SADder than ever: are we ready to cope with a winter lockdown?

The fear about a winter lockdown is very real and attention is already focusing on how we can cope and help others to do so

With virus infection rates back on the rise, it seems that the dreaded second wave is upon us. As of last Monday the government announced a raft of plans – including pubs closing at 10 p.m. – designed to turn around the rising pattern of COVID cases.

Already, many areas of the UK – totalling some 16.6 million citizens, or about one in four – are under restrictions or local lockdowns.

These events have, not surprisingly, accelerated online rumours of a second, full, national lockdown, which had, anyway, been circulating online periodically throughout the Summer, promoting a wave of frantic Googling not seen since the first lockdown:

We’ve been through a lockdown before but not a dark and cold one…

If we do go into a full lockdown, some might argue that it won’t be that bad. We’ve done it before; we can do it again. But there are a whole host of factors that will make a second, winter lockdown much harder.

Less ability to get outdoors

During both the full lockdown of April/May/June and the time of eased restrictions that we’ve seen since then, we have, by and large, been able to get out and about, into our gardens and the countryside. Going outside will certainly be less attractive than in the first lockdown and less of us will have activities like gardening, walking, jogging and cycling to keep us busy.

No novelty factor to distract us

A second lockdown is also likely to be harder on all of us simply because it is a second lockdown. Not only will it seem like we are “back to square one” but it will also raise questions about how many times we’ll have to go through this.

Lockdown Affective Disorder

Many find this time of year challenging enough anyway, with the nights drawing in and the weather cold, damp, and miserable. Roughly one-in-three Brits suffer from so-called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or “winter depression”:

  • 57% of adults say their mood is worse in winter compared to summer
  • 40% suffer from more fatigue during the winter months
  • Google searches around the issue show a clear annual pattern starting to peak during October, November and early December

It seems highly likely that the normal Seasonal Affective Disorder becoming a more extreme Lockdown Affective Disorder this year, with winter depression becoming both more widespread, and more profound, than in previous years.

Other health threats besides COVID

Winter ailments like flu – which leads to hundreds of thousands of GP visits, tens of thousands of hospital stays and causes around 8-10,000 deaths each year – won’t go away just because COVID Is here. A second lockdown may be affected by the presence of other health threats this year.

Three ways to survive a second lockdown

Think like a Norwegian and a Dane: adopt the right mindset

People living in the Arctic Circle such as Lapp Norwegians are armed with a mindset that helps combat the long ‘polar night’. The hygge that became so popular a couple of years ago preaches enjoying cosiness and the broader lesson is about reframing winter not as a time of limitation but as something to be enjoyed for its own sake.

Think like a Swede: ignore barriers to a life outdoors

Those who routinely live with cold climates and short or non-existent winter days cannot be put off by a bit of bad weather. They live by a mantra encapsulated in this quote that simply advocates wrapping up and getting on with it.

“There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing”

Sir Ranulph Fiennes

It seems that Brits are embracing this philosophy too with reports that rugs, patio heaters and fire pits fly off the shelves as the nation gears up to socialise through the coldermonths.

Find mood boosts: 

From “awe walks” to Indulgent treats, many advocate the need to recognise the challenges to our mental health and introduce appropriate boosters (link).

How can brands help?

The launch of the latest series of The Great British Bake Off last week attracted a million more viewers than last year’s launch suggesting a ready appetite for the wholesome, light and fun content. As the autumn schedules launch we can expect classic light entertainment staples (like Britain’s Got Talent, Strictly Come Dancing) and reality shows (like MIC, TOWIE, and I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here) to attract huge audiences, dominate conversations, both personal and work, and play a vital role in keeping the nation going.

How can retailers help?

First time around, retailers struggled to cope with crazy consumer demand for items like flour, pasta and sauces and yeast. This time around they have acted proactively to start limiting the sales of certain items before the shortages exist. They were similarly caught unprepared for the massive rise in demand for online shopping and delivery slots and can help consumers by being better prepared this time around.

How can tech and social media brands help?

Devices, networks, and platforms have a duty to ensure that they help lift our mood up rather than push it down. Of course, they would argue, quite rightly that they are the mere conduits down which content passes to the end user but we’ve seen Innovation before (such as this Google Chrome plug-in that replaced all coronavirus related content with cats) aimed at placing barriers between user and damaging content. In addition, brands should be encouraging users to limit screen time even more strongly than usual. 

How can food and beverage brands help?

There is a real opportunity for mood foods – functional foods with specific active ingredients that boost specific moods or feelings or help with relaxation and sleep – to help at a time when our mood is likely to be highly compromised. Examples include:

  • Moment, a new US beverage brand that promises “zen in a can”.
  • Dream Water SleepStat Natural Blend is a combination of three active ingredients: Melatonin, 5-HTP, and GABA to aid in sleep
  • Nightfood “sleep-friendly ice-cream”
  • Driftwell is a calorie- and sugar-free noncarbonated water that contains L-theanine and magnesium to aid  de-stressing and relaxation.

This article was written by Nick Chiarelli, Head of Trends at UNLIMITED