for better mental health

Managing your feelings about changes to lockdown – for young people

Information for young people who are struggling with their feelings about lockdown changing, and want to know how to cope.

This page is also available in Welsh (Cymraeg).

Managing your feelings about changes to lockdown

The coronavirus pandemic has been hard for lots of us. And lockdown and government restrictions mean that there’s still a lot we can’t do, that we’re missing out on, and that we’re still worried about. 

Lots of change and uncertainty can feel really stressful. 

We’re here to help you understand your feelings, and give you some positive ways to cope.

This page covers:

To find out what the rules are right now, see the UK Government coronavirus guidance, in English, or the Welsh Government coronavirus guidance, in English and Welsh.

"The rules aren’t clear and are constantly changing and I’m scared I won’t adjust quick enough."

Feelings about lockdown changing

Everyone will be feeling different about lockdown and changing government restrictions.

You may feel relieved when you hear about the rules changing where you live, or you may feel worried or angry. You may not know how you feel, or feel a mixture of emotions.

For example:

  • You might be feeling sad about how things are right now. For example, if you’re missing out on everyday social things, like school, parties and sport. Or exciting plans, like travelling or work experience.
  • You might be feeling isolated or low because you’re not able to see family and friends. 
  • You may also feel low or lacking in purpose because you've been furloughed or have lost your job because of the virus.
  • You may be feeling worn down after months of living through the pandemic. Especially if you’re not getting on with your family or the people you live with.
  • Or you may have been hiding parts of your identity from the people you live with, like your sexuality or faith, and want to be yourself again.
  • You may also be feeling fed up because of changes to the rules and the compromises you’re having to make.
  • Or you may feel frustrated if you think that the government are handling things the wrong way.
  • You may feel angry that other people aren’t following social distancing rules.
  • Perhaps you’re feeling pressure from friends to meet up and feel confused about what’s allowed.
  • Maybe you don’t feel like you're getting enough support with school or college work. Or you may feel angry that your exam grades will be decided by your teachers.
  • You may be scared or upset because someone you care about has to go to work where they feel unsafe. 
  • You may have existing difficulties around coping with germs or hygiene, which coronavirus and social distancing is making worse.
  • You may feel worried about how coronavirus will affect your education, career or other parts of your future. For example, you might be feeling sad that you’ve missed a lot of time in school. Or you might feel that college or university isn't what you hoped for, or that you’re missing out on things. 
  • You may be worried about going back to school or college, or needing to take coronavirus tests regularly to do so. Or about the lockdown restrictions being relaxed in general. 
  • You might also feel anxious that your relationships have changed during lockdown, like with your friends, girlfriend or boyfriend.

"I’m worried that my anxiety and worries about germs will get worse once I go to college."

  • You may be feeling annoyed because the government guidance for young people isn’t clear. Or feeling powerless, like you don’t have a say in what’s going on.
  • Or you might feel annoyed that young people and students are being blamed unfairly for rises in coronavirus cases. 
  • You may be feeling cheated because your grades won’t be based on exams this year, or feel like you’ve missed out on important time with teachers.
  • Or you may feel hard done-by that you don’t have equipment like a laptop available when your classmates do.  
  • Maybe your mental health support has had to change during lockdown. Or you’re frustrated because lockdown has caused you to take steps back in your recovery.
  • Or your family might be going through difficult money issues, and you may feel pressure to provide support, or fear that you’ll lose your independence.
  • You may have gone through something very stressful, frightening or upsetting this past year. For example, if you’ve had to stay somewhere that wasn’t a safe place for you.
  • Or you may be recovering from coronavirus or helping a family member to get better.
  • Someone you love may have died this year, and you might be grieving and also feeling afraid to lose anyone else.
  • You may be feeling positive about the people you love getting their vaccinations.
  • Or you may be excited to see your friends in school or college. Or feel safer there if everyone is taking regular coronavirus tests.
  • You may feel happy about plans to relax lockdown restrictions, especially if you're already making plans to see friends or family members you haven't seen in a long time.
  • Or you may feel hopeful about getting back to normal, and being able to do things like play team sports, go to a gig, or go on holiday.

These are only a few examples of what you may be feeling right now. You may be experiencing several of these feelings, or be going through something completely different.

If you’re still struggling to understand how you’re feeling, you can visit our page on understanding my feelings.

"I’m a very creative person and I'm finding it hard to release this creative energy, it makes me feel a bit crazy."

What are positive and negative coping strategies?

Coping is our ability to respond to, and deal with, unpleasant, difficult or stressful situations. Our ability to cope with things can vary – we can cope well one day, and poorly the next.

Coping strategies are things we choose to do in unpleasant situations, to manage our emotions and help us get through them, or to lessen how it will affect us. There are both positive and negative coping strategies.

Positive coping strategies are healthy ways of coping that are good for our wellbeing in the long term. You can find some ideas and examples of positive coping strategies in the tips for coping and adjusting section below.

Negative coping strategies are unhealthy ways of coping that can harm our wellbeing or cause other problems. They may feel impulsive or urge-driven. We also may not realise at the time that we’re using negative strategies to escape from something.

The negative coping strategies young people have told us they’re using during the coronavirus pandemic include:

  • Eating too much, or not enough
  • Drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs
  • Legal highs
  • Smoking cigarettes or vaping
  • Self-harming.

To get support from organisations who can help, go to our coronavirus useful contacts page for young people.

What could help me cope and adjust?

You may be facing lots of challenges now lockdown rules are changing, and some of the feelings you’re having may be hard to cope with.

While things remain uncertain, we can focus on what we can control and take positive steps to look after our wellbeing.

We asked young people to tell us what they’ve been doing to help themselves cope during the pandemic. You might find it useful to try some of the positive coping strategies they suggested.

