although I felt very uncomfortable and self-conscious I decided to persevere with it). I felt like I was making an effort of some sort and I ended up liking it in the end – I actually looked forward to my twice weekly sessions.
Prior to counselling I was on an anti-depressants. It also helped take the edge off my anxiety and nervousness. I was in a bad way so it was a necessary thing to do. It definitely made a difference although not immediate and not completely. In general I feel like my mood’s lifted but I have experienced apathy during lockdown. I found it very difficult to get into a routine, although I knew that was key from the start I just found it hard to do!
Singing with Choir, looking forward to that every week really helped. It wasn’t always easy to do. I didn’t like being on Zoom I must admit – I don’t like looking at myself on screen but it was lovely seeing Mersey smiling back and welcoming us every week. I enjoy singing and seeing how it impacts and uplifts other people is really good too.
I think not taking myself too seriously helps – trying my best to relax. (Accepting that it’s ok not to be great at everything and all that sort of thing helps). I can’t say I’ve always done it but letting go of what others think makes a big difference too.
The other thing I’ve been fortunate to do is discuss with my husband how my mental health affects me. We have a good relationship anyway. I do feel very grateful for him being so understanding and supportive so that’s helped a lot.
Going on walks is something else that makes a difference but that’s something I do have an issue with too. (Going on my own and then with the added worry about Covid was a problem in Lockdown) – I felt that I couldn’t even challenge that following the counselling because of the risk of contracting or passing on the virus. Walking is something I had noticed I’d benefitted from if I was feeling a bit low, it helped me to put a different perspective on things.
It’s been nice being encouraged and complimented over doing things like my poetry. (I don’t expect it but I do appreciate it). Seeing others benefit from the blog too - that’s really good.
I think it’s also remembering that all the little improvements we make to boost our wellbeing add up. I made a list and I was quite surprised by how many there were. Noticing this and realising things had changed for the better just gives you a bit of a boost and some hope.
The thing I did find really beneficial in lockdown was to switch off from too many news bulletins. Initially, I found it very difficult because I felt the need to keep informed but I also found it upsetting and worrying. I learned to listen to the news in moderation and that made a big difference because it can almost make you paranoid listening to too much of it.
I found accepting the phrase that ‘It’s okay not to be okay!’ really helpful because I had always beaten myself up about not feeling ok in the past. During lockdown I’ve made more of an effort to go with the bad feeling rather than to fight against it and that seems to help too.
I find it beneficial when people say,’ How are you?’ (Especially when you’ve been perpetually depressed) I would often respond with a negative reply or more likely say I was ok when I wasn’t really. Now I try to say ‘I’ve been feeling up and down.’ This reduces the habit and power of the need to respond negatively. Now when I’m feeling rubbish I tell myself that it’s not going to last or I’m not as bad as I was yesterday. Tomorrow’s a new day and a new start…
Another thing I found since having the counselling was setting boundaries. That made a massive difference to me. I felt I was more in control of my needs and I had a better balance in my life. I did have to get over a lot of guilt but I kept remembering why I had to set the boundaries in the first place. Learning to say ‘No’ when you’ve got too much on your plate is liberating. It’s also very difficult because it opens the door to judgement but you’ve just got to deal with that.
I also noticed how looking for the positives in other people helped as well instead of focussing on their negatives.
Opening up to my family about my mental health is ‘a weight off my shoulders’ (although I haven’t gone into any great detail). It’s been a relief – I know that I’ve been judged, I think unfairly sometimes, by people who don’t understand my perspective or mental health in general.
Something I was told in counselling was to treat myself as I would my best friend, which I found strange at first but I think that just going easier on myself, not beating myself up so much when I don’t feel well really helped. Finding things to do that are just for me is beneficial to my wellbeing.
I think telling myself not to react to other people and situations too emotionally has helped as well.
One thing I really find hard is asking for help or asking people for help when I’m not ok, I tend to say, ‘oh I’m ok.’ and that’s not necessarily good for me so I need to work on that.
I think I’ve been communicating in a more assertive way and I’m still working on that too. I’ve been selective over what I’ve been watching on the television as well. I pulled away from it quite a bit in lockdown and I’ve been reading more.
I made a concerted effort as well to look for upbeat and inspiring news, jokes and photos to keep people’s spirits up and I enjoyed doing that as well. It’s important to tell ourselves it’s not the end of the world when things don’t work out. Bad things happen to everyone and we’ve just got to get on with life. It helps to say ‘It is what it is’ that sort of thing wherever possible but I also know how hard it is to accept that.
I suppose not taking life too seriously all the time and trying to look for the humour in everyday situations as well helps. I think humour helps massively - watching comedies and things like that and avoiding the depressing and violent stuff worked better for me.
I suddenly found I could make sense and see the point of positive affirmations – I did a bit of self-reflection on those too. Whether that helped because I was in a better place anyway I don’t know? (I’ve looked at them before when I was feeling down and they just didn’t resonate with me).
Basically just thinking ‘what am I doing to help my wellbeing?’ and ‘What can I improve on?’, ‘What can I learn about or change?’ so that I can be a better version of myself really. I want to be in a position to help others without feeling drained by anxiety.
I think all the attention to nature definitely helped as well. That’s been really beneficial. I’ve really honed in on that. I love plants and animals, and watching programs about wildlife and farming. In the past I couldn’t even remember what I had enjoyed doing. I’m getting back into gardening now. I’m looking forward to the Barn transformation project. I’ve already enjoyed the couple of sessions we’ve had so far where we are constructing a wildlife pond at Dutch Farm.
Feeling better and coping is due to a combination of things I suppose.
If you'd like to tell us what has helped you to cope though the lockdowns, please let us know in the comments.