Emotional rollercoaster: Britons’ moods have been up and down during the coronavirus pandemic – with a high point after lockdown and a low when Boris Johnson was hospitalised
- Researchers split the coronavirus lockdown into five different periods of mood
- The first was the digestion phase as people got used to the idea of coronavirus
- It moved on to the fleeting high as people worked from home or stayed home
- The other stages were full of low moods and disappointment as reality set in
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Britons have been on an emotional rollercoaster during the coronavirus lockdown, from the high of initial isolation to the low of the Prime Minister going into hospital.
A study of more than 55,000 people found that the way they feel when they wake up in the morning has evolved as the lockdown has progressed.
Researchers working with sleep tech firm Simba used sleep and mood tracking data to shine a light on the emotional state of Britons.
They found that while the mood changed depending on the news, sleep quality steadily declined and alcohol consumption increased as lockdown went on.
Psychologist Dr Andy Cope, said ‘The exhausting highs and lows of dealing with the crisis are bound to have long term effects on our mental health.’
A study of more than 55,000 people and their morning mood found that people have been through a volatile, evolving and phased mixture of emotions
Simba found there were five emotional phases of lockdown, starting with the initial digestion phase and ending with a pandemic plateau, where everyone became resigned to the idea of lockdown and a ‘new normal’.
The first phase started on March 21 and saw a dip in people’s ‘wake up moods’.
That was the day after Boris Johnson announced the details of the government response to slow the spread of coronavirus – including school closures, work from home measures, pubs and restaurants shutting and gyms no longer operating.
The second phase of the ‘corona-coaster’ of moods has been dubbed the ‘Fleeting High’ by Dr Cope and his team.
This phase was when the mood of the nation soared momentarily to a level above pre-COVID 19 norms, say researchers, happening a week after lockdown.
This surge in positivity started on March 24, the day after lockdown was announced, with the country experiencing a brief ‘euphoria, similar to the kind you might experience when you put the out of office on before a break’, they wrote.
This happened as the nation processed not having to go into the office, spending more time with their family and not waking up so early – at least for a while.
‘Denial is the first stage of dealing with grief. It helps us minimise the overwhelming pain of loss,’ explained Dr Cope.
Researchers working with sleep tech firm Simba used sleep and mood tracking data to shine a light on the emotional state of Britons during lockdown. Stock Image
The research team found there was a dip in the quality of sleep over the course of lockdown, reaching a low at the end of April
Cope, who is the UK’s first ‘Dr of Happiness’, believes the spike might be attributed to a perceived ‘work from home utopia’.
He said people were finally getting the opportunity to unwind and sleep better after one of the most extraordinary weeks in the history of Britain.
The happiness psychologist suggests the momentary lift could also be a reflection of the government’s more purposeful approach to the virus.
At this point they were feeling a sense of hope that the country was dealing with the issue, and the virus would soon be eradicated as people sought solace in the safety of our own homes.
FIVE STAGES OF LOCKDOWN MOOD: FROM HIGH TO LOW TO RESIGNATION
DIGESTION PHASE (March 21) Lockdown approaches
FLEETING HEIGHT (March 24) A week into working from home
HONEYMOON ENDS (March 28) Reality of lockdown sets in
REALITY BITES (April 4) Rock bottom as PM admitted to hospital
PANDEMIC PLATEAU (April 8) People are resigned to lockdown
There appeared to be some link between a spike in mood and government announcements from the daily briefings.
Another short-lived spike emerged on April 1 the day after Stephen Powis, the national medical director of NHS England, said latest figures showed ‘green shoots’ of recovery in the coronavirus pandemic as infections slowed down for the first time.
The third phase of lockdown emotions is called ‘Honeymoon’s Over’ – that is a dramatic slump in mood as Brits began to realise the harsh realities of working from home, possibility of being furloughed or even redundancy risks.
The brief ‘honeymoon period’ came to a swift end as we were dealt a series of devastating blows between March 25 and March 31.
This included the news the Prince of Wales, Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and Chris Whitty all contracting coronavirus or showing symptoms.
‘Wake-up moods were certainly more erratic during the first two weeks of lockdown,’ said Dr Cope.
‘The data also reveals a notable drop in sleep quality from March 23’ compared to the same period of time before that date – of 12 per cent.
At this point we entered a phase known as ‘Reality Hits’, resulting in a major slump in mood as the Prime Minister was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital on April 5.
This left the country feeling ‘rudderless’ explains Dr Cope, as the nation descended towards rock bottom.
