With six more months of Covid restrictions, the coronavirus pandemic can seem unsettling and never-ending, but there are ways to cope during this trying period.
The news of further measures will have had a negative impact on many people in the UK, but there plenty of ways to stay positive and approach this period with a sense of optimism and calm.
Here are 10 top tips to guide you through this next stage in the pandemic.
As more people are told to work from home, it's important to keep a boundary between the space you work and the space your relax, consultant psychologist Honey Langcaster-James explains, that way the people you live with know when you’re in work mode and can’t be disturbed.
“One of the problems with working from home is that it can be difficult to switch off, the boundaries become blurred, and you can end up working longer days than you did before,” Honey added.
Ensure you divide up your space and have a dedicated space where you relax, to prevent you working from longer days.
If your job involves coming up with new ideas or solving problems, studies have shown you can be more productive and creative outdoors.
Sit outside if you have an outdoor space – it’s good to vary where you work – or if you have a daily team meeting call or a call with a client then try using headphones and walk around the local park – you may find you’re even more creative and productive than you would be indoors.
Build time into your day to get outside, even as the weather changes, it’s important that we all have outdoor time, natural daylight and physical activity.
Come to terms with the new normal
The first time we went into lockdown it was a shock, Honey explains, but this time we know what to expect.
“One of the reasons of laying out the rules for a six-month period, is that it can be more helpful than it constantly changing, it gives you an opportunity to plan ahead and settle into a new routine, and the new normal.”
Hannah Rettie, psychologist at University of Bath, explains that acceptance is associated with better mental health.
“Acceptance isn’t about giving up or being defeated, it's more about a willingness to experience a situation as it is, and be ok with the uncertainty of the situation,” Hannah explains.
“We don’t know how long this is going to last for, it could be up to six months and there are going be days when you’re going to feel anxious and you’re going to feel upset.
“It’s ok to not be ok, try to be kind to yourself on those difficult days.”
Make sure you have social support
Build a supportive community around you, and schedule in regular calls with your family and friends, as social support can help in stressful circumstances.
Even if we enter a second lockdown, there are ways to stay connected and communicate virtually with other people.
Honey explains: “The first lockdown the infrastructure wasn’t there, but now I think a lot of organisations have better set ups to work remotely and put online events and I would encourage people to make use of those.
“There’s no reason why working from home or a second lockdown should leave you feeling isolated.”
Put time in your diary to meet up with friends or colleagues, be that in person or a video call, it’s important to have things to look forward to.
Reframe the situation
Try to find the hidden benefits in the current situation – do not think of it as a six-month period or working from home for a long time - instead think about the winter commute you won’t have to endure.
“There are people who hate getting up in the dark, to make a long commute to work, maybe this winter will be even better as you can get up with the daylight, and work from home,” Honey says.
“It’s looking to those potential hidden benefits, to reframe the problem as a potential opportunity, to live and work in a more flexible way.”
Focus on the present
There is a lot of uncertainty during this time so try to focus on what you can control, Hannah says.
We’re unable to control how long the coronavirus pandemic will last for, but you can focus on the small things that will make your day a little better.
Be that listening to your favourite song, calling a loved one or going for a walk – focus on the present moment and what you can control.
Keep some sense of routine
It’s normal for people who might have felt motivated at the start of the pandemic to lose some of their momentum at the six-month point.
Thinking about the next six months, it’s important to keep some sense of routine and structure in your life, Hannah explains.
“Even when things are changing, try to set yourself a challenge everyday to do something that you enjoy and something that gives you a sense of achievement.
"Even if it is washing that pile of laundry, its setting yourself those small goals and challenges to keep yourself ticking.”
Manage anxiety by managing the information you consume
Reduce anxiety by managing the amount of information you read and consume.
Think about the information that you’re listening to or reading – where is it from? Do you feel anxious or low when consuming it? Is it helping?
“Try to limit the amount of information you read, or the sources that it comes from, maybe stick to a government website, try to give yourself some screen free time, there’s lots going on social media at the moment, some is helpful, but if you're finding it unhelpful, just try and take a step back from that, at least for a few hours a day,” Hannah says.
Seek help if you need it
Seeking appropriate levels of support can be beneficial for your mental health, if things are feeling really difficult for you, it’s important not to struggle alone.
There is help readily available through the NHS, whether that’s face to face contact, over the phone or online – seek help if you need it.
How to cope if you can’t meet people indoors
Use the strategies during lockdown to connect to people – perhaps time to reboot Zoom and dust off that quizmaster hat.
It’s important to keep up the connection with people, either online, through the phone or maybe even send a letter or gift to someone to let them know you care about them.