How To Overcome the Impact of Lockdown
Learn how to overcome cabin fever and anxiety while in lockdown, shelter in place, or quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How to Overcome the Impact of Lockdown
3:00 What is “cabin fever” or “going stir crazy”?
6:05 The loss of comfort and control in our lives
11:54 Why people panic bought toilet paper and hand sanitizer
16:21 What is “cabin fever” or “going stir crazy”
19:10 Tips on dealing with isolation, lockdown, or shelter in place
22:18 Why members of the Church Of Christ are more mentally prepared
28:40 Spiritual guidance
Martin: The entire world has been in some form of lockdown or social isolation for the past 7-8 months. What started as a couple of weeks at home has now become a challenging mental adjustment to a seemingly unending life under quarantine and social distancing. This is our new normal. And despite some parts of the world starting to open up, the fear, anxiety, and worry of COVID-19, along with the mental impact of staying at home, linger. So how do we get through it?
Let’s have a Heart And Soul conversation.
Martin: Hello everyone, hope you’re all doing ok and are safe at home. Today, I’d like to discuss the impact living in lockdown has had on our mental health. For this, I was able to interview Dr. Darwin Buyson. Dr. Buyson is a clinical psychologist, and we had him last year on a panel discussion about Body Image. For this topic, we discussed the reasons why people struggle with staying at home, what cabin fever is, and what we can do to help ourselves navigate the uncertainty of living in quarantine during a pandemic. Afterwards minister of the gospel, Bro. Donald Pinnock, will join us to expand on what Dr. Darwin and I discussed.
Darwin: The more anxious you become, the more you feel you need to worry. And you end up worrying, thinking, checking, reassuring yourself that everything will be okay. When actually, it’s not okay. The situation is unpredictable, but we keep doing things to escalate our anxiety. And anxiety is the driver of irrational behavior.
Darwin: Hi, my name is Dr. Darwin Buyson and I’m calling in from Notting Hill London.
Martin: Hi, Dr. Darwin. Real quick can you just tell us in what field of medicine did you study and are practicing in currently?
Darwin: So I am a qualified clinical psychologist and I work in the field of psychosis. So I work with people who are having a first episode of psychosis.
Martin: Right. And can you tell us a little bit more about, in layman’s terms, what is psychosis? And how does that relate to the everyday life of people?
Darwin: So the main features of psychosis, which is a very serious mental health problem, is people who suffer from what we call delusional beliefs or believing things that aren’t necessarily true, driven by fear. Which is actually quite relevant today.
Martin: Right. Unfortunately, the fear of what’s happening right now and kind of making people question what’s happening around them, affecting them mentally, it’s affecting not just those who have psychosis but the whole world. Can you talk about just the general mental effects of being isolated at home can have on somebody? Are you seeing anything there in the UK where they’re growing concerns that the longer we’re in isolation, the more people are going to get this “ cabin fever”? Start getting a little stir crazy?
Darwin: Oh, yes yes. I think for the first couple of weeks people were, they were taking in their stride. It was all quite new. And people just got on with things and tried to do their best to adapt to this change. It’s that kind of emergency change, we can deal with this. But the longer it goes on, the more realization people have that this is not something that’s just going to end soon. We don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s a lot of uncertainty around.
Darwin: And human beings just don’t cope well with uncertainty. Our whole lives are designed to reduce uncertainty. Our nine to five working schedules, our shifts, our eating at particular times, going to bed at particular times. We like predictability. Now we’re in a situation where there is no predictability or there’s very little predictability. And all the frameworks that were there to provide some predictability are now gone. So people are not working or working from home. So that’s a huge struggle for people to implement their own kind of schedules or timetables.
Martin: Right, right. Because they’re not used to living life that way.
Darwin: No, it’s usually done for us.
Martin: Right, right. Can you speak a little bit about that? I’ve been reading articles and someone just talked about how we’ve just been so comfortable. But because we’ve become such creatures of comfort, where nothing really would prevent us from doing whatever we want. To now not being able to do anything really, outside of just getting essential goods. Can you talk a little bit about that? How maybe— is there some truth to that, that we were a little bit too comfortable? That because everything was done for us, not only our schedule, but just anything that we need—the convenience of anything and everything was out there and now most of that is gone.
