During the pandemic not everyone has reacted to the impositions of lockdown in the same way. Some have even found it beneficial. For many people, however, it has led to them suffering serious harm to their physical and mental health. Increases in anxiety, depression and compulsive disorders have been widely registered across the world. Instances of domestic abuse have also risen in number.
Maladaptive forms of coping have one thing in common. They promise a quick change in mood. So, one person, perhaps feeling hemmed in by lockdown, may have turned to alcohol for its disinhibiting properties while another may have been drawn to the hyper-stimulation offered by cocaine or amphetamines. Another, burdened by the boredom of a now-limited daily routine, may have turned to gambling for excitement. Yet others may have sought an emotional boost from online shopping or pornography. The more reliant a person has become on these sources of relief, comfort, reward, arousal, and escape, the greater the risk of deepening problems over the longer term once lockdown has eased.
It would be wrong to assume that the easing of lockdown would be experienced universally as beneficial.There is a risk that some unhealthy coping behaviours, adopted under lockdown or exacerbated during that period, will worsen in many people as restraint is eased. Any significant change, such as a step into the unknown, is stressful. Not everyone who has developed problems during lockdown will experience an easy self correction and return to less harmful ways of living once the shackles come off. This is partly because a significant amount of time has passed since pre-COVID normality and poor health habits and coping strategies may well have become ingrained during lockdown.
The prisoner who finds it hard to make his or her way in the world once freed has some relevance to the easing of the pandemic lockdown and its predictably repetitive routines. How will people cope with reacquired freedoms, where they can act on impulse, behave more freely and indulge the restored ability to choose? How will other people behave?
Having been deprived of meaningful social contact beyond home for so long, some will feel socially de-skilled and therefore fearful of venturing out. Some may rebound into wild hedonism, making up for lost time. Normality will be continually redefined especially in the early phase of lockdown easing. For many people, still oriented to old assumptions, adjustment will be a source of anxiety as they grapple with uncertainty about the world as it is now. They may then reach reflexively for the familiar effects of mood-altering substances, like alcohol or cannabis or other behaviours with an inherent risk of addiction, like gambling or compulsive viewing of pornography. Problems with eating and food or obsessive exercise may also intensify.
Major transitions in life often have a significant impact. A number of people, unsettled in some way by going into lockdown or by its easing, may benefit from a managed transition to the “new normal”. The security and care to be found in a fully serviced facility, especially one that offers a good range of therapeutic activities, may be helpful. This option would especially apply to those whose misuse of substances, activities or behaviours had become identifiable disorders with little prospect of remission without professional help. The mind, body and spirit will have been affected by lockdown and perhaps by unhealthy coping responses and then again by the easing of lockdown. Taking time to reset and rebalance with the help of skilled care may prove vital to sustaining health. People can learn or re-learn ways to establish, maintain and enhance all-round wellbeing through practicing healthy coping strategies in a supportive environment . After all, most things improve with practice.