November 5th marks the day that we, here in England, start a four-week long 'Lockdown'. Again, bars, restaurants and leisure facilities have been ordered to close as well as 'non essential' retail outlets.
On the face of it, this lockdown seems less serious than the first one.
Originally, when the Prime Minister, on March 23rd, told the nation to stay at home and only leave to buy essential food items. We were all told not to meet up with friends or even family members that didn't live in the same house. We could only get exercise once per day. Daily briefings telling us about hundreds of new deaths and how the NHS risked being overrun as more and more cases were confirmed. Only those classed as 'essential workers' were allowed to go to work and children could not go to school. Everyone faced massive uncertainty and a level of fear.
However, this time around, schools, colleges and universities are to remain open and there appears to be less strict rules on whether a person could or should go to their workplace. It's not only 'essential workers' that can keep going to work. Construction sites, for example, are allowed to carry on as normal. Guidance states that you should work from home 'if you can'. It is possible to meet up with other people as long as they are in your 'support bubble' and it is still possible to order takeaways. Plus, at this time, it's only for four weeks, not nearly 4 months.
So this time it will be easy, right?
Here's the problem.....
For many people, knowing what to expect in terms of anxiety and stress levels makes it WORSE, not better. For those that suffer like this, just worrying about the onslaught of increased levels of stress in the next few weeks is bad enough before the actual stress itself hits for real. People get stressed at the fact they are going to be stressed. People will panic at the thought they are going to have a panic attack. Having advanced notice doesn't necessarily help avoid it, but instead can feed it.
When people were cut off from support networks and human contact first time around it was such a new and strange situation. It took time to come to terms with and then it started to impact people as everyone realised what a difference it makes to have those regular interactions taken away.
Even though the measures this time don't appear as strict, there is still that awareness of what can happen, so, again, having that information can be a negative, not a positive.
Not everyone can say "it's ok. I survived the first one so I'll survive this one".
There are thousands of people that are saying "I barely survived the first one and I'm not sure I have the resilience or mental strength to do it again".
Think of it this way -
Take a hypothetical person. At the start of this year, let's say their resilience or mental health was good. Let's say it was a strong 9/10.
Then the first lockdown is announced. This person's resilience and mental wellbeing starts to take a hit over the days and weeks as the reality really kicks in. By the time the lockdown starts to ease they may consider their level to have been knocked down to 6/10. But it's ok because things are slowly returning to normal and they can build it back up. Important areas of their life are restored and they creep up to 7/10.
But then talk of 'second waves' start to appear. Fears that we could be heading for more deaths than before and the possibility of a new lockdown. This person fights to maintain their resilience and mental health at 7/10. Hopefully, it won't happen.
But then the new Lockdown is announced. Our hero is entering these new restrictions from a weakened position. He isn't starting from a healthy 9/10. He's been struggling just to maintain his 7/10. It's like he's been hit again before fully recovering from the first assault. He may have been braced for the first attack but he's barely had time to catch his breath this time around. Just knowing that he has at least four weeks of those terrible things that were so hard to deal with first time can knock him to 6/10 before he starts.
It is no consolation that the new rules are less strict. If a person's resilience and mental health are compromised, everything is harder. Every day is difficult.
And on top of all that, there is no real idea when all this madness will be over. Will life ever get back to how we remember it?
Vast swathes of the population have been affected in unimaginable ways since the virus took hold. If you are one of those then please try not to neglect your mental health. Don't ignore the signs. Don't suffer in silence. Talk to someone. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Also, keep an eye on people you know. Being there for them could benefit you too.
If you are struggling with any part of your life, click here for some numbers and organisations that may be useful for you.