The highs and lows of shielding from coronavirus

It's mental health awareness week so we spoke to Lucy from Healthwatch Dorset to find out the challenges she faces whilst shielding.
Woman wearing sunglasses at the beach

For Mental Health Awareness Week, Lucy decided to share her experiences to give people a snapshot into what life is like having to stay home and shield because of coronavirus. Take a look at her week, the impact on her mental health and how she tackles the challenges this new lifestyle brings.

What does it mean to be a 'shielder'?

"I received a letter on 12 April to say that I am on the high-risk coronavirus register and in order to protect myself and the NHS, I should be shielded – spending the next 12 weeks at home, on my own. The only fresh air that I should be getting is from my garden or a doorstep. This did not come as a great shock because I have a long history of respiratory problems, but for someone who is very active and loves being outside running, walking, or on a bike, it was a bitter pill to swallow!

For the first couple of weeks, there were some highs, as well as real lows. It feels quite scary to receive the ‘letter of doom’, as well as the daily text messages from the UK Government Shielding Service telling you to stay indoors."

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A week in the life of a 'shielder'

Wednesday 29 April: Appreciating the care and support I have

"Today has highlighted how fortunate we are to have our NHS and how important it is to protect it. I received two telephone calls, one from my Doctor asking how I am, if I'm managing to access shopping, prescriptions and if there is any other help that I need. I felt so grateful that I have friends to do my shopping for me, and a family member who can pick up my prescription - I hope the Doctor manages to reach out to the people who don’t have this help and are struggling alone. There must be so many people out there who lack capacity because of dementia and are feeling totally bewildered.

"The second call I received was from the asthma nurse, who was really nice and at the end of the call asked me how I was feeling. Usually, I would just say I’m fine, even if I’m not, but this time I told her that I was missing going for a run early in the mornings with my running partner. Up until four weeks ago we were training for the half marathon and running ten miles on the weekends. At the time I wasn’t enjoying the training as much as I normally do; the weather had been awful, and I had calf strain which was making it harder. I’m over the calf strain and right now I’m really missing the running. I would just love to do a ten-mile run in the sunshine and fresh air."

Do you need help? 

Take a look at our advice and information to help people that have been told to 'shield'. You can find out more about what you need to do, and how to get the care and support you need. 

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Whenever I am faced with adversity, I always try to find a positive in any difficult situation.

"The reality of coronavirus is that it brings fear into people’s lives, people are losing loved ones and families are being ripped apart. As a positive though, a community in crisis brings us closer together. I have just hung out of my living room window, along with many of my neighbours to clap the NHS and other key workers who are putting themselves at risk for us. Thank you!"

Friday 1 May: The frustration of losing your independence

"The last few days I’ve been feeling quite positive, but where there’s an up, there’s a down. Today I’ve been feeling frustrated all day, and the cabin fever is taking its toll. I woke up feeling a bit down and I haven’t been able to shake that feeling. I don’t like having to rely on people to do things for me, even though I know they are more than happy to help. I’m used to being independent and doing everything for myself. I have had to remind myself a few times that I am fortunate that I have friends and family. The changes that I have had to make are drastic, but I understand they are for a good reason. Having already gone through one major lung operation, I am not keen to return.

Saturday 2 May: Keeping in touch with people helps

"Thank goodness for video calling apps, that’s all I can say! It’s not the same as seeing someone in person but at least you can stay in contact and see people’s faces. I’m finding the weekends particularly hard at the moment. I work Monday to Friday, so today I haven’t got work to fill the time. I’ve set up a gym at home, so I can train here, but it’s not the same as going to the gym on a Saturday morning and seeing familiar faces, as well as my nieces. I’m also really missing my friends and feeling quite lonely today. It’s hard isolating by yourself. I’m going to do Joe Wicks ‘workout’, so I’m hoping that will lift my spirits and kill 30 minutes! I always find that exercise boosts my overall mood, so I’m sure I’ll feel a bit better afterwards."

Sunday 3 May: Too much bad news makes me anxious - family and friends are the antidote!

"I woke up very early this morning and feeling much more positive. I made a conscious decision not to watch or read any news today. I’ve been following the news every day, but I think focussing on it too much can add to the anxiety and the daily death toll is just depressing. There’s so much uncertainty and speculation at the moment, and I don’t think anyone really knows what is going to happen in the coming months.

Instead, I spent most of the day reading and chatting to people on the phone. I also spent the evening catching up with my London friends on WhatsApp video, we do this every Sunday now at 8pm. I definitely spend a lot more time talking to my family and friends now. It’s easy to take the people who you hold close to your heart for granted and something like this makes you count your blessings. It has certainly made me appreciate them a lot more and that can only be a good thing!"

Coronavirus is affecting my mental health - what can I do?

 Read our seven steps to looking after your wellbeing while staying informed.

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Monday 4 May: Work gives me focus

"I feel quite relieved to get back to work after the weekend, as it gives me something to focus on whilst being stuck at home. I don’t think the cat is as happy about it as I am though. She’s been getting a lot more attention from me whilst I’ve been shielding, particularly at the weekends. This morning she decided to jump on my desk and gate crash my Teams meeting, whilst knocking my cup of tea over in the process. For a 19-year-old cat, it was a decent jump! The Teams meeting that I had was to finalise a small project that I am going to be working on and I’m looking forward to making a start on it. Anyway, it’s the end of my working day and the sun has just come out. I’m off out to sit on the grass for an hour or so."

Tuesday 5 May: Writing helps

"Today is my food delivery day from my friend and we get to have a quick chat, from a distance. Thanks to Becca and Sarah who have been delivering a regular supply of food, I have not had to resort to eating rice and beans, whilst pretending that I am on ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’. Thank you!

Tuesday is also my virtual team meeting day, so I get to see my lovely colleagues' faces and catch up with what we are all doing.

This is my last day of writing this blog, and since starting it I have learnt two things:

  • Writing is very cathartic

  • I will never take my freedom for granted again

I’m not sure when our lives will return to normal, but I do believe that something positive will come out of this.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and stay safe!

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