As we enter another three weeks of lockdown, for some, the decision to stay away from our family homes is getting harder - even though the official advice is to stay where we are.
I’ve noticed a change in the lockdown tide. There is, and has never been, no doubt in the devastating effects of coronavirus – and the death toll has affected us all differently. For some, it’s meant keeping calm and carrying on in the day, but lying awake all night, unable to sleep when the lights go off as the weight of the situation hits them. Others feel overwhelmed beyond comprehension; a topic that’s often come up in team Stylist’s daily meetings is “I know how bad things are, but why can’t I feel anything?”
If the virus is yet to permeate the bubble of your life – and I feel very, very grateful that no one I know has been seriously affected – one of the biggest strains of the pandemic for me has been social distancing. Missing family and friends, with many of us millennials cooped up in small flats without any outdoor space, has all been difficult.
This week we turned a corner deeper into the maze of lockdown, and I’ve felt that the mood of conversations with my friends has changed. Many of us have the same thing on our minds – is it time to go back home?
With the announcement of another three weeks of lockdown, a realisation has come with just how much longer this might go on for. A ‘shit just got real’ moment. For those who’ve barely left the house for the last three weeks or more, the question is rising that – if they’ve isolated long enough, can they not drive back to their family home to spend the rest of quarantine with them?
Bethany, 27, explains she made the move as soon as the extension was announced: “I’m really close to my mum and she lives on her own so I’ve been worrying about her getting lonely. I have a car so wouldn’t have to risk getting public transport. I had been self-isolating way longer than two weeks and so, as soon as I knew this would be continuing for three weeks (at least!) I told my mum I was driving home.
“I’ve been back for two days and I’m absolutely loving it. I live on the third floor of a London flat so even my daily hour of exercise is without much green space, and my mum’s garden has been heaven. Seriously, she has a family of hedgehogs who come to her door every night to be fed, a she-shed and with the weather, at the moment I’ve been lying outside in my bikini every day. I feel like I’m on a country retreat.”
Conversely, Amy, 28, has a difficult decision to make as leaving lockdown in her flat to travel home would also mean saying goodbye to her boyfriend for the foreseeable future.
“We’ve only been together for four months, so moving in for lockdown was a big test – but luckily it’s paid off. I’ve loved having him at my flat and we feel inseparable now, but I am really missing my family. Plus, even though everything’s been great, we could maybe do with a break from each other, this has been an intense time. But what if I go and then feel like I’ve made the wrong decision, and can’t see again until… I don’t know when?”
So, what’s the official party line – is this even allowed? Well, in a word: no.
The government is clear in its messaging that everyone must stay home to avoid the spread. “Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home). Do not meet others, even family and friends,” reads the banner on the government’s coronavirus advice.
Specifically, for UK travel, the government asks that everyone avoid non-essential travel including visiting secondary homes. “People must remain in their primary residence. Not taking these steps puts additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk,” reads online advice. A reason for this is that even if you haven’t felt symptoms of the virus yourself, you may be a carrier without realising and pass it onto your family.
But your mental health is important, too. The NHS emphasises the need to look after your mental wellbeing at home, especially if you’re on your own. As well as reading the NHS guide on keeping your mind healthy while isolating, you might find listening to self-care podcasts, advice on how to avoid soaking up other’s negativity and a guide on dealing with loneliness helpful.
Try to keep in contact with your friends and family as much as possible. Message, call, video chat them when you’re feeling down and when the weekend comes, try something like organising a virtual pub quiz for your circle of mates for something to get excited about.
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