05 March 2021

Although the gradual reduction in rates of coronavirus and the rollout of the COVID vaccine brings us hope, we are still living under lockdown measures. The Government has outlined its approach to easing the restrictions but this is still quite a way off and it is going to take time.  It is becoming harder. We are impatient. But we have come so far and we must still stay indoors alone or in our bubble unless getting essential supplies, medicine, helping someone vulnerable or getting exercise with one other person. But it is having an the impact of our wellbeing.

Monton Jienpetivate, Associate Clinical Director for Primary Care Psychological Therapies at East London NHS Foundation Trust, understands how hard it is for many people. He said "This has been an incredibly long time for us to have stayed away from others and not be able to freely move around and carry out the activities we usually would. Some of us will have found a way to get on with life. For others, it is getting harder and harder, and the strategies we rely on to cope may not be working so well anymore. It is hard not to lose heart.”

ELFT’s Talking Therapy/Wellbeing Service sets out some ideas that can help you through the final few weeks/months of the pandemic. 

Try and stay with your routine - when you are on leave from work, furloughed or socially isolating, it is easy to become nocturnal or go to bed late and sleep late. Routine plays an important part in our wellbeing. We do better with repeat cycles and activities so try to stay with your usual meal time and sleep time routines. Schedule in pleasureable activities, no matter how small and try to stick to it. Achieving it will make you feel better.

Don't watch the news all day - decide to look at one of the news programmes. The 6.00pm edition usually has all information gathered throughout the day.

Watch out for fake news – ELFT’s Talking Therapies service stress the importance of checking the source of the information you are reading. There are websites such as Fact Check that can help: https://factcheck.afp.com/

Agree a limit to discussion/conversation about the pandemic - It's easy for this to be the focus of all your conversations online, on the phone and in person. This will 'feed' your sense of helplessness about what is going on. So try and get a balance and agree a limit with family and friends so you can talk about other things. Or be the person who changes the subject. 

Eat well and make meals an event - Eat at regular times and plan your meals so that you don't get hungry and end up snacking or sending out for a delivery. Make your meals an event. Take care in preparing them, set the table and ask family members and housemates to eat together. Make it social and an opportunity to listen to how everyone is getting on.  

Try and stay occupied - writing a journal about how you feel right now can be interesting. Plot things you want to do when the restrictions ease. Think about little jobs around the house that could do with your attention now and do them. Many won't take long and the satisfaction will stay with you all day. Everyone has a drawer that has everything stuffed in and could do with a clear out. How good will that feel. Go through your wardrobe and select clothes for the charity shop that you haven't worn in the last two years - you're not going to wear it again, are you! Go mad and get the paint brush out - DIY shops are open even in lockdown! 

Listen to music or radio - Those bubbly radio presenters can lift our mood and make us feel like part of a community of listeners. Talk shows can be stimulating and you might feel the urge to call in yourself. Or just hum along or, if no one at home or even if they are, dance around the kitchen a bit! 

Exercise - Yes, it's the one thing we can all do. You can undertake exercise with one other person from outside your household. And with the weather improving, plan a series of walks/strolls/jogs in different parks and open land where you live and make it a social event by catching up with a friend. If no one is around, walk on your own and talk to all the dogs you see. They may not talk back but their owners will. Most love talking about their pets! 

Get support if you need to – it has been a long haul. If you feel that you haven't been coping for a while and recognise that you have reached a point where it would be good to get help, ELFT’s Talking Therapies Services can help. (See below) They have webinars, pre-recorded sessions, online group therapy and one-to-one therapy which can help you to address whatever is holding you back or making you feel unhappy. 

The pandemic and lockdown restrictions have made many of us reflect on our lives, think about what's important, question if we are where we want to be in our lives and consider what is in the way of us being in a better place. If this is you, start a plan to get the support and the tools you need to take the first step. If there are psychological barriers or issues stopping you making key changes that you want to make, our talking therapies services can help: 

Newham Talking Therapies
Bedfordshire Wellbeing Service
Tower Hamlets Talking Therapies
Richmond Talking Therapies 

Most of us will find inner resources to get through this especially as there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But if you feel things have become more difficult for you and that you are moving towards a serious mental health crisis situation, then contact the 24 hour Mental Health Crisis Line for the area where you live  

The Samaritans helpline and Samaritans online support can also help you to talk through how you are feeling: https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/ 

But remember, we are nearly there - we have come so far. The reducing infection rate tells us that we have played our part so … just a little while longer.  Hand, face, space - stay safe.

Photograph: Black male in casual clothes on a laptop computer sitting on a large beanbag