Noun: The emotional ups and downs of lockdown. One minute you’re baking banana bread, and loving the simple life, the next you’re weeping and missing people you used to actively avoid down the pub.
Cast your mind back to four months ago, when lockdown was brand spanking new and we all said things like “it’ll be over by summer”. The first month was a whirlwind of Houseparty (remember that?), banana bread, and drinking gin at 3PM just because we could. That was the first coronacoaster high. You know, right at the start of a ride when it starts to build, you get to the top of a loop and look around, thinking the worst is over, taking in the view and getting ready for a gentle decline back to ground.
But the coronacoaster was a trickster, it fooled us all into thinking the high was actually the low, and that it was much shorter – instead, we’ve had endless loops, highs, and crashing lows. And the worst part is that we’re still very much on the ride – some people are preparing to get off, but there’s a dark tunnel ahead that no one’s sure if it holds some light at the end, or another twist and turn.
It’s understandable that we’ve gone through emotional highs and lows, for those of us lucky enough to not have been affected personally by COVID-19, lockdown has felt like a blessing and a curse. And hour to hour, our opinion on which it is can change.
At the start, I was excited for a break. I imagined setting up a cute office space in my living room, doing yoga in the morning, and working my way through the Ottolenghi cookbooks. Oh, how naive I was. There’s been the odd day like this, where lockdown has given space for a more wholesome life; less endless rushing around, less double booking, and trying to squeeze in a social life around long hours in the office and laundry. But, for the most part, life has been felt busier, I’d underestimated how mentally full my brain would be.
Most of us have never lived through a pandemic, there’s no cheat sheet or advice books to tell us how to cope – there was no precedent. The honeymoon period of lockdown ended in April, and my brain turned into fizz – I was like a shaken-up bottle of Coca-Cola, with a mint popped in so that the lid catapults off. Now, I’m riding the sweet sweet plateau of the coronacoaster. Some of my friends and family are in seats ahead, traveling at an incline, enjoying pubs reopening, and gradually going back to the office. Whereas I’m just about getting to grips with the last stage, and settling into socially distanced walks.
According to psychologist Dr. Andy Cope, there have been five emotional stages of lockdown. Data from Simba’s sleep and mood tracking app has plotted the peaks and troughs: The digestion phase, the fleeting high phase, the honeymoon is over phase, the reality hits phase, and the emotional plateau phase.
The Recovery Centre, reported that many people are experiencing one or more of the ‘fight, flight, freeze or flop’ threat responses acutely at the moment. Lucinda Gordon Lennox, a therapist with TRC Group, said: “With mixed messages about what is allowed and a divergence in guidelines between different countries, professions, age groups and risk categories, many people feel confused and uncertain about what to do. There is a pressure to make the right choices, but after many weeks of stress during lockdown, our ability to make reasoned choices has been compromised.”
As we enter this new phase of lockdown life, with a gradual easing, it’s important to remember that while we’re all on this giant ride together, everyone’s going to go at a different pace. And that’s okay. It’s okay to have bad days, it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to do what feels right for you.
In the words of Ronan Keating: Life is a rollercoaster, just gotta ride it.