reading time: 4 mins

Life during Lockdown: Celebrating small pleasures

May 12, 2020by Andy Dexter

Over the last few weeks we’ve been monitoring UK Twitter to gain insight into the mood of the nation. Our first trawl of tweets, covering tens of thousands in the two weeks post lockdown (23rd March – 9th April) unsurprisingly showed a great deal of negative emotionality. It wasn’t all negative, but the COVID-19 social discourse at this point of shock contained a great deal of fear and sadness

  • Fear of what was happening, and what may yet happen – to society, the economy, and to individuals. Fear of the unknown, and of mortality.
  • Sadness over the rising cases, the vulnerable, the death toll. Sadness over what we had all suddenly lost, and the weird loneliness of social isolation.
  • And anger, too. At the suddenness of the change, the shock, and the feeling of being completely unprepared.

For many, it was as if the world we’re used to had suddenly gone away.

But at the same time, it was evident that there remained the joy of human interaction, camaraderie and supportiveness, of being comforting and being able to make each other laugh. It just wasn’t very strongly present at that time.

Emotions in the Discourse: the Mood of a Nation

The Shock Factor

This was the time when things were moving fast – there was a period of panic buying, travel bans being introduced, strategic confusion, and more. Major financial support initiatives – particularly aimed at supporting businesses – were being thrown together fast. Overall, anxiety was rife.

The central discourses were around anxiety versus seeking reassurance – whether governmental or more in terms of society in general.

People were already asking the big questions, and nobody had any answers:

“How long will this really go on for?”

“Is lockdown actually working?”

“How many cases are there – really?”

“Will my family be OK?”

“How do I cope with the sudden reality of lockdown?”

“Will I lose my job, my home, my income…?”

“Will anything be the same ever again?”

And now?

Fast forward a few weeks and much is the same, yet equally much has changed. Another big trawl of tweets, with some interesting new observations.

After the initial shock phase people are adjusting and many are seeking to find new positives in an incredibly difficult situation.

Some are appreciating anew the small things – neighbours, birthdays, pets, humour, exercise, new recipes and healthy cooking. People are focusing on their homes – family, the inside/outside space, pottering in the garden, doing DIY, appreciating what they have.

lockdown activities have included making progress with furniture built from recycled materials as an alternative to buying new. big bookcase built from bits of smaller bookcases and kitchen cupboards made from … well, all kinds of stuff.

more lockdown diy efforts. shelf with scaffold board & spice rack with loose garage timber…

i feel a sense of accomplishment! #garden #gardening #plants #flowerpot #flowersinpots #nature #spring #flowers #pinkflowers #purpleflowers #yellowflowers #prettyflowers #pretty #backgarden #home #lockdown

a beautiful morning stroll round the garden this morning. sun is breaking through the clouds, apple blossom swaying in the breeze…

They may be learning new skills, being creative, trying different activities and nurturing friendships and work online. The normalization of virtual interaction is striking and has happened fast.
Others are finding unexpected beauty in the world: quiet sunsets and dawns; birdsong, silence; flowers and nature. The sky, the empty streets.

does anyone else actually forget that the streets are empty, no crowded shops, beaches, pubs or restaurants. no games in the park. no planes overhead. just being at home, work, a simple life.

lockdown. when it’s over i will miss the peace of the sunrise with no traffic, cars starting, just birds and amazing silhouettes over urban gardens

beautiful bluebells in the front garden & everywhere in the woods on our family walk the other night. lockdown has also meant the public are able to walk across cannock park golf club, which leads into the lovely shoal hill common

the way that nature has thrived in this lockdown is sort of poetic. nature has made us isolate while the animals regain some freedom & the environment cleans the air and water

But at the same time, it’s clear that the negative mental health discourse is growing significantly as lockdown continues – and that includes narratives around domestic violence, loneliness, lack of community support, and the ever present spectre of serious financial hardship.

lockdown is taking a bad toll on my mental health

lockdown uk: ‘there are now two classes, people with gardens and the rest of us’ – nice though it is to see pix of people gardening or relaxing in their gardens during lockdown, spare a thought for those of us without gardens

mental health is all over the place this lockdown ****s with your head

government lockdown measures are increasing mental health issues and domestic violence. women and girls in particular are at increased risk.

been in lockdown 24/7 with someone abusive is more than a nightmare, i have been all over twitter trying to get people to notice me, i am looking to raise enough to get out and go.

be interesting to see how this pandemic/lockdown has affected the likes of depression, anxiety, loneliness and domestic abuse etc etc. not just the covid-19 that’s a worrying & increasing threat to people’s well-being i suspect #covid19…

when will the lockdown end i need income i need to work i want to talk to people i applied so many it support roles zero

you know what’s really sad, i couldn’t start my new job because of the lockdown and i can’t claim benefits because i’m a student, so i can’t pay for any of my bills and i have a grand income of £0

some councils still want you to pay rent, how can people pay if they are not working and don’t have a high-income. the lockdown is affecting many people especially those who are vulnerable (families, elderly, disabled, self-employed).

