How to handle the worry of other people not following Covid rules

Expert tips for coping with stress in a healthy way.

Despite the repeated messages from the government to stay home, protect the vulnerable and avoid all unnecessary travel, it’s clear that not everyone is adhering to the coronavirus guidelines.

If you’ve spent months avoiding seeing family and friends, it can be frustrating to enter a supermarket and spot someone shopping without a mask, or to hear about an acquaintance bending the rules to visit other households.

And knowing that some people aren’t getting behind the national effort can quickly cause anxiety about the spread of the virus and what the future holds.

While you can’t control what others do, experts say you can learn to influence your emotional response to rule-breakers. Here’s how to keep calm and carry on.

1. Stick with your bubble

Dr Meg Arroll, chartered psychiatrist at Healthspan, says that it’s a good idea to try and distance yourself from loved ones who are interpreting the guidance differently from you – especially if you feel that it’s putting your health at risk.

“Be clear with those in your immediate bubble on what the latest rules are and how you will adhere to them,” she says. “Stick to the boundaries that you’ve agreed on and minimise your contact with others who may not be so rigid.”

Two friends in a park wearing masks

Distance yourself from loved ones who have differing views on the rules

2. If worry sets in, breathe deeply

If you start to feel a sense of panic after mixing with people who aren’t wearing masks in indoor public spaces, Arroll says you should try breathing deeply through your belly to halt the innate stress response.

At the same time, you can reassure yourself that your face covering is doing its job.

“Also, remember that there are some circumstances that prevent people from wearing masks,” reminds Arroll. “They may have a medical reason for not wearing one, so bear that in mind before you jump to judgements.”

Woman wearing protective mask while using cell phone and buying food in grocery store during virus epidemic.

People may not wear a mask for medical reasons

3. Limit your time on social media

It’s easy to feel outraged if you spot an influencer or celebrity on a foreign holiday on Instagram, so unfollow accounts that are making you feel uncomfortable.

Of course, it’s tempting to want to confront those you think are flouting the rules, but Arroll says that typing aggressive comments on people’s holiday posts is an unhealthy way to address your feelings.

“Anger is very often a response to fear, so it would be useful to release this feeling in a more productive way. You could talk to a close friend about how you feel, or write it down in a journaling exercise,” she says.

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4. Exercise away the stress

If someone you care about acts in a way that goes against your personal boundaries, it’s normal to feel upset about it.

“It’s a very stressful time so if you’re prone to anxiety, make sure you take the time to manage that stress proactively,” says Dr Paul McLaren, of Priory’s Wellbeing Centres.

“Aerobic exercise and active relaxation will help, either indoor or outdoor,” he says, adding that you could also try meditating.

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5. Tell others how you feel

Priory psychotherapist Pamela Roberts says: “If you know someone that’s repeatedly breaking the rules, talk to them about how you feel and the importance of the rules to you.

“This is to ensure that others are aware of the rights and wrongs of current regulations, which will help to give you peace of mind about the situation.”

Man buying beer in the supermarket without a mask

Talking about it can help

6. Bear in mind that everyone is different

The heightened anxiety around the coronavirus pandemic has left us hyper-critical of others, but it’s good to keep your head by reminding yourself that not everyone is in your shoes.

“It might sound obvious, but it’s important to remember everyone is different,” stresses therapist Jessica Boston. “They handle life challenges differently, and interpret information differently, so remember that it isn’t a personal attack on you.”

That being said, everyone should be doing their bit to stick to the rules, and if you’re seriously concerned about a breach of the latest government guidance in the UK, you can find out how you can report the incident by visiting

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23rd Jan 2021
Thanks for voting!
It's good to get Advice about what to do about.people who are not following the rules ,they are going about there Every day life has normal ,& I am afraid life is not like that now,but let's just hope for those of us who are following the rules stay safe,I have a vunrerable husband who has been in hospital for 15 weeks,& is home now,our son,/ daughter are doing all our shopping they drop it at the door,Has they are working & are afraid of passing covid on to us, before covid I was out every day, shopping going out to visit friends who couldn't get out, meeting friends for coffee,weekends away with my sister, holidays,?? it's all stopped now,I would of never of thought I could stop at home all this time,it's because I am looking after my husband' & I like cleaning that I manage to pass my day,roll on better times & better weather so we can get in the garden & chat to our neighbors,I am lucky I have a husband for company.feel sorry for those on there own it must be lonely.I ring my friends who are alone & have a good chinwag,try putting world to rights have a laugh.feel better afterwards.stay safe everyone.❣️
22nd Jan 2021
Thanks for voting!
while this advises us all how to look after ourselves and obey the rules it does nothing for the frustration you feel when you isolate yourself from family and friends because the rules don't let you to mix only to find that others don't really care. I've mixed with no one of importance to me since Christmas and it is proving very frustrating that there can be no easing of the rules because of selfish morons who feel it doesn't apply to them.
21st Jan 2021
Thanks for voting!
If someone is not wearing a face mask for medical reasons such as just having had their ears lowered, then at least wear a face shield, as this should not abraid the affected area.

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