Darwin: Yes, absolutely. I think that, to varying degrees, this kind of comfort gave us a sense of control.
Darwin: And again, it’s on the same lines as predictability. The feeling of being in control is quite reassuring. We were comfortable with knowing that we can do what we want when we want. But now this uncertainty has kind of thrown that idea of being in control out the window. And that’s causing a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety in people. And when we don’t know or when we’re not in control the usual first, first thing is we need to know. We need to find out what’s going on here.
Darwin: We need to get some feeling of certainty back. You see that in the behavior of people that you know, they’re constantly checking the news, they’re constantly checking social media, they need to know. Trying to grasp something that they can hold on to. But the reality is, no one really knows.
Martin: Right. I actually spoke to another doctor in California. He’s a GP (General Practitioner) and I asked him well, we don’t know when this is going to end. We don’t know how soon it’s going to get better, if it’s going to get better anytime soon. What have you been saying to your patients and he said, he tried to be honest with them. That the sooner we accept that we’re in a bad situation, the more we can move forward with that understanding that we can’t control that we’re in a bad situation. We just have to accept that it’s a bad situation and try and move forward.
Darwin: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more with that. And that’s something, that concept of acceptance is very difficult. Because usually we’re now conditioned that if we don’t like something, we just do something about it. We change it. We don’t like being uncertain we’ll change. We don’t like the job that we’re in, we’ll find a new one. We don’t have (many choices) now.
Martin: Right. It’s like you don’t want to stay at home, I’ll just go out. Oh, you don’t like where you went there, I’ll go somewhere else next time. And now you don’t have (many) of those options.
Darwin: You don’t have (many) those options. So, it highlights or emphasizes what was probably already true is that we have very little control over our day to day life and how fragile our control is.
Martin: Right, right.
Darwin: But we’re so not used to accepting that.
Martin: Why do you think that is? Now that we’re all—we don’t have a choice, we have to accept that we have to be on lock down, what is that mental barrier? That is the kind of—I’m sure it’s different for everybody, but in general terms. Why is it hard for us to accept that right now is not a good situation, and that we don’t know when it’s going to get better.
Darwin: I think from a psychological perspective, I think what drives people to find it difficult to accept is because it’s easier to give yourself the idea that you can do something about it. And I’ll elaborate on that. For example, if we’re scared, we tend to worry. Yeah, worry, in that sense is a behavior. We’re scared, we worry. And we think when we ask people, why do they worry? A lot of them answer well, because I want to be prepared.
Darwin: I want to know what I might need to do if what I’m worrying about happens, if the worst case scenario happens. That’s reasonable, but the unintended consequences by worrying about the worst case scenario, you make yourself feel anxious.
Darwin: The more anxious you become, the more you feel you need to worry. And you end up worrying, thinking, checking, reassuring yourself that everything will be okay. When actually, it’s not okay. The situation is unpredictable, but we keep doing things to escalate our anxiety. And anxiety is the driver of irrational behavior. I’m sure most of us can relate to the scary movie example. After having watched a scary movie, we feel scared, we feel anxious for a short time afterwards.
Darwin: What do we do, when we go into the bathroom after having watched a scary movie?
Martin: Run in and run out as fast as you can.
Darwin: Exactly. We don’t look into the mirror, we turn the lights on, we maybe asked someone to come with us.
Darwin: But we know, if you ask them, if you ask anybody, they don’t believe that something bad is going to happen. But what’s driving that behavior? It’s fear. Fear makes us irrational. As soon as we realize that it’s fear that’s driving our behavior and then stop that fear driven behavior, the sooner we can get to that point of acceptance. Actually, you know what, me turning this light on, isn’t going to change anything. Me, worrying isn’t going to change anything. I’m just going to stop worrying.
Martin: So, you just made me realize something. This is amazing. So actually, those who went out and panic bought a whole bunch of toilet paper and disinfectant was a method of them finding reassurance that if I have a stockpile of toilet paper, then I’m reassured that everything is going to be okay. When it really had no direct correlation to when this pandemic was going to end.
Darwin: Absolutely. It’s all to relieve the feeling of anxiety in the short term.
