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The 5 emotional phases of lockdown have been revealed, and they make a lot of sense

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Lauren Geall
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New research has revealed the nation has been on an emotional rollercoaster since lockdown was first introduced.

Since the UK first went into lockdown on 23 March, we’ve all experienced our fair share of emotions. Whether you’ve struggled with anxiety over the future or dealt with loneliness as a result of the isolation, this period has presented a series of unique challenges for us all.

We’ve spoken about it a lot here at Stylist – from random bouts of tears to days filled with optimism and hope for the future, our emotions have been getting a workout over the last couple of months.

And now, thanks to new analysis by wellbeing psychologist Dr Andy Cope, we can get a picture of the emotional ‘corona coaster’ we’ve all been experiencing since the beginning of lockdown.

Using data from Simba’s sleep and mood tracking app to plot the peaks and troughs of the nation’s emotions during lockdown, the company have identified five “emotional phases” experienced by people across the country over the last couple of months. 

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To track each user’s emotional journey, the app asked people to record their daily morning mood are say whether they had consumed alcohol the previous evening. The app also tracked their sleep by using sound analysis to monitor their sleep phases throughout the night.

Intrigued? Below, we’ve mapped out the five different “emotional phases” of lockdown the country has been through over the last few months. 

1. The digestion phase

When Boris Johnson first announced that schools, pubs, restaurants, gyms and other social venues would be closed for the foreseeable future on 21 March, the UK entered a ‘digestion phase’, according to Simba’s analysis.

In terms of our moods, this digestion phase was initially characterised by a slight dip, with the morning of 23 March marking a particular low point as people waited for lockdown to be announced later that evening. 

2. A fleeting high

Surprisingly, after we came to terms with the lockdown restrictions introduced on 23 March, the mood of the nation was lifted. In fact, according to the app’s data, the mood of the nation actually soared momentarily to a level “well above the pre-coronavirus norm” on 27 March, and had been on the rise ever since the 24 March, the day after Johnson first announced lockdown.

Boris Johnson
Surprisingly, after Boris Johnson first announced lockdown, national mood began to rise.

A combination of relief at being released from the restraints of the office and joy at the prospect of spending more time at home characterised this first week – indeed, as Cope highlights, this could be attributed to a perceived ‘work from home utopia’ with people getting the opportunity to unwind and sleep better.

Cope also suggests that this period could be sign of denial at the number of liberties we had lost: “Denial is the first stage of dealing with grief. It helps us minimize the overwhelming pain of loss.”

3. The honeymoon is over

We all remember that point where we hit a wall when it came to working from home – the novelty of Zoom drinks and saving time not commuting quickly got old, and all we really wanted to do was go to the pub with our friends. The honeymoon period of the initial few weeks quickly came to an end between 25-31 March, as we learnt that key figures including Prince Charles and Boris Johnson were showing signs of the virus.

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This drop in national mood also affected our sleep, with the stress of home-schooling and the threat of furlough and redundancy leaving us restless and anxious.

“Wake-up moods were certainly more erratic during the first two weeks of lockdown,” Dr Cope explains. “The data also reveals a notable drop in sleep quality from March 23, showing an average decline in sleep quality compared to the same period before the 23 March of 12%.” said Dr Cope.

It’s not surprising to hear this: according to a recent study from King’s College London, 60% of people have experienced worse sleep in lockdown.

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4. Reality hits

With Boris Johnson admitted to hospital on 5 April showing signs of coronavirus and the death rate continuing to rise, the country effectively hit rock bottom – especially after the Queen’s attempt to rouse the spirit of the nation fell short.

Up until this point, the nation’s alcohol consumption had been steadily rising. Interestingly, however, at this point the amount of alcohol we were consuming dropped, as the nation “sobered up” to the realities of the pandemic.

5. Emotional plateau

After months of endless ups and downs, the final emotional phase most of us have reached by now is that of a plateau. 

Having digested the idea of a ‘new normal’, around 8 April we hit a turning point – although our moods still had highs and lows from time to time, for the most part, there was a lot more acceptance.

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Although our mood rose at this time, it still ran at levels slightly lower than pre-coronavirus. Since then, it has taken several blows – notably on 16 April when Dominic Raab announced loc3kdown restrictions would be extended – but for the most part, our mood has been a lot more stable as we come to terms with what might happen next.

Although the coronavirus pandemic is far from over, it seems the initial instability of our moods during the first month or so of lockdown has finally calmed down. However, it’s important to remember that, while our moods may be more stable now, it’s completely normal to experience ongoing feelings of anxiety and worry – this is a situation we’ve never encountered before, and, as always, it’s OK to not be OK.

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