Here are some ideas:

There are things you can do to help you understand and accept how you’re feeling, like:

  • Use an emotions wheel to help name feelings that are hard to pinpoint.
  • Talk to someone you trust about what ‘normal’ looks like for you right now, to help you accept what is happening. This could be a parent or carer, a friend, or a helpline such as Childline.
  • Write, draw, run, or do something else that will give you space to feel everything you’re currently feeling. Even the really unhappy, angry stuff.
  • Recognise and challenge unkind or unhelpful thoughts. Try to do this by talking to yourself as you would to a good friend. You could ask yourself: ‘How might someone else see this?’, ‘Is there anything that suggests this might not happen?’, or ‘What would I say to a friend who was thinking this?’ Answering these questions may help you to think more rationally and calmly.
  • Visit our page on understanding my feelings if you’re still struggling to understand how you’re feeling.

"Take time to reflect... be honest with how you think you’re managing lockdown, what strategies have worked for you in the past and how could you adapt them."

Spending time with friends and family, whether in person or not, can help us feel better and boost our wellbeing. You could:

  • Invest time in the relationships you want to grow and build – those which you rely on for support as well as fun.
  • Keep in touch with friends, family, boyfriends and girlfriends by sending them a card, a letter or a small gift.
  • Share how you feel with someone you trust – this can help strengthen your friendship as well as giving you both a chance to support each other.
  • Wear a mask in a design that you like, or design your own, to help you feel more comfortable when you meet your friends.
  • Choose an activity that you can play outside whilst distancing, like football, catch, or cycling. This could help you feel connected while been physically spaced out, so that social distancing doesn’t feel as weird.
  • Connect with others who understand – for example, you could try The Mix's community message boards.

"Find other people your age you can talk to. It really helps because we’re going through the same thing."

When things get tough, there are quick things you can try to reduce worry and panic, like:

  • A ‘grounding’ activity to stop your thoughts spinning out of control. Sit back and focus on what’s going on around you. Try and name five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
  • Find a distraction that takes your mind off things, like going for a walk, listening to happy music or talking to someone. These can help you when you notice you’re worrying about the past or future.
  • Find a mindfulness activity to help you stay in the moment. You could try this breathing exercise – breathe in through your nose for four counts, hold it for two counts, and breathe out through your mouth for seven counts. If you repeat this, it can slow your breath and help keep you calm.
  • Ask for support from someone you trust, whether it’s a friend, family member, or helpline like Childline or The Mix.
  • Find more information on anxiety and tips on how to cope on YoungMinds website.

"Keep yourself busy, doing things you love and things that makes you proud of yourself for finishing."

Taking small steps to recognise what’s in your control right now, and what you can do to plan ahead, can help you feel more settled:

  • Make a timetable of your day or week, making sure you include fun or relaxing activities. This can help you plan ahead, and feel in more control of your near future.
  • Write down your worries before bed and go over them in the morning. This can help you work out what no longer needs your attention, what things you can do to make yourself feel better, and what is out of your control.
  • Be involved in making decisions about how you’re keeping safe, like asking to choose the hand soap or shower gel you use, or picking your own face mask.

"I’ve realised I’m more capable of making my own decisions without pressure from my school."

Looking after your physical wellbeing can have a big impact on your mental health, too.

There are simple things you can try to look after your physical health, like:

  • Have a good bedtime and sleep routine. For example, have time away from a screen before you go to bed and limit the amount of caffeine you drink.
  • Eat healthily and stay active – this will look after both your body and mind and help your thoughts to become clearer.
  • Make sure you still follow guidance from the government and NHS on washing your hands, wearing a mask and social distancing.
  • Be kind to yourself if you forget to do something, or you make a mistake. This is new for everyone and all we can do is try our best.

"Take care of your basic needs - try to eat and drink regularly, brush teeth, have a shower."

How can I support a friend or family member?

If someone you care about is going through a tough time, it’s natural to want to support them. But with everything going on, you may feel like you don’t know how to help.

Here's some tips on supporting someone from a distance:

  • Remember that everyone is experiencing something different right now – what might be easy for one person may be really hard for someone else.
  • Ask them what you could do to help, if you feel able to.
  • Offer them a time to talk if you think they need to hear a friendly voice.
  • Keep in contact. If they’re not up to chatting, let them know that’s okay, but try to stay in touch in different ways. For example, you could share a drawing or some art with them, or post or email them things that will make them smile.
  • Say thank you to them on social media through our #SpeakYourMind challenge on TikTok, and say why you appreciate them.

"Reminding them you’re there if they need you and properly listening when they choose to open up, while continuing with your normal lives, is the best balance possible."

Where else can I get support?

During this time, you may find you need more support, or want to connect with people who you identify with.

We have information on finding support and talking to a doctor which you might find helpful.

For a list of other organisations who can help, visit our coronavirus useful contacts page. Many organisations offer text or instant messaging services for extra privacy.

Stay safe

  • If you're feeling overwhelmed, or like you want to hurt yourself, you can ring HOPELINEUK or text YoungMind's Crisis Messenger service and a counsellor will talk things through with you. 
  • If you feel like you may attempt suicide, or you have seriously hurt yourself, it’s an emergency. You or a trusted adult should call 999 and ask for an ambulance, even during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Mental health emergencies are serious. You are not wasting anyone's time.

"The important thing is remembering that you can’t control the situation, but you can control how you react to it and how you choose to think about it."

This information was last updated on 04 March 2021.

  • The content reflects the best advice we have at this time. We will update it as necessary, particularly if there are changes to public health guidance.
  • If you are re-using this content elsewhere, please link to the page directly rather than quoting or summarising what we've said, to prevent information that may be outdated from being shared.
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