As I write we have been in lockdown for about eight weeks.
It is so long, in fact, I’m starting to forget what it was like not to be in lockdown.
As I live alone, I have had no face-to-face social contact.
Of course, I have continued to meet my clients, friends and family on Skype, Face Time and Houseparty.
I’m not short of people to talk to.
Then the lockdown was relaxed slightly, and I went for a socially distanced walk with a friend.
It was a surreal experience, walking around Manchester with the shops and bars boarded up.
I wondered what, if any, of normal life would return?
The social contact was extremely enjoyable, but it had a paradoxical effect.
It reminded me of what I was missing.
The ebb and flow of easy social contact, visits to the pub, a meal out, weekends away to visit relatives.
I’ve been left with a strange feeling ever since.
When I try to describe it, it is like a tension, or a confinement, a feeling I have never experienced before.
My socially distanced walk brought it into clearer view.
I’ve been calling it ‘COVID Cabin Fever’.
The strains of lockdown are different for everyone.
For those who have young children, the strain of family life has been amplified, as parents try to home school, entertain and keep their children safe.
Whether you live with a partner, or a share a house with friends, confinement has inevitably amplified the fault lines in your relationships.
In already dysfunctional households, the isolation is creating a living hell.
As we support each other through these difficult times, I’m aware that what got us through the first stage, is not going to get us through the next stage.
Like many people, I have been enjoying cooking.
Also like many people, I have put on a few extra pounds.
I tell people I am fattening myself up for the ICU!
But I think our collective patience with lockdown is wearing thin.
This is completely understandable.
Human beings are social creatures.
We need to mix with a broad range of people, in fact our sanity depends upon it.
Human beings, deprived of social interaction, inevitably start to lose a grip on reality, and can even descend into psychoses.
This is why solitary confinement in prisons is often said to be a form of psychological torture.
My sense of my own experience, and those of my family, friends and clients, is that some of us are running out of road.
Our resilience and capacity to cope is wearing thin.
At the very least, here are some suggestions to help you cope.
First, remind yourself that this will come to an end.
At some point, coronavirus will be a personal and cultural memory.
It will be behind us.
Second, try not to lean too much on drugs and alcohol.
Substances may give us a temporary escape, but they affect our overall equilibrium, and ultimately extract a high price.
Third, try to keep to a routine.
Get up and go to bed at the same time each day.
Our psychophysiology depends on the regular functioning of our circadian rhythms.
If we let our daily routine slip, our psychophysiology can quickly become dysregulated.
Fourth, try and exercise every day.
Going for a walk reconnects us to the world and reminds us of something bigger than ourselves and our current difficulties.
Fifth, take time each day to connect with your body.
This might be as simple as setting a timer for 15 minutes, and watch the in flow and out flow of your breath,
Social isolation can lead to us getting lost in our thoughts, worries, and distress.
Connecting with your body and how you are feeling can act as a daily reset.
Finally, if you are struggling to cope right now, know that you are not alone.
If you need immediate social support, The Samaritans is a 24-hour helpline and can be contacted on 116 123.
Like many therapists in both the private and public sectors, I have moved my practice online.
I can help support you by FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or telephone.
Even though many of us are socially isolated right now, you don’t have to go through this alone.