Much like the majority of the UK workforce, we’ve spent the last 18 months at home, struggling with email, video calling and trying to disguise the amount of empty bottles in our recycling from the bin men. We’ve been bombarded by news reports about the pandemic, highlighting the dangerous and contagious nature of COVID-19 and as a result, have spent a good proportion of our time trying to ignore the underlying stress and anxiety we’ve been feeling. Instead, we’ve adopted that great British mantra, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’.
We’ve kept our distance from friends and loved ones and become very adept at online shopping. On the rare occasions we have ventured out, we’ve had our masks on and carried multiple bottles of sanitizer in our handbags. We’ve quietly tutted to ourselves when we have been out for the odd drink at a pub that we feel doesn’t quite meet our new hygiene standards and been horrified at the sight of people ‘breaking the rules’.
In short, we’ve adapted to this new way of living to the point where the idea of things going back to normal just doesn’t feel right. Whilst some are chomping at the bit to get back to normal, the thought of lockdown restrictions easing completely leaves us feeling a bit overwhelmed and even more anxious. If, like us, you too have a growing sense of unease about life returning to normal then this is definitely the blog for you!
Today we’re going to look at some good ways for dealing with post lockdown anxiety. It’s important that we all have coping mechanisms in place for venturing back into the outside world. It’s a big step for all of us and we’re here to take it with you! So, let’s take a deep breath, a big sip of wine and look at some ways that we can deal with our concerns.
One Step at a Time
Whenever you’re faced with a big change in your life, it’s important to remember that adapting to something new takes time. Just like the time we spent adapting to living in lockdown, we also need to take time to adapt to a world that will potentially become free of restrictions soon.
It’s okay if you’re feeling uncomfortable with venturing out into a crowded space for an event or a shopping trip. Seeing the football fans gather for the Euros, crammed into stadiums and outdoor venues without masks, hugging each other with no social distancing, left us feeling very uncomfortable indeed!
Re-entering the world should be done at a pace that you feel comfortable with. For example, if you have friends who want to get together for a big gathering but you feel anxious about it then suggest an alternative in an outdoor space. You could even take the bull by the horns and start organising small, controlled gatherings to begin easing yourself slowly out of your comfort zone.
The main thing to recognise is that avoiding these social interactions completely is not going to help you. Make sure that you say yes to the ones that you’re comfortable with and progress at your own pace. It’s going to take time for all of us to adjust but avoiding every event completely will ultimately do you more harm than good.
Don’t Be Afraid to Cancel
Yes, this may seem slightly contradictory to our last point but bear with us. If you are feeling vastly overwhelmed by the idea of going to an event or a social gathering then cancelling is absolutely acceptable. Your mental health is your top priority and it’s important that you feel comfortable with each step you take in getting back to some form of normality.
If you’re feeling panicked and fearful, just don’t put yourself through that shit. You haven’t done anything wrong and you’re not letting anyone down. Take a step back and do what’s right for you.
Try being open and honest with your friends. Let them know how you’re feeling and talk about the situation or event that you’re all attending. Being aware of everyone’s fears and expectations can only serve to help you avoid any conflict in the long run.
The same goes for returning back to the office. If you’re feeling anxious and concerned about being around all of your work colleagues again then make sure that you have an in-depth discussion with your boss and your HR department. Tell them about your worries and ask them what their plans are for keeping your office safe.
Take Care of Yourself
Self-care isn’t selfish. Coming out of lockdown could feel as overwhelming for you as it did to originally go into it. We’ve adapted to lockdown life, got our home working organised, have a nice schedule of remote contact with our mates and now it seems like everything is up in the air again and our routines have gone out the window.
Remember that taking time for yourself is still as important as ever. If you’re feeling stressed out by it all then take a leaf out of our book and carve out some time for yourself to switch off the day.
Having the opportunity to visit places that were previously closed to you or to spend time with people you haven’t seen for ages is brilliant! But it’s also quite knackering. It’s a lot to take in all at once and our brains need time to adjust and process all of these new sights and sounds.
If you have found some new hobbies that you love during lockdown or you’ve got into a fabulous self-care routine then keep them going! Make sure that you continue finding time for you, to relax, unwind and process all of the changes to your world.
If you’re finding that you are inundated by requests for get-togethers, catch-ups, days in the office and holidays then we highly recommend keeping a calendar or diary to help you to stay on top of it all. Popping all of your events into a single calendar will help you to feel more in control of your time and feel less overwhelmed and uncertain.
The added benefit is that you can arrange your events to make sure that you are giving yourself adequate time to adjust. You may have invitations to do something on every weekend of the month but if you’re noting them all down as they can come in then it will give you an idea of the time you’re using up in the month.
The boyfriend and I quite like to block out every other weekend for ourselves so that we’re not doing too much on the trot! Seeing friends and doing things again is fun but it does leave us feeling tired. If we do have something on every weekend and we really want to do all of the things then we make sure that the Sunday is always free so that we can rest, relax and prepare for the week ahead (or recover from our hangovers).
Talk to Someone About Your Worries
If the idea of mixing with people and putting yourself in more social situations is really worrying you then we highly recommend talking to a trusted friend or colleague. You need to vocalise your fears – you can’t keep them all bottled up inside, it will just make you ill.
For me personally, I’ve been quite lucky that my friendship group have all been happy to discuss our COVID ‘boundaries’ and everyone has been quite understanding. But we would never have had that conversation if one of us hadn’t said something in the first place! I can guarantee that you won’t be alone in expressing some reservations – I haven’t spoken to a single person that does not have a few worries about everything opening up again.
Importantly, we just want to stress that if talking to a friend does not help you and you feel overwhelmed with anxiety, stress and fear then there is absolutely no shame in talking to a health professional about it. I had a chat with my doctor this week and she was so helpful and pointed me to a lot of different resources available for those of us who are feeling anxious. They really are there to help.
We hope that this deep dive into coping with post-lockdown anxiety has helped you to prepare yourself. It’s going to be hard to transition and return to life without restrictions but as long as we’re honest with ourselves and each other, we will get through this together. Until next time, I’m going to go and hide some another empty bottle of wine under the Amazon packaging….