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Understanding the psychological response to lockdown

The first lockdown was accompanied by feelings of fear and uncertainty for many, not just over the future but for the safety of ourselves and our loved ones. “There was a real sense of danger and threat,” says Philippa, “it triggered the old part of our brain that is responsible for keeping us safe. And it triggered us to feel fear. And that’s normal — that’s its job.”

Adhering to lockdown rules provided the control and safety many of us were craving at that time. There was also a greater sense of collective effort during this initial period. Our impulse is to follow group behaviour as a means of staying safe from threat.

Over time, our brains have become desensitised to the threat of COVID and the ‘novelty’ of lockdown has worn off. Without fear as a primal motivator, many of us have been left feeling drained and demotivated. The collective effort has also weakened, leaving a fragmented group in its wake.

“There have been really big changes in our brain chemistry and it’s continuing to change — our brain chemicals are all over the place,” says Philippa. “My main advice is to be kind to yourselves and be kind to each other. Stick with your wellbeing behaviours and be realistic about what’s possible. Allow yourself to be hopeful.”

Coping with parental guilt

Trying to juggle learning how to work and homeschool can add more pressure and responsibility during a time which is already stressful enough. Lucy recommends trying to be realistic and compassionate with yourself regarding what’s achievable on a daily basis.

The best way to cope with guilt around being working parents during a pandemic is to remember how resilient children are. Release unhelpful thinking patterns around guilt by recognising that everyone is simply doing the best they can.

You can also connect with your child’s school and share your concerns with them, particularly if you feel you need more support in terms of home schooling or daily structures.

“One of the techniques we’ve used at home with our children is to almost compartmentalise when we do talk about the things that are worrying us and challenging us,” says Lucy. “So, for my son who’s eight, we talk about what’s in our worry jar each morning. Then we can put the lid on it and look forward to a more positive day.”