After what feels like a decade of lockdown, the world is starting to return to ‘normal’. So much so, you can now soak up the sunshine in your local pub garden, have your nails done by your favourite beautician and head to the gym to work on your squats.
While it may feel as though everyone is scrambling to make dinner reservations and book their favourite bar for after-work drinks, it’s safe to say not everyone is chomping at the bit to return to ‘life as we knew it’.
With the UK government’s roadmap out of the lockdown in full swing, the days of Zoom quizzes and FaceTime calls are soon to be a thing of the past and it’s causing an unexpected sense of anxiety among the population.
So, if you're feeling overwhelmed about the thought of returning to ‘normal’, we are here to help put your mind at ease.
What is Post lockdown anxiety and why do I have it?
Our homes have been regarded as our safe haven for the better part of a year and the thought of leaving them is somewhat daunting.
Sure, we’ve ventured out for walks and seen a couple of friends for a picnic in the park when allowed to do so…but it doesn’t compare to the hustle and bustle of our former lives.
Clinical Psychologist Dr Emma Svanberg believes lockdown anxiety has affected people in several different ways.
She claims ‘individual differences such as how introverted or extraverted we are, our personal view of risk and our personal circumstances (including our health needs and those of our family, how our friends and family feel about the pandemic restrictions)’ play a role in our feelings towards the lockdown easing.
The good news is, it’s totally normal to be experiencing these feelings and there are plenty of ways to help you navigate your return to society.
How to manage your lockdown anxiety:
1/ Take it slow
We’d be lying if we said there weren't aspects of our old lives we really missed, but it’s normal to be anxious about what’s on the horizon. Navigating the new social norm won’t be light work, but remember Rome wasn’t built in a day.
It’s important to recognise how you’re feeling and avoid comparing your experience to anyone else’s. Everyone will respond to the government’s roadmap differently, but take confidence in the fact there is no right way to feel – go at your own pace.
2/ Speak to someone you trust
A problem shared is a problem halved. Trying speaking about your feelings with someone you are comfortable opening up to. You’ll probably find they are harbouring the same concerns as you!
Creating a support network will not only make you feel understood and supported during such unprecedented times, but also give you confidence in knowing you’re not alone.
If you feel unable to reach out to your nearest and dearest, why not try talking to those at the NHS, Samaritans or Mind instead.
3/ Plan ahead
Coronavirus brought a summer of cancellations in 2020 and people are desperate to make up for lost time this summer. As a result, every restaurant, bar and event up and down the country is booking out.
Therefore, you may find yourself inundated with social requests from friends and family members for the foreseeable future as everyone looks to get ahead of the game.
Ease the burden by planning ahead. Consider which situations you would like to attend and recognise which of those are causing you the most anxiety. Once you’ve identified them, try and find a solution to your concerns.
For example, if you’re feeling uneasy about travelling to your friend’s house on public transport…see if you can find an alternative mode of transport or make the commute on a quieter day.
4/ Look after your wellbeing
It may sound obvious but taking care of your physical health will in turn help take care of your mental health. According to research, just 10 minutes of brisk walking increases your mental alertness, energy and positive mind-set.
While participation in regular physical activity can increase your self-esteem and subsequently reduce your stress and anxiety – err yes please!
In addition to physical exercise, make sure you maintain a well-balanced diet, limit your alcohol consumption and get some decent shuteye.
But above all, just remember when life starts to get a little busier, keep taking time out to look after yourself.
5/ Focus on the positives
The majority of conversations for the past year have been somewhat negative with the emphasis being on the country's rate of infections, the struggling economy and everyone’s lack of quality time with their family…
Therefore, now more than ever it is important to focus on the positives and take pleasure from the little things you can enjoy with the easing of the lockdown rules.
Whether that be returning to your netball club, having a BBQ in your garden or dining al fresco – there is plenty to keep you smiling.
Why not even start a gratitude diary to help you recognise everything you are grateful for each day?
6/ Focus on what you can control
‘Control the controllables’ – a mantra that has been doing the rounds for as long as I can remember. But what exactly does that mean?
There are things in your life that you can and can’t control and although our independence has been limited this year – the ‘can’ list is starting to look longer than the ‘can’t’.
Empower yourself by taking ownership over your decisions this summer – whether that be who you hang out with, the places you attend, the news you read or the conversations you engage in.
7/ Take time to process what's happened
Looking to pick up where you left off in March 2020 isn’t a good idea. Whether we like it or not a year has passed and we have experienced an array of trauma during that time.
From not seeing our friends and family to the constant concern over our health there has been a lot on our plate for the past 12 months. Therefore, it’s important to process what has happened and learn to accept it.
If you’re struggling to come to terms with the meteoric shift in your life over the last year, why not ask yourself some important questions to help you to get some clarity on how you feel.
For example, what has been the most difficult part of this process for me? What has changed for me during this time? Or is there anything I need to do to feel ok now?
8/ Get comfortable with saying no
For some people, the easing of lockdown restrictions is a worthy cause for celebration as it symbolises the hope of returning to normality. But, for others, the idea of navigating this new and different world is a catalyst for stress and anxiety.
However, it’s important to remember you have the right to say no. People may want you to attend their birthday party, meet for after work for drinks or attend that music festival in the summer but it’s ok to say no - heck even get comfortable with saying it.
But if you are eager to get back on the horse, try easing yourself into things by meeting up with a few friends before taking on large events. That way you will familiarise yourself with the social scene before being thrown in at the deep end.
But above all, try not to feel peer pressured and only do things that you feel comfortable doing.