Others continue to struggle with the challenges of working at home, combined with childcare and education. 

At the macro level, we see a growing number of conversations challenging the Government’s approach to lockdown, apparent lack of an exit strategy. Then there is a rising tide of anger and disquiet around PPE and frontline workers.

There is also a growing sense of disquiet around the sheer numbers now, the fact that we have surpassed other countries in terms of fatalities and so the trust in the government is being challenged anew.  Can we trust their judgement, how come we are performing comparatively worse (even if it’s too early to trust international comparisons of the numbers) than other countries – what does that say about our original strategy and therefore can we trust them with our future?

stark times infographic today on scale of uk gov’s ppe procurement failure hardly a government one can trust to safely manage exit from #coronavirus lockdown, for all the frontmen touting exit on behalf of uk gov

care homes are in total lockdown so how is the cv spreading like wildfire?? it can only be due to lack of ppe or the right ppe the hospitals have similar problems so if the government want to reduce the deaths and the cases they have to sort out the ppe issue pronto!!

But what is most noticeable is that there is now an element of enjoyment and coping going on, with a strong vein of humour. It doesn’t apply to everybody, by any means, but it’s a vein of conversation that was barely present at all a few weeks ago.

There are silver linings to the idea that we are realising what’s important in our lives, the enjoyment that we might have experienced from things we had forgotten or not made time for and how we might integrate those into our lives going forward – a realisation about the world around us that was not there before.

i literally just said to my husband shall i go really wild and wash my hair today? ahhh, lockdown.

i so can’t wait for this lockdown to be over so i can finally get my nails done!! who’s with me

i’ve reached the stage of lockdown where i’ve started to think a sourdough starter might actually be fun. send help.

There is, of course, only so much brands can do to address people’s real concerns and constrained behaviours during the COVID crisis. But there are opportunities to tap into the territories revealed above. Depending on their archetype and license to play in these territories, brands can:

  • Engage with the positive, without making light of peoples’ concerns.
  • Bring empathy – recognise anxiety, but also that we are all in the same boat.
  • Be helpful, offering assistance where they can – at the individual level, or via communities.
  • Connect where they can, to help people flourish.

For example:

Caregiver brands can simply show support, in a way that genuinely recognises the range of challenges people have; demonstrate solidarity, empathy and humanity; give back to the community with local initiatives. Messages have to be authentic and tangible.  Just saying you care doesn’t mean you do.

And of course, don’t sell as if it’s business as usual, and recognise that your brand may be irrelevant to people right now.

Creator brands can innovate in relevant ways, e.g. Brewdog hand sanitizer repurposing, which overlaps into Caregiver too. People expect brands to step up. To lead by example, to be part of the collective good in such uncertain time which may not be in the obvious ways. With this in mind, it’s important to show how you, as a brand, are practically helping employees and customers but be honest before you message. Will it be perceived as enough?

Of course, if you can come up with new things, products, services, that will benefit people in a win/win way that’s great too. Consider: are there opportunities for innovation that will be sustainable past the end of the COVID-19 crisis? A simple example – online fitness classes e.g. via Zoom, may now be here to stay.

In general, remembering peoples’ anxieties as well as coping strategies:

  • Engage in conversations not broadcasts
  • If you don’t know ask, don’t tell
  • Alleviate concerns where you can
  • Message about what you are doing to help but really ask yourself if it is enough or whether it will be perceived as enough
  • Live up to values and purpose and be authentic
  • Beware of virtue signalling
  • Lift spirits
  • Educate in a non threatening way

Finally, remember that people are overwhelmed with information and are finding it tough to take it all in. Especially now we have the pivot to “Stay Alert” – with all the confusion that has suddenly brought.

Sage brands can offer calm, factual, valuable, practical tips and resources to benefit people across a range of needs. For example:

  • Coping strategies – practical help with juggling and daily rhythms: what works and what doesn’t
  • Practical help – extend return windows, increase your online customer service
  • Creative Offers – if you run a promotion think about giving back e.g give a percentage of purchases directly to furloughed workers
  • Mental health – self, friends and family, mindfulness, managing anxiety
  • Communicating well while in lockdown