THE QUESTION: “The first lockdown was bearable. It felt like a temporary inconvenience with a specific end point in mind. But now we’re back in lockdown again I’m struggling. The goalposts keep moving, the future is so uncertain and there’s no real end point in sight. I like to be a man with a plan and I’m finding this uncertainty really difficult. How do I reconcile myself to living in limbo and keep a lid on my anxiety?” Mark
The Expert: Dr Kieran Kennedy, Medical Doctor and Psychiatry Resident
“If we strip it back biologically in the brain, anxiety is often a reaction to uncertainty. Our brain associates that lack of certainty with danger. So we go into fight or flight mode and all our alarm bells get triggered. That’s why anxiety often hits when it doesn’t feel like we have any control and when things become really uncertain.
I think that’s why this second lockdown is really hard. The first time it was kind of like, OK, so this isn’t great, but the adrenaline was flowing and it was weirdly exciting. Most of us felt that we’d endure it once and then it would be over and we’d all get back to normal life. The second time around, everyone’s like: ‘Oh shit, this might be longer term. When is this ever going to end?’ And that’s really difficult to process.
One of the key things to do in this situation is acknowledging the source of the anxiety. It’s about recognising that it’s the uncertainty and sense of limbo that is making you anxious and that this is really to be expected and actually quite normal. Reminding yourself of that when you’re starting to get anxious and frustrated can help to diffuse it a little bit.
“But the second big thing is about taking control of what you can control. I know that’s quite cliched, but stripping things back and just putting a solid routine in place at home can really help. By nailing down some of the basics and feeling like you have a sense of control and predictability – at least within your home – can give your brain a broader sense of certainty. That can really help with external sources of anxiety.
Right now, routine can benefit dads, but it can also benefit the whole family. Routine is kind of our go-to for child and adolescent mental health. Don’t forget your kids might also be soaking up some of that lockdown anxiety or bouncing off the walls with cabin fever or getting disrupted in their sleep.
Something I’ve noticed with patients since lockdown hit, is that it’s really easy for our routines to just to start to slowly drift. So it’s important to keep your morning routine in check even if you’re not going into the office – showering, getting dressed, having breakfast at the same time…
Having things planned out for a week can be really grounding not just for dads, but for the whole family. Routine is a really helpful way to deal with anxiety.”
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