How to Fight Lockdown Fatigue
As I write this, the sun has appeared for the first time in days, lifting my mood. However, this most recent lockdown in the UK over the winter months has been tough on our mental wellbeing. Huge numbers of people are reporting an increase in lockdown fatigue, stress and anxiety. In this blog, we will look at why the lockdown has been tough on our mental health and what we can do to help ourselves through periods of stress and anxiety.
What’s Causing Lockdown Fatigue?
After the first lockdown in 2020, which occurred during some blissfully sunny weather, many people – myself included – commented on how much tougher it would have been over the winter months. And we were right. Stuck in the house for long periods of time, combined with short daylight hours and isolation from our friends and family, this most recent lockdown was much tougher.
Many of us have felt the impact of these factors on our minds and bodies, so let’s look at why in more detail.
Dark Days and Low Mood
It is now well known that a lack of sunlight through the winter months can lead to low mood and depression. This is referred to as SAD, which stands for seasonal affective disorder. Many people struggle with this every year, and this year has been even harder due to our increased isolation and stress.
January and February are always difficult months – we have shortened daylight hours, cold and/ or wet weather, which means that we spend a lot more time indoors. While usually, we would be indoors with our friends or extended family, visiting people or going out for meals, none of this was allowed. This has meant that none of the things we usually do to help us feel better during these darker months were available to us. Is it any wonder many of us have felt the lockdown blues?
Being Apart From Our Tribe
As well as our extended family, this pandemic has isolated us from our friends. Friends are our chosen tribe – the people we want to spend time with. Spending time with our tribe is valuable to our mental well-being. Every time we socialise with people we like, our brain produces ‘happy chemicals’ which make us feel good. If we cannot socialise, we lack this input, which can make us feel lonely and sad.
Feeling Stressed Out and Anxious
This last year has been extremely unpredictable – and predictability is something our brain craves! When life changes, and we do not know what is happening, we start to feel very unsettled. While this is normal, it increases our feelings of being anxious and stressed out.
On top of this, many have been worried about jobs and, therefore, money. This is before homeschooling and worrying about our children has been added to the mix!
So, what can we do to stop feeling overstressed? We’re all looking forward to the world opening up again. With summer on the way and restrictions slowly being lifted, there’s light ahead. Undoubtedly being able to reconnect with our tribe (face to face!), getting out and taking advantage of longer days will benefit many people.
But there are also other things you can do which could be helpful. The strategies outlined below could be helpful for those suffering from stress or anxiety, even outside of lockdown.
Self Help For Lockdown Fatigue & Stress
- Be Kind to Yourself
If you are feeling the effects of lockdown fatigue, are stressed out or having sleep issues, the first thing to do is to be kind to yourself! In the paragraphs above, I have laid out the reasons why people may be struggling right now, and that is before any other issues have been considered. So, give yourself a break. Do not beat yourself up. This self-kindness is important. Feeling bad about feeling bad – well, it makes you feel worse! Giving yourself a little bit of love and understanding is helpful.
- Come into the Light
This will be particularly important if you usually suffer from SAD. Get outside, take advantage of the longer days, and expose yourself to the daylight as often as possible. Sitting near a window will also be helpful. For those who really struggle, a lightbox, which emits UV light, can also be helpful.
- Keep Active
The Government wants us to get outside, and even at the height of lockdown we were allowed out for exercise, so if that is possible, do it. There will hopefully be the double benefit of getting some daylight onto your skin as well. But, whether indoors or out, engaging with something which gets you moving and active for half an hour a day has many proven mental health benefits.
- Stay Connected
A lockdown during poor weather really disconnected us, with many people feeling that they had nothing to say to each other. As things ease off, it is really important to keep reaching out to our tribe. Drop regular text messages, memes, jokes and maybe even (horror of horrors) give someone a call! All this, and of course meeting up with our friends outdoors, maybe even in a pub beer garden, will help us feel reconnected, and give us a little shot of feel-good serotonin.
- Consider Supportive Supplements
There are also some supplements that could help to provide a little extra support.
- B Vitamins: B vitamins such as B12, B5 and B6 all help to support the nervous system, and topping up can help to provide that little extra support in times of need. The added bonus here is that these same B vitamins also help with healthy energy production and reduce feelings of tiredness and fatigue.
- Magnesium: A well-known mineral, magnesium also supports the nervous system and energy production, as well as helping to ensure healthy muscle function. It is thought that many people could be low in magnesium.
- Get some bacteria: I do not mean you should stop washing your hands or start licking unclean surfaces! This refers to the now well-established link between your microbiome and your brain (known as the gut-brain axis).
These tips should not only help you fight lockdown fatigue, but are useful to remember whenever you’re feeling stressed out or anxious.
Written by Jenny Logan DNMed. (Jenny is a Nutritional Therapist who has worked with clients in health foods stores and private clinics for over 20 years, and is Product Development & Training Manager for Natures Aid)