Darwin: And that’s essentially the pattern that we tend to fall into. And what’s really interesting is that it’s now no longer just the people suffering from mental illness that are experiencing this. We’re all fear driven. Now, our behavior to varying degrees is fear driven, and we’re doing irrational things.
Darwin: We’re buying more than we need. We’re checking the news more than we usually do. Some of us are believing conspiracy theories about where this virus has come from.
Martin: And even like if there was an intention or like a malicious purpose as to why it even started in the first place.
Darwin: Absolutely. Yeah. And this is all well—for me, one of the main reasons for this is it’s this need to know. It comes back to this dealing with uncertainty. Well, yeah, this came from China. Yeah, that’s the explanation. Well now I know, that’s better than not knowing.
Darwin: Because not knowing is more anxiety provoking, and we don’t like to feel anxiety. We don’t like to feel not in control.
Martin: And I guess because there’s so much uncertainty as to when there’s going to be a vaccine, how long the supplies are going to last, the amount of cases, the amount of deaths. Then people start, especially on social media, gravitating towards conspiracy theories of those who are willing to give these answers, whether or not they’re factual or based off of any kind of science. It’s more reassuring for them to say, well, that person said it on Facebook, or that person posted it, so that must be what’s happening.
Darwin: Yeah. Even if people don’t really believe it. It’s very powerful. This anxiety relief. It’s a bit like a drug.
Martin: Regardless of what form that relief takes, so long as they get that relief.
Darwin: As long as they get that relief. We really don’t like feeling anxious. We’re actually hardwired to do that. Our brains release neuro chemicals, adrenaline, and it drives us physically to look for threat and to try and eradicate it. And the counterbalance to that is stepping back and thinking. And when we’re anxious we don’t think in a wider sense. We’re very narrow focused when we’re anxious. It’s like being in a jungle. You hear at night on your own, you hear a rustling in the bushes. You’re not going to listen out the background noise for the jungle, your whole focus and your attention will be where that noise come from.
Martin: Right. Is it a monster out my window?
Darwin: Yes, exactly.
Martin: Can you explain to those who are listening what exactly is “cabin fever” or going stir crazy? What is that and how is that in relation to what we’re going through right now?
Darwin: Ordinarily we have these natural breaks from our thought process. We very rarely do we spend hours and hours and hours thinking about all our worries because we have natural breaks. We go to work. We go for a walk outside. We have these natural breaks. But if you’re confined for an extended period of time in isolation, there are no checks or balances on your thinking. And you just have this ongoing kind of obsession or ongoing preoccupation with your worry. And that has a huge impact on how your body functions and how your mind functions. You then find it very difficult to sleep. You become sleep deprived. You then when you’re sleep deprived, your thinking becomes even less rational. Your mood shifts even more erratically. You become impulsive. Your appetite goes. You’re no longer having enough nutrition. And it all kind of combines in this perfect storm where you then just kind of implode and you just don’t function rationally. In the past that was used as a form of torture.
Martin: Isolation or solitary confinement in the prison is a method of punishment to criminals where they’re confined to a small space and they can’t go anywhere.
Darwin: Absolutely, yeah. And without any sort of external stimulation or breaks from your own thought process, add some sleep deprivation into that.
Martin: On top of a pandemic. On top of not knowing when this is all going to end.
Darwin: So yeah, in very extreme situations, people will just literally drive themselves mad. Stir-crazy.
Martin: So what are some common tips for our listeners? I’ve interviewed maybe ten or fifteen people and one of the things that they said their families or friends are going through is that they want to go outside. They want to be able to see their friends. They know that we have to social distance, that we have to remain in lockdown. But there’s that itch that I need to go outside. I need to be outside of the environment of my home physically and the environment of my thoughts mentally, like you mentioned. So if in the absence of being able to do that, do you have any tips to kind of help cope?
