Lockdowns put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 are being slowly lifted in different parts of the world, but while rules may be relaxing where you live, you might find yourself still at risk. Your local health authority may continue to ask the vulnerable—including the elderly or those with a medical condition that puts them at risk from COVID-19—to continue to remain in self-isolation until the danger has passed.
How do you manage when everyone around you starts to return to a more normal life? Here are some suggestions for keeping your chin up if your lockdown looks longer than that of everyone else:
Make an extra effort to connect. If suddenly a lot of the people you were sharing your lockdown experience with are going back to work, school, or some semblance of normal life, you may have to reach out to remind them that you’re still restricted. Ask to keep up regular video chats, phone calls, or other ways of communicating that you had in place while on lockdown. It might also help to find others who are in the same boat as you.
Communicate with your manager and colleagues. Make sure you’re being kept in the loop via your workplace messaging system and email as well as being included via video calls. It may help to have someone be your “cheerleader” in the office to make sure you’re not left out of conversations or updates. They can also keep you posted on any developments you need to be aware of.
Talk to your network and ask for extra help. If you are experiencing any feelings of isolation, sadness, or disappointment, it may be beneficial to talk about with close friends and family. You may also need help with practical matters like picking up groceries or medication, and those people may have more flexibility to give you a hand.
Limit your time on social media. When those around you slowly return to normal life, watching them begin to post and share images as they spend their time with loved ones and experience simple pleasures that are still off limits for you may be especially difficult. The best way to avoid exacerbating feelings of jealousy or sadness is to switch off. You can add time limits to some apps or websites across your devices to remind you close those apps, or try to substitute social media time with another activity like reading.
Continue to exercise if safe and legal for you to do so. Depending on your local guidelines and restrictions, it is important for your physical and mental wellbeing to continue to exercise outdoors by going for walks, runs, or bike rides. Not only do these activities keep your fitness up, they’re all great ways to clear your head. If the streets are a little busier because more people are out and about, pick a quieter time of day.
Try to cope in a healthy manner. In addition to exercising, try to heat healthfully, get enough sleep, and be aware of your use of substances such as alcohol. If you are struggling with substance use in isolation, contact your assistance program to speak to a counsellor.
It’s OK to be OK. You might be one of the people who has coped well during the lockdown—or even thrived in it—so you might not necessarily be sad to continue staying at home. However, you might also find yourself feeling good one day and a little down the next. Remember that your feelings are all valid, even if others expect you to be struggling.
Remember that it’s not forever. “This too shall pass” has been a popular phrase throughout the pandemic. It may be helpful to remind yourself that even if it’s uncomfortable or boring, ultimately the restrictions you’re living under are meant to protect your health and safety.
If you are still struggling, seek professional help. For some people, long stretches of isolation create untenable levels of loneliness or even depression. If you’re struggling to stay positive, particularly when restrictions relax and as the sense that “everyone’s in this together” no longer seems to apply, contact your assistance program or GP to discuss counselling options.