For many of us, the gradual easing of lockdown has brought excitement and anticipation - those longed-for opportunities to see your friends, play sports, hug family or get back to work. But for others, these anticipated changes can be difficult for our anxiety and mental health.
The prospect of coming out of lockdown when debate is still going on about our safety and new variants appearing can be a real worry. This may especially apply to those more vulnerable to the virus and those of us who already struggle with their mental health. Here is some advice for those who feel their anxiety levels rising and for those slightly overwhelmed with the prospect of returning to normal:
Manage your anxiety - feeling anxious about returning to normal will be a common feeling for more people than you probably realise. It took a lot of emotional energy to survive lockdown and all its uncertainty. Many found their way to manage and the idea of that changing can induce feelings of fear and dread. Remember this is normal. Just as it took us time to find ways of coping during lockdown, we should also expect that it will take time to find our way back, and to reconnect with life.... and that's OK.
There is no rush to return to normal, you should try to take things at your own pace. It’s only by building up tolerance slowly that we can start to move past these fears. Take one step at a time but do challenge yourself to try something different every couple of days. It’s very easy to allow the time alone that was necessary in lockdown to become a deliberate isolation as lockdown lessens. Celebrate the small wins and recognise and acknowledge the steps you are making each time you do so.
Control only what you can control – there are a lot of things you can’t control that cause you fear and anxiety but understanding that and taking control of the things you can will help build confidence. Having an action plan for managing things you might find difficult can help. Dont lose emotional energy thinking about things outside of your direct control.
Adapt situations – try and vary your routines so that you do something new or see different people, so you don't get stuck in a routine. Also try to adapt situations to make yourself feel comfortable. If a walk at one time of the day is very busy, try mixing walks at busy times with walks at quieter times. If meeting four people in one go is overwhelming meet just a couple of people at a time and build up to a group meeting when you feel you can. The more new things you try the easier it will become.
Make Work work for you – Returning to the workplace can seem very daunting after so many months at home. If this is making you anxious talk to your employer. Many workplaces are employing flexible working practices with a combination of office and home working. If you are finding it hard to get to work, or do particular shifts or activities because of anxiety or fear, speak to someone and see what options there are.
Focus on the present – you can only do your best with what you have today. With the media reporting changes to regulations and updates of new varitants everywhere, its easy to be drawn into the 'what if's' and uncertainty, try and keep a focus on the present moment. Our cans of mindfulness is one way of bringing your mind back to the present moment, helping to block out the noise of everyday life. There are many exerises to help you to reset, be in the moment and reduce anxiety and worry.
Tell people how you feel – it’s important to talk your emotions and the way are you feeling. Don’t bottle it up, dismiss it as silly or judge yourself too harshly. The more you talk to people the easier it will be to acknowledge and understand how you are feeling. You'll be amazed at how many others may share your concerns.