At Stir we are big on emotion and we’re always striving to trigger an emotional response with our creative work. As we are bracing ourselves for a second lockdown and figuring out what that could look like, we sat down with one of our resident consultants, Psychologist and Clinical Director of Private Therapy Clinic, Dr Becky Spelman, to get a read on the emotional rollercoaster that has been 2020 and the impact it’s had on us all. Check out her thoughts around the emotional ebbs and flows of COVID-19:

It has been grimly fascinating to watch the collective mood change and shift since Covid first burst onto the scene in early 2020.

At first, when the virus seemed only to be impacting on China, the rest of the world looked on with pity. Then, as it became increasingly apparent that the virus could not be contained, people became afraid. This was understandable—the doctors were struggling to manage a previously unknown disease, and the images on the television were frightening.

Then we went into lockdown. For most people—and most societies—the initial emotions under lockdown were largely predicated around defiance and a sort of wilful chirpiness. TikTok videos of families dancing through lockdown, and inner city communities having socially distanced work-outs, abounded. While we were still afraid, many of us allowed ourselves to get high on the spirit of the Blitz. We felt that, if only we worked together, we could flatten the curve and maybe even get rid of the virus altogether.

Summer, with its long evenings and outside adventures, offered some reprieve from it all, but a growing sense of ennui was already apparent. The TikTok videos became less abundant and less chirpy. Many of us started to experience the economic pain of being laid off, finding fewer customers, and struggling with balancing work and family life during lockdown. In this increasingly challenging emotional landscape, conspiracy theories and the tendency to blame others began to flourish. Domestic violence rose. Angry protestors filled the streets.

Despite growing anger in recent months, some things are clearly better than they were earlier in the year. Scientists and doctors who have been working with Covid-19 for months know much more about it now than they did before, and treatments for the seriously ill have become much more effective. Despite the rising case numbers around the world, we do have many causes for optimism.

Nonetheless, we are facing into the winter with a great number of unknowns on the horizon. The next few months are likely to be a very challenging time for many of us, as the usual winter afflictions of colds and flu, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and more all jostle for attention alongside the pressing issue of Covid-19.

Whatever our personal circumstances, now is the time to start taking precautions in the area of safeguarding our mental health, and the stability of our communities.

Covid-19 can exacerbate existing mental and emotional conditions, such as depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and so on. For those who have issues in these areas, it is crucial to ensure that they are receiving the therapy and/or medication that they need. This may mean seeing healthcare professionals over Zoom or WhatsApp rather than in person, but as we’ve learned from the lockdown, for most of us, this is doable.

On both a personal level and for the good of our community and society, it is important to avoid playing the blame game. We’ve all seen politicians on our TV screens attempting to put the blame for Covid-19 on other parties. For months, Donald Trump referred to the illness as “the Chinese virus” in an attempt to garner political gains.

The reality is that the virus is here now, and that most people are doing their best to follow the rules and minimise transmission. We all need to be aware of our own sphere of influence and to do what we can to make things better where we can, while also accepting that there is much we cannot change.

As scientific understanding of Covid-19 grows, treatments for the illness will continue to improve, and we will collectively find a way to live with the disease while minimising its impact. Through working together, we can find a way to move out of the depression and anger that many of us are feeling right now, and towards a more positive future. By focusing on this better future, and envisioning what it will look and feel like, we can start to harness the positive emotions that will make it easier for us to deal with the sloughs and troughs of what is inevitably going to be a difficult winter.

Credit: Dr Becky Spelman