How a Second Lockdown Will Affect Gen Z Mental Health, According to a Therapist

We speak to mental health expert Zoë Clews on how to be kind to yourself, the best ways to cope, and where to reach for support.

With low government action on major stressors, such as unemployment and housing issues, combined with the loneliness, boredom, and the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic, mental health issues have been at an all-time high – especially hitting Gen-Z the hardest. 

Enter: Hypothetical lockdown number two. And this time, we’ve grown tired of the TV show reunions, late-night Zoom parties (which really were never the same anyway), and have lost any last bits of faith that somehow we might make it to the other side of the pandemic in a few weeks if we try hard enough. 

According to a survey conducted by Mind, 75 percent of people ages 13-24 with pre-existing mental health problems saw a worsening of these during the three months spent in lockdown. We spoke to Zoë Clews, a London-based hypnotherapist specialising in PTSD, anxiety, and depression at Zoë Clews and Associates about how to manage mental health amongst a potential second lockdown.

CHECK IN WITH YOURSELF

“Wake up in the morning and have a cup of tea with your feelings,” said Clews. “‘Have it like you’re having a conversation with a friend. ‘How am I doing today? What do I need to do today? Do I feel like it? Or do I just need a day of really looking after myself and seeing how I feel?’”

While the pandemic’s social restrictions, job furloughs, and time out of school may be leaving people with a lot more free time – there should be no extra pressure on productivity. Instead, according to Clews, focus should go on trying to maintain a window of tolerance (basically, the natural resting state of equilibrium in the nervous system). 

“Now the world is knocking us out of our window of tolerance every ten minutes with the news, with the fate of another lockdown, with the uncertainty, with the shifting stances, the changes in rules, the sheer confusion of what’s going on,” explained Clews. “I think just getting through it with as much self-compassion, self-care, and keeping things going is a great goal in and of itself.”

I think just getting through this pandemic with as much self-compassion, self-care, and keeping things going is a great goal in and of itself.

Zoë Clews

GET OFF YOUR PHONE (OR DON’T)

While caring about how many hours we’ve spent scrolling on the Tik Tok FYP may seem like the least of our problems right now, depending on the content it might be time to close out the app.

“I want us all to be kind to ourselves when we go into another psycho-spiritual shock, which is what a lockdown does to all of us,” said Clews. “Step away from the news and from anything you find triggering. If you have some nice feeds that show you things that are creative and inspiring then fine, but if you’re logging on and seeing fear, it’s more like fearporn, isn’t it? Step away from that.”

According to Clews, it’s all about finding ways to calm the nervous system down – whether that be exercising, letting yourself nap and rest as much as needed, or connecting with friends and family. If that happens to be Tik Tok, however, then certainly scroll on.

REACH FOR SUPPORT

With London trailing backwards into further lockdown restrictions, students up North forced to isolate in their accommodations without even being able to leave for groceries, and Liverpool getting placed on high alert, the only thing that’s really certain is that we’re all confused together.

“I think nearly all of the UK is being put into a complex PTSD state being, ‘fight, flight, freeze, or collapse.’ We need to know what the long term plan is. We need to know why they’re doing it, and we need to know the support they’re going to give to mental health and to businesses and the people who missed out on the care that they needed,” said Clews.

That being said, it’s the perfect time to reach for support and be there for others, especially tuning in to when your ability to support might be running low. We can have a really big window of tolerance, but in 2020 that can get narrow if we are caring for enough people. The answer to everything is always support,” explained Clews.

Otherwise, there’s no shortage of resources right now – Mind offers free support to people with mental health problems, meditation app Calm has a bedtime story read by Harry Styles (it really doesn’t get better than that), Zoë Clews is hosting virtual support via her Feel Good Rooms, and the Samaritans helpline is open 24/7 if needed.

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