Darwin: Yeah. It’s interesting that when we are feeling extreme distress, we look for quite, I don’t want to say extreme, but we look for very explicit changes. Like we’re inside. We want to go outside. Actually any small changes can make a big difference. One of the things that we advise our patients who are very anxious because of their worries is we ask them to check their thinking every so often and make them more aware that they are worrying. So very basic thing is, ask yourself, what are you thinking about? Is what you’re thinking about making you feel more or less anxious? Is what you’re thinking about helpful? Do a little audit on your current thought process. If it doesn’t make you feel better or in other words it’s depleting you, then you need to take a step back, stop and try and limit the amount of time you spend thinking negatively or worrying. When you ask people, it’s really surprising, but when you ask people do they ever try to stop worrying, people very rarely, consciously try to stop worrying. They only stop worrying when they have evidence that what they’re worrying about is no longer around or they fall asleep, or they’re distracted by something else. Very rarely do people intentionally stop or consciously stop. So incorporating that kind of awareness and stopping yourself from worrying is a very simple thing to do. That doesn’t require you to go outside and put yourself at risk. But if you can be more aware, in tune with your own mental processes, that would be a huge, huge help because your mind goes places that you don’t realize is causing you a lot of damage. And you want to keep it away from those dangerous places.
Martin: Definitely. And I want to switch gears now when you said that we’re not so good with dealing with uncertainty, or not having control. As members of the Church Of Christ that’s kind of ingrained in us, knowing that not everything is in our control, and that the world is full of uncertainty. Why, as members of the Church Of Christ, are we more, I guess the advantage is that we’re a little bit more mentally prepared, mentally equipped that this situation isn’t necessarily gonna have such negative repercussions to our mental state because of the faith that has been ingrained in us?
Darwin: Yeah. I completely agree that members of the Church Of Christ are more mentally prepared. And one of the things that I always remember is that, especially now in these challenging times, is that you’re not to rely on your own abilities. That was always ingrained in me growing up not to rely on your own abilities. Your human abilities are limited and we should put our trust in God. For someone who has grown up trusting their abilities, that’s very difficult. Or this idea that human beings, scientists, and, all these very clever people can find a way, letting go of that idea that we can do something about it is very, very difficult. But I think for members of the Church, that’s ingrained in us. So I think that that’s a very good foundation for dealing with what we’re going through now. Trusting, having that trust in God, despite what’s going on; that solid foundation. For a lot of people who don’t have that, that’s a frightening place to be. Whereas for us, it’s we have an anchor. We’re grounded. There’s this solid rock that is immovable that we can just anchor ourselves to and we’re good. There’s nothing that can move us or harm us.
Martin: And how, mentally speaking, how invaluable is that to have that anchor?
Darwin: That is, I think the bedrock. That’s the foundation of keeping yourself sane in a really uncertain situation. You just look at the analogy. If you don’t have an anchor, if you’re not tied to anything, you’re just basically drifting. You’re just drifting at sea with no direction. And that’s a really scary place, mentally, whereas here, you don’t need to keep checking. You don’t need to keep doing unreasonable irrational things because you know that whichever way things go, you’ll be okay. That relieves you of anxiety. Then if you’re relieved of anxiety and fear, it’s unlikely that you’ll get caught in that vicious trap, that vicious cycle of irrational behavior, because you don’t need to.
Martin: Right. What’s the one piece of advice for any of our listeners right now who are going through this, who may have relatives, family members on the front line worrying about them, isolated at home with nobody to talk to, worried about themselves. Is there anything that you can give to reassure them that we’ll get through this okay, together?
Darwin: Yeah, I think it comes back to something that you mentioned earlier about realizing how limited we are as individuals, and not trying to, not trying to solve this situation and not trying to go for short term solutions to make yourself feel better. Bring all those anxieties to God and accept that we are not in control, that it’s God who is in control of this situation and that we leave all our worries and cares to God, which will then liberate us and free us to then focus on what we need to do. That’s useful. That’s nourishing to all the more and connect to our faith and what we do as members of the Church Of Christ. To pray more. To attend the worship service, even though it’s in our own homes. To make sure that we try to make the environment in which we worship as sacred and as holy as possible. To, to really immerse ourselves in what we do as, as members of the Church. Because this is a real challenge to our faith now. And for a lot of us, this will really help us, I believe, that this is a good opportunity to really prove how much we do trust in God. And the only way you can do that is by accepting our limitations and trusting that God will bring us through this.
Martin: That was Dr. Darwin Buyson. Now joining us is minister of the gospel, Bro. Donald Pinnock. Bro. Donald, Dr. Darwin mentioned that members of the Church Of Christ deal with bad situations differently. For our listeners who are not members of the Church Of Christ, what does that mean?
