Is lockdown a traumatic event?
I’d say yes.
It certainly feels like it. Trauma is a stressful, distressing, and frightening event that can have a long-lasting effect on us. It’s not just the event but also the way we experience the event that can be traumatic.
Why is lockdown like a trauma?
• There has been a sudden and abrupt change of life certainties, i.e. routine, work, financial security, loss of confidence in what we relied upon.
• We have been suddenly disconnected from friends, family, usual social contacts (nails, gym, hairdresser and quite possibly from our therapists, if online meeting has not been possible.)
• There is an external danger and threat to life; a nasty new virus killing people.
• We don’t have the ability to escape or help ourselves. We have to STAY HOME.
• There is so much death and bereavement, including the way we process grief and our traditions such as funerals.
So, in essence, our normal way of making sense of the world is rendered useless.
But why is it important to understand lockdown as a traumatic experience? Because by having a framework to understand what is happening to us, we can then start to make sense of it and restore our sense-making capacity which has taken a serious hit.
Let’s try to piece things together here…
One of the key features of lockdown is isolation and one of the common feelings surrounding trauma is feeling alone. This triggers our survival response as if it’s an emergency. Now, this is sometimes needed so we can quickly act and get ourselves to safety. However, it has now been 3 months of lockdown and the feeling of isolation is having deep effects as we are constantly in an emergency.
We are disconnected from our known social system and we are told to avoid other people as they may pose life-threatening danger to us and our loved ones. Another reason for our bodies to continue to be in an emergency.
We become dysregulated because we are constantly operating from an anxious or a depressed zone and our minds don’t have the chance to cool off in the “normal” zone.
And this leads us to feel completely disintegrated as we can’t come up with anything that makes sense and our minds are getting hijacked as we feel under threat and unsafe.
But how would it feel if I said to you that your mind and body are doing exactly what they are supposed to and this is your way of coping and trying to survive. This is your best attempt.
By listening to our minds, we feel heard. Ignoring those feelings and triggers will only make them louder.
What to do?
Focus on those feelings and name them. Listen to what your body and mind tell you.
Focus on what you can control, for example, your own personal hygiene, sleep, healthy diet. And as lockdown rules start to ease, read the government guidelines and aim to do what feels safe and right for you at any given moment.
Do the best you can to stay in touch with people and making the most of the technologies we have available. Even though the physical touch is still missing, some contact can help you stay connected.
Manage your expectations so that you set yourself achievable and realistic tasks. This is so you can reduce the sense of powerlessness that surrounds us.
Keep a diary; journaling is one of the most powerful ways to process emotions by yourself. It helps to write things down helping you get your thoughts out of your head and onto a piece of paper.
So, let’s consider our anxious and depressed feelings as our best attempt to cope and survive. We are all doing our best.
The way out of trauma is to stay connected to ourselves and the people around us. Let’s keep talking about how we feel and let’s ask for help when need to.
If you identify with this, and you would like to talk to someone and feel heard, get in touch and let’s have a chat.