by Jessica Smythe, MSc Investigative Forensic Psychology

While I have written this blog post to help you survive lockdown, it can also be used as a ‘tool kit’ to use when you experience any anxiety, stress and uncertainty to help reduce unwanted feelings.

So, if you are currently feeling anxious or in a weird funk as a result of lockdown/COVID-19, then just know that this is completely normal and there are plenty of people who are feeling the same way, you are not alone. Side note, if you are feeling positive about this situation, maybe you are using it to do all the things you never had time to do, then these feelings are also valid and there are also other people feeling the same way. whatever you are feeling, feel it, accept it, validate it without judgement. It is completely normal for you to feel this way.

So, what can you do to alter your mood? Firstly, don’t feed into your negative feelings as you will feel worse. We need to get the sweet balance of  acknowledging our feeling without judgement while being proactive to make us feel better. Further suggestions of how to do this are:

Take time, each day off of your phone: Maybe when you wake up in the morning, don’t go on your phone for an hour. This will give you time to wake up and have mental space without any connection to the outside world. What is there now, will still be there in an hour. You are not missing out on anything by doing this. You could also take and hour off of your phone before bed. This will help calm your mind and gather your thoughts.

Have a routine: Personally, I like to start my day by getting up, having a coffee, then a shower and getting dressed followed by breakfast. Try to avoid staying in pajamas all day, even if you only get changed into lounge wear, you will feel much better, trust me! Plan your day the night before. Have a think about what you want to accomplish when you wake up. This could include chores, activities, exercise, speaking to friends or family, anything that works for you, do it and build it into a daily routine. This is a way of bringing back control in a time where we don’t have much control.

Go to bed at a reasonable time: If you have found yourself going to bed at 2am and waking up midday (no judgement I have been there) then maybe consider working on this. If you are happy with this sleep pattern then that is fine, do whatever makes you feel good during this time. But keep in mind that there are lots of side effects of not having a good sleep routine which could be contributing to your mood. If you are unsure on how to tackle a bad sleep pattern, start with the following suggestion;

  1. Set an alarm to wake up early and don’t press snooze!
  2. Completely tire yourself out through the day; read, exercise, bake, clean, chat to people in your house, play games, do daily routine, hold a virtual dance party
  3. Wind down in the evening; don’t go on your phone, don’t do anything that engages your brain, read a book, don’t go on anything too bright like a laptop
  4. Go to bed at a reasonable time
  5. Repeat the next day and make this a routine

Don’t use too much time reading about the pandemic: Keeping up with the news is good as it connects us to the outside world and means we aren’t avoiding the problem and burying our heads. However, limit your exposure to the news updates to something more manageable for you. It is also important that you use reliable sources. Many news outlets are bias and scaremonger. This could enhance out stress so stick to sources such as the government and NHS website.

Rationalise/counterbalance your thoughts: ‘I am going to catch COVID-19’ could be classed as an irrational thought. You could rationalise this by identifying that the government have put in place restrictions (i.e. social distancing and lockdown) meaning the likelihood of catching COVID-19 is much lower. Your thought process could then be rationalised to ‘If I follow the suggestions from the government, I will be safe’.

Reach out to your support system, people you trust- sometimes you just need to talk your thoughts through

Engage the parasympathetic nervous system through the following ways

  1. Breathing exercises
  2. Yoga
  3. Walk in nature
  4. Stroke an animal
  5. Get creative

For those who are unsure about the parasympathetic nervous system, do not worry, you are not the only one. You may have heard of The Fight or Flight Response. This is the sympathetic nervous system acts as an evolutionary survival mechanism to keep us away from danger such as a lion approaching us. It works by releasing stress hormones causing physiological changes including sweating and an increased heart rate. Whilst our society has adapted, meaning we are unlikely to be approached by dangerous animals, our nervous system has not, meaning that our body can have the same physiological response to situations we believe are threatening, such as the current pandemic. So, this would explain why you may be feeling anxious/worried. It is your body trying to protect you in a roundabout way. However, having these stress hormones pumping around our bodies is not good for us. It can impair our memory (McGaugh & Roozendaal, 2002) and the immune system (Marketon & Glaser, 2008) among other things.

This is why we need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. While the sympathetic nervous system acts as the accelerator on the car, always on the ready to speed us off away from danger making us feel on edge, the parasympathetic nervous system is the breaks on a car;  slowing us down, grounding ourselves and reducing the stress hormones, thus creating calm through the body and mind (Canyon Vista Recovery Center, 2020). Medical research has found that engaging the parasympathetic nervous system through stimulation can help to control neurological, psychiatric and other medical disorders demonstrating the strength this system has on our wellbeing.

To conclude, you are not alone, you have options to ease your mood and never forget, STARS helpline is always there. We will get through this because we are resilient and strong.


Ben-David, T., Ben-Ezra, O., & Cohen, E. (2011). U.S. Patent No. 7,908,008. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Marketon, J. I. W., & Glaser, R. (2008). Stress hormones and immune function. Cellular immunology252(1-2), 16-26.

McGaugh, J. L., & Roozendaal, B. (2002). Role of adrenal stress hormones in forming lasting memories in the brain. Current opinion in neurobiology12(2), 205-210.

Canyon Vista Recovery Center. (2020) Retrieved April 13, 2020, from