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Scottish Government issues lockdown anxiety advice

Scotland’s principal medical officer and consultant psychiatrist, Dr John Mitchell.

The Scottish Government’s principal medical officer has encouraged people to prioritise their mental health, as he acknowledged that changes to lockdown measures can bring new challenges for many.

According to government research, at least seven in ten people in Scotland are feeling anxious or concerned about other people not following guidelines, as restrictions ease.

Principal medical officer and consultant psychiatrist, Dr John Mitchell, explained that these concerns are normal and shared by everyone to differing degrees — as well as offering advice on how to deal with anxiety as the nation adjusts to increased freedoms.

Suggestions include:

  • recognising how you’re feeling
  • talking to others
  • regular physical activity
  • good sleep, diet and sensible alcohol and caffeine consumption
  • limiting the time you allow yourself to worry, and taking slow deep breaths if you’re feeling anxious

According to Dr Mitchell, mentally preparing yourself to do things that you are worried about can also help — rehearsing in your mind the steps you can take to reduce infection risk, such paying contactlessly, staying at a safe two metre distance from others, good hand hygiene, and also using face coverings on public transport.

The principal medical officer has directed those who are feeling unsettles to the Clear Your Head website which provides a range of tips to help people look after their mental health during these times, signposting helplines for those who need to talk to someone, including NHS24, Breathing Space, SAMH and the Samaritans.

Dr Mitchell said: “As restrictions lift, many of us may be struggling with our feelings and emotions, feeling anxious or frustrated for what seems like no reason.  We may have gotten used to the restrictions, changing how we live, work and interact, and whilst we might expect everyone will be grateful for increased freedoms, many are really anxious about the next steps. It is important that we face our fears and do not avoid them.

“The enjoyment we might get from moving more freely outside, travelling and meeting friends and family is tempered when we are worried about the spread of infection. By sticking to the rules during the gradual lifting of restrictions, we can be confident that risk won’t rise. Less virus around us can be matched with less restriction.

“Although there are practical things we can do to help ourselves cope over the coming weeks, remember that help is available if needed.  We’ve never had to deal with a situation like this before, so be kind to yourself and to others, and reach out if you need to talk to someone.  Support is there.”

For practical tips, you can visit clearyourhead.scot.