Bro. Donald: Well, members of the Church Of Christ do not place their trust nor hope in their own ability or even that of their fellow-man, like what some people are doing. Rather they follow what the Bible teaches, for example we can read in Proverbs 3:5-6 this;
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.
[Proverbs 3:5-6 New Living Translation]
Man’s understanding and ability, as we know, is limited, and God is quite the opposite; He is all-knowing and unlimited in His ability. That is why the members of the Church Of Christ, they place their hope and trust in who will, as the Bible teaches, direct our paths.
Martin: And Bro. Donald, how are members of the Church Of Christ better mentally equipped to handle challenges?
Bro. Donald: Well it’s not because we consider ourselves more intelligent or capable than others. But rather we follow, and believe in, what the Bible teaches. Philippians 4:6-7 makes known;
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.
[Philippians 4:6-7 The Living Bible]
We should notice that God grants us the inner peace that we need, especially during times like this, so that we do not fall into despair or desperation.
Martin: Now, what have members of the Church Of Christ been doing during lockdown, and how has that helped them?
Bro. Donald: Well, just like so many people, Martin, we have found ourselves with time to focus on certain aspects of life that perhaps were neglected in one way or another due to focusing on that which is more important in the sense of earning a living, and for the students, when it came to pursuing their education. But now, we all find more time to, for example exercise, when it comes to enhancing our family bonds, and even pursuing hobbies. But what is a staple in the life of Church Of Christ members, before and even during the lockdown restrictions is none other than the worship of God. Church Of Christ members have been worshipping God, primarily via video conferencing technology. The importance of the worship service cannot be overstated as we can glean from the following citation:
How happy are the people who worship you with songs, who live in the light of your kindness! Because of you they rejoice all day long, and they praise you for your goodness. You give us great victories; in your love you make us triumphant.
[Psalms 89:15-17 Today’s English Version]
That, by the way, we just read Psalms 89:15-17. Worshipping God gives us the joy or happiness that we need, even in the midst of this pandemic. During the worship service, we are able to sing hymns of praises. It is also during the worship service when we can best pray unto God.
Martin: And how effective can prayer be in our lives? Maybe those who are listening, they’re worried about what’s happening out there. Can prayer really make a difference?
Bro. Donald: Yes it can, Martin. We believe in what the Bible teaches about what God is prepared to do when we call or pray to Him. Psalms 91:15-16 states this:
“When they call to me, I will answer them; when they are in trouble, I will be with them. I will rescue them and honor them. I will reward them with long life; I will save them.”
[Psalms 91:15-16 Today’s English Version]
We should notice that God is prepared not only to hear but also to answer the prayers of His servants. And how is it that He will answer? Well, He says that He would be with us, He would rescue us, He would reward us with long life, and save us. What more could we ask for?
Martin: Definitely, Bro. Donald. It’s kind of freeing to know that God is there and He is controlling so much of what is good for us. So, how is knowing that God is in control of our lives help us?
Bro. Donald: Well for us members of the Church Of Christ, it gives us assurance and comfort. Because we know we can depend on God to help us at all times, since He Himself promises the following in Jeremiah 29:11;
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
[Jeremiah 29:11 New International Version]
This is why we rely completely on what God can do for us. We trust wholeheartedly in His promises. We do our part, of course, such as following the guidelines implemented by government officials during this pandemic. But we have the most important layer of security. We have the Almighty God to keep us safe, and to grant us a successful future.
Martin: We want to thank you all for joining us. First of all thank you Bro. Donald, for that amazing and enlightening spiritual guidance. Thank you to Dr. Darwin who is in the UK, for his expert advice. And thank you to all of our listeners. Please continue to follow our hashtag on our Instagram, #HeartAndSoulConversations to stay up to date with all things Heart & Soul. Make sure to subscribe to Heart & Soul wherever you get your podcasts at. And you can watch some of Heart & Soul on our INCMEDIA app, which you can download now on any of your streaming platforms, whether it’s android, apple tv, roku, or amazon fire stick. That’s it from us today, hope we were able to help, hope we were able to connect, and hope you’ll join us next time, ready to listen with all your Heart And Soul. Be safe and take care.