girl wearing mask during covid

Reflecting on the Covid-19 Lockdown and Impact on Mental Health & Motivation Post-Lockdown

A Psychologist’s Perspective: The Impact of COVID-19 on Motivation and Mood

In this blog, we explore the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on mental health. It makes so much more sense whilst reflecting on each of the lockdowns and why these lockdowns felt harder each, and every, lockdown. I remember thinking to myself, now with lockdown number six extended, here we go…. having to absorb more covid trauma. With each lockdown, stress from the trauma builds up within the body and the nervous system, and if we did not find effective ways to release it, it can really result in all sorts of emotional and physical responses within our body due to the prolonged periods. I refer to this as the constant activation of the fight, flight, and freeze response within our nervous system. I also explore why it is important upon reflection to find our own ways to release this kept-up tension that was so often activated. This can be something to also translate into life when ongoing stress is present, and we find that we are on a constant roller-coaster of chaos – i.e., burnout material right here.

Thinking back, we noticed as the lockdowns tracked along, the more evident that our mood, energy levels, motivation, hope, interest in usual activities, increased feelings of frustration and anger and thoughts including “what is the point” …started to heighten. In highly stressful times, and prolonged periods of experiencing this level of intense stress, we undoubtedly need strategies in place. 

Why did the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on mental health get worse over time? 

To go through this in detail, have incorporated the polyvagal theory to make sense of this, including the fight, flight, and freeze response within your nervous system. To reverse the impact, we need to activate the autonomic nervous system in an attempt to help re-pattern the nervous systems, build capacities for regulation, and create autonomic pathways of safety and connection. This makes so much sense to me and I have found that clients have found the below strategies helpful.

What are strategies to regulate and discharge stress during the COVID-19 lockdown to improve mental health?

Here is a list of suggestions. You no doubt have been doing some of these already to cope. I recommend printing them out and ticking off a few each day to help discharge the stress fully. This way you can emerge from this traumatic period unscathed and healthy.

What are some strategies when noticing feelings of Anger or Blame?

This can be defined as your Fight response: 

  • Boxing bag/Sparing
  • Hitting into a mattress
  • Weights/Resistance training
  • Gym
  • Using straps, and bands at home
  • Treadmill on incline
  • Stationary bike on strong resistance
  • Martial arts/Tai Chi
  • Playful Wrestling
  • Pillow Fights
  • Competitive sport
  • Tantrum kicking laying down on a mat/bed 

What are some strategies when noticing feelings of Fear?

This can be defined as your Flight response (fear/escape):

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Running
  • Sprints
  • Rebounder trampoline
  • Up and down stairs
  • Swimming
  • Push Bike
  • Exercise Bike
  • Start jumps 

What are some strategies when noticing feelings of Depression or Low Mood?

This can be defined as your Freeze response (depression/hiding):

  • Meditation
  • Bubble Bath
  • Long shower
  • Call a friend or family member for a chat 
  • Spend time with your animals 
  • Hugs/cuddles
  • Massage
  • Play
  • Games
  • Art/Drawing/Painting
  • Stretches
  • Yoga  
  • Singing 
  • Dancing alone/partner
  • Play Music
  • Reading/Listening to Books
  • Listen to a Podcast 
  • Gardening
  • Journaling
  • Being in nature
  • Sitting in the sunshine

Ticking off a few of these each day will help calm your nervous system greatly!

It’s great to have this list where you can see it each day because stress and trauma affect your memory, and you can easily forget to do them.

<strong>Written by Psychologist Emily Burton at Positive Wellbeing Psychology</strong>
Written by Psychologist Emily Burton at Positive Wellbeing Psychology

Emily’s clients have described her as warm and genuine in her approach and often describe feelings of comfort and trust very early on in therapy. Emily’s bubbly and friendly nature tends to establish a warm and genuine professional relationship that fosters trust and comfort for her clients, which she believes is paramount in order to achieve successful therapy.

Emily has a special interest in working with her clients to achieve their career aspirations, improve their relationships, and to better manage difficult family dynamics. Emily is experienced in the management of anxiety, depression, low self-worth, stress and burnout, work addiction, loss of direction in life, goal setting, perfectionism, low self-esteem, adjustment to life changes, Adult ADHD, poor body image and binge eating disorder.

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