The Queen’s speech, in which she was said to invoke the ‘spirit of the Blitz’, failed to have the desired effect, according to the Simba team.
In fact it had the opposite effect as following the speech the mood of the nation took a dip – it reinforced that the situation was indeed very serious.
April 7 was by far and away the lowest point during the lockdown for Brits moods.
Interestingly, the data shows alcohol consumption dropped around this time, with the nation effectively ‘sobering up’ to the situation.
‘Pre-COVID, mental health statistics were running at an alarming rate,’ said Cope.
‘England consumed 75 million anti-depressant prescriptions in 2019, depression directly affected one in four and indirectly affected almost everyone, with anxiety, stress and panic on the rise,’ he said.
‘Worse still, the effects were coming down the age groups so mental ill-health was becoming normalised in childhood.
‘Then came lockdown, social distancing, furlough, social isolation and a redefinition of “normal”.
‘Official data on depression and anxiety will come through in due course.
Psychologist Dr Andy Cope, said ‘The exhausting highs and lows of dealing with the crisis are bound to have long term effects on our mental health.
They tracked the sleep quality, wake up mood and alcohol consumption of the nation over the course of lockdown. People’s moods were on a rollercoast, sleep quality steadily declined and alcohol consumption increased as lockdown went on
‘Anecdotal evidence suggests there will be huge mental health issues and this data gives some useful early indicators of how the nation’s mood swings have mirrored the major news headlines.’
Cope said living through COVID-19 is stressful, not just from the fact the virus is deadly – but also the emotional turmoil the change in situation can have.
‘The virus is contagious,’ said Cope, ‘but so too are human emotions as we’re wired for social connection.’
Brits are currently in their ninth week of being cooped up with our nearest and dearest and this is a long time to be in such close proximity, even with loved ones.
‘Irritation can creep in. The Buddhists have a phrase ‘vipasanna vendetta’, which translates as ‘when tiny little irritations become full blown anger,’ said Cope.
‘We get irritated by the little things like noisy eating, a silly giggle, a clicking pen… and we end up raising our voice and having silly arguments over next to nothing.
The brief ‘honeymoon period’ came to a swift end as we were dealt a series of devastating blows between March 25 and March 31. This included the news the Prince of Wales, Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and Chris Whitty all contracting coronavirus or showing symptoms
‘Mirror neurons allow us to understand others and to ‘tune in’ or get on someone else’s wavelength.
‘This transference of human emotions forms the basis of empathy, so the bottom line is your wellbeing is crucial, not only for you but for those around you.’
We are currently in a stage that Cope calls the Pendemic Emotional Plateau, basically we’ve become resigned to the new normal.
April 8 marked the turning point as the highs and lows continued, but in a less pronounced manner, reflecting more acceptance of the situation.
Although our mood rose, it didn’t recover fully, instead running at levels slightly lower than they were during life pre-COVID-19, Cope confirmed.
The highs and lows throughout this period could be attributed to reports the PM’s condition was ‘improving’ in intensive care on April 8.
The IMF chief’s grim global financial forecast on April 9 set us back again as did the April 16, briefing by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab when he confirmed lockdown measures would be extended for another few weeks.
‘Despite the feeling that days are rolling into one, the data did reveal people are still treating weekends as the main time to drink,’ said Cope.
The weekend spikes of alcohol consumption before lockdown, continued after March 23 and it has risen gradually since lockdown.
Our sleep quality has become worse than it was before lockdown.
The Queen’s speech, in which she was said to invoke the ‘spirit of the Blitz’, failed to have the desired effect, according to the Simba team
‘When you drink alcohol, your body creates chemicals aldehydes and ketones. Aldehydes block the brain’s ability to generate REM sleep,’ Cope said.
‘REM-sleep plays an important role in accurate recognition and comprehension. Thus, good sleep allows us to make more intelligent decisions.
‘Your wellbeing not only affects you but those around you. If you’re feeling happy, your friends will be 14 per cent happier,’ he said.
A happy brother or sister makes you 17 per cent happier and a happy neighbour improves your happiness by a whopping 34 per cent, the team found.
‘Improving your sleep hygiene is the smallest change you can make that will have the biggest impact on your wellbeing,’ Cope claims.
‘If you can’t be bothered to improve your sleep habits for yourself, upgrade for those around you. Become a better version of you. Be that friend, be that sibling, be that neighbour.’
The Simba sleep app, used by 55,000 people, provided the data for this study and it tracks biometric sleep patterns and asks questions about mood when people wake.
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