How missing milestones during the pandemic is psychologically affecting us
The anniversary of the first national lockdown is fast-approaching.
That’s almost 12 months of restrictions… and a lot can happen in a year.
There are important birthdays, promotions, new jobs, graduations, new arrivals and more, and we’ve all been forced to accept that we cannot celebrate these important milestones with the people we love.
Of course, we know there’s a valid reason for this – but it still stings that these are moments we will never get back.
Grandparents have been unable to hug their newborn grandchildren or be there as they grow so quickly during their first formative months.
And 30th, 40th, 50th (and so on) birthdays have passed by – yes, we can celebrate when it’s all over, but will it really be the same?
Similarly, students who have worked at university to get their degrees have been robbed of their graduation ceremonies (not to mention student life in general).
Surely all these losses are having a psychological impact on us?
Author and mindset coach Ruth Kudzi tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Many of us understand why we have to be in lockdown again and we all know that the hardships people have suffered during this pandemic extend well beyond missing some of these milestone moments. Yet, it is still disheartening to miss out on the standard rituals or celebrations we are used to.
‘By now, most of us have had at least one lockdown birthday and many of us have missed milestones – anniversaries, graduations and leaving parties.’
Ruth adds: ‘The psychological impact of missing some of these milestones during the pandemic can lead to feelings of disappointment, sadness, anger, frustration and anxiety.’
There’s no doubt some of these feelings may be echoed by family members too – particularly older ones who might be shielding or in care homes and are unable to meet up at a distance.
Ruth says: ‘During these recent announcements, we have all been on an emotional rollercoaster from sadness and anger to resentment – along with the mix of responsibility to play our part.’
In many ways we are caught between the two – our own personal disappointment and knowing our actions are for the collective good.
Another way this is psychologically impacting people is the fact that individuals are essentially experiencing grief for the time they have lost.
‘It’s important to acknowledge this is a loss,’ says Dr Rachel Chin, clinical psychologist at Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust.
‘As with any loss, people may experience a range of feelings such as anxiety, guilt, sadness, frustration and anger. It is important to know that these are normal experiences and it is OK to have more negative thoughts about missing out.
‘This is a normal response to an abnormal situation, which we have limited control over.’
How can we make ourselves feel better?
Process your feelings
Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge how you are feeling. This is something Ruth says is vital before you can move forward.
She explains: ‘The biggest thing is to allow yourself to feel the emotions and sit with them. Allow yourself to process them. This can take a few days and every time you feel angry or sad or disappointed or under pressure, allow yourself to “just be.”‘
Ruth adds that once you’ve allowed time for processing, you can go back to what you can control. Then you can look at the small things you can do to make yourself feel better, or to help someone else celebrate and feel better.
These milestone events can’t be marked as they typically would, but they can still be celebrated.
Ruth says: ‘Depending on lockdown rules, you could you arrange a doorstep treat, a drive by or a window visit. Or could you order a special delivery meal, balloons, letter box presents, flowers, brownie slabs or cookies, then arrange a Zoom quiz, cocktail-making masterclass or online party.’
Stay connected to loved ones
Caroline Harper, a specialist mental health nurse at Bupa UK, says: ‘If you or your loved ones have been affected by these missed milestones, it’s important to share how you’re feeling. Allow yourself to be supported by others – and to support your loved ones too – by setting time aside to connect with them (whether this is virtually or through social-distancing).
‘Although you may find it difficult, opening up about how you’re feeling to your close friends or family can really help. Talking with those who are supportive and can listen without judgement helps us to feel connected, too.’
And remember, special memories can still be made – they will just look a little different to how they have gone before.
Limit your news consumption
Too much negativity is going to impact both your mental and physical health.
Caroline says: ‘If what you are reading or listening to is making you feel upset at these missed milestones, it’s time to switch-off.
‘Pay attention to how you’ve been physically affected by what you’re reading or listening to. For example, you may feel more tense or experience physical signs of anxiety, like a racing heart or nausea.’
Try to stay hopeful
Ruth says: ‘We’ve heard many people say “once this is all over we will have a massive party” and I truly think this will be the reality for many.
‘This is something we are all saying in order to cope with the reality and also project hope and anticipation onto these future events.’
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