Mind Matters – To hibernate or not to hibernate – that is the question right now…

25 January, 2020 / by Nicholas Rose

If you are struggling right now you are not alone. The third lockdown and the new variant combined with January is taking its toll on many. The people who seem to be faring best are those for whom has been possible to maintain a semblance of routines and keep in balance the factors that bring a sense of overall security.

Those factors are different for everyone but I find it useful to think about health, sense of purpose, relationships, the basics: money, food, having a home and then our spirituality.

Balance is also important in terms of where we find our consciousness focused temporally  – between being in the present moment, reflecting on the past and considering the future.

Again, those I experience as faring best are those for whom past, present and future are somehow working together to create a sense of living and activity in a forward trajectory rather than stagnation or stuckness.

Some people find they are being called upon like never before whereas some find themselves feeling irrelevant. Irrespective of your experience in terms of the things that you have control over and those you don’t, looking after yourself needs to be the foundation to get through these times.

Hibernation can feel like a very appealing prospect but we are not creatures designed to hibernate; rest and relaxation is important but withdrawal and inactivity is not good for us. Feeling physically and psychologically depressed go together and so as tempting as it might be to stay in bed, miss your daily walk, over eat, drink more, stay on the sofa and watch Netflix, all or any of those can lead to dis-regulation and a downward spiral.

We are alerted to our potential dishonesty with ourselves by a range of feelings and bodily experiences: unease, guilt, anxiety, irritation, lethargy, low mood, avoidance of social contact; all of these are powerful calls to action. Ironically, those feelings often result in us turning more towards the things we know we should not be doing. That glass of wine, bar of chocolate, afternoon nap all distract from those difficult feelings but they soon return often with greater force.

In the first lockdowns many of us had things to help that were I think of as “low hanging fruit” from baking, writing books, DIY projects, working out online with Jo Wicks or Chiswick’s own YouTube sensation “The girl With The Pilates Mat”, setting up support groups, having family meetings to name few. But for most people those activities, even if they have become integrated into daily life, no longer bring that particular type of energy that comes from positive change.

Often in January and February we have to dig deep in order to support ourselves through to the spring, I for one like to have a couple of weeks somewhere warm to top up my vitamin D and to untangle all the painful knots in my neck and shoulders. But not this year!

So what is to be done?

The first thing to remember is that on the days when we feel like giving in to temptation we need to insert a question for ourselves that, ordinarily would be unnecessary, we need to ask ourselves “is this something I need” for example, “I haven’t had a sofa afternoon for weeks and I am exhausted so I need this”, or something you want? For example: “the afternoon on the sofa yesterday was lovely, think I will do it again and not do my exercise today”.

When you ask yourself this question your feelings will guide you as to whether you are being completely straight with yourself.

Also important is to put in place mechanisms to support you in maintaining your healthy habits. There are a wealth of apps out there for everything from helping you to keep going with exercising, relaxation, nutrition and virtually any interest in personal or professional development.

Our relationships can be vital in supporting us too. Couples and family members can look out for each other whilst if you are not in a relationship then buddy up with friends. We are still allowed to meet up with one other person outside to exercise each day so try and organise a regular day and time, if meeting is not possible then agree to a day and time when you will both exercise and then check in with each other on the phone before, during or after.

And it’s not just exercising you can do, maybe you can video call whilst cooking, or watching the same programme. Whatever you find helpful, the arrangement with someone else will help you to keep going.

It has been a big week with the inauguration of a new President for the USA this week and so I think of the words from Franklin D Roosevelt – “We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.”

Emergency helplines:

  • Samaritans. To talk about anything that is upsetting you, you can contact Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call 116 123 (free from any phone), email jo@samaritans.org or visit some branches in person. You can also call the Samaritans Welsh Language Line on 0808 164 0123 (7pm–11pm every day).
  • SANEline. If you’re experiencing a mental health problem or supporting someone else, you can call SANEline on 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm–10.30pm every day).
  • The Mix. If you’re under 25, you can call The Mix on 0808 808 4994 (Sunday-Friday 2pm–11pm), request support by email using this form on The Mix website or use their crisis text messenger service.
  • Papyrus HOPELINEUK. If you’re under 35 and struggling with suicidal feelings, or concerned about a young person who might be struggling, you can call Papyrus HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141 (weekdays 10am-10pm, weekends 2pm-10pm and bank holidays 2pm–10pm), email pat@papyrus-uk.org or text 07786 209 697.
  • Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). If you identify as male, you can call the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) on 0800 58 58 58 (5pm–midnight every day) or use their webchat service.
  • Nightline. If you’re a student, you can look on the Nightline website to see if your university or college offers a night-time listening service. Nightline phone operators are all students too.
  • Switchboard. If you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you can call Switchboard on 0300 330 0630 (10am–10pm every day), email chris@switchboard.lgbt or use their webchat service. Phone operators all identify as LGBT+.
  • C.A.L.L. If you live in Wales, you can call the Community Advice and Listening Line (C.A.L.L.) on 0800 132 737 (open 24/7) or you can text ‘help’ followed by a question to 81066.
  • Helplines Partnership. For more options, visit the Helplines Partnership website for a directory of UK helplines. Mind’s Infoline can also help you find services that can support you. If you’re outside the UK, the Befrienders Worldwide website has a tool to search by country for emotional support helplines around the world.

Nicholas Rose
Psychotherapist, Counsellor, Couples Counsellor and Coach

UKCP registrant, MBACP (accred), UKRCP
PGDip, MA, Adv Dip Ex Psych

Nicholas Rose & Associates
Counselling, psychotherapy and coaching for children, adults, couples and families.


Read more blogs by Nicholas Rose

Read the next in the series – Looking forward to the restrictions easing? Preparation and resilience.

Read the previous one – Mind Matters: Bullying and what to do about it

See all Nicholas’s Mind Matters blogs here

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