When Boris announced the gradual easing of lockdown, social media was flooded with people talking about dieting to get ready for June 21st, counting down to when they can all meet at the pub, and planning outfits. It would be easy to assume that everyone couldn’t wait for things to go ‘back to normal’. However, for many of us, even the happy, much anticipated changes can be difficult for our mental health. Whether it’s not wanting to go back to the way things were, fear over the threat of Covid19 or feeling excited but with a tinge of worry, the anxiety of lockdown ending is very real for many. It’s ok to be happy for those who can’t wait to go back to normal and are jumping at the chance, but its also ok that it won’t be easy for everyone.
Preparing Our Mental Health for the End of Lockdown
Adjusting our lives to live in lockdown was tough and it took us time to find ways of coping. Therefore, we should also expect that it will take time for us to adapt to ‘normal’ again and reconnect with life.
The things that helped us adapt to lockdown the first place are still relevant to keep your mental health in check as lockdown ends: find routines, stay connected and talk about how you feel, eat well, exercise and spent time outside in green spaces, get a good night’s sleep. Keeping to this is arguably even more important now as life is bound to get more demanding. Looking after your physical health helps you cope with feelings of anxiety and manage stressful situations.
Be Kind To Yourself
It would be easy to feel like you’re the odd one out as everyone gears up for a packed social life again. However, our own situations and our own mental health are unique to us. It’s important we are kind to ourselves and don’t judge ourselves too harshly. Try not to compare yourself to others, as we all have to move through these situations as best we can with our own coping mechanisms.
On the one hand you may be looking forward to some more structure to your day or looking forward to seeing your friends and family. However, you also may feel concerned or anxious about returning to situations you haven’t been in for a long time. It is perfectly possible to feel both feelings at the same time! Show yourself the same compassion and care you would to someone else – if you find yourself berating how you feel, think ‘How would I speak to a friend right now?’.
Controlling Fear and Anxiety – Take Things at Your Own Pace
We have spent a very intense year building a safe space at home to help us cope with the uncertainty of the world right now. Leaving that safe space is bound to be difficult! We are also facing situations that we haven’t been in for a long time. Even if they are situations we have been in thousands of time, the unfamiliarity can bring up anxious feelings.
Don’t let the seclusion of lockdown become deliberate isolation because you are worried or scared. Take things at your own pace and try to build up to things day to day, setting small daily goals to achieve. Celebrate the small things and don’t beat yourself up if you struggle – just try again tomorrow.
It’s important to not let others bully or pressure you into doing things you don’t want to, but it’s also important not to let that be an excuse not to push yourself. Don’t just go by the timeline set out by the government, but also what is the best time for you.
Talk to People You Trust
Share your fears and concerns with someone you feel comfortable talking to. They may even be experiencing the same or similar feelings. Sharing how you both feel can help you feel supported and understood. Sometimes just saying it out loud can release the hold that anxiety has over you. It’s important to discuss concerns with those close to you, but also to allow other people space to move at their own pace.
Focus on the positives of Lockdown and the future
Try to focus on the positives and take pleasure from the little things you can enjoy again. Whether it’s being able to have a coffee in your favourite café or having a socially distanced garden visit with a loved one that you have missed, there are always positives that can be celebrated.
It’s also important to assess your life pre-lockdown. Maybe you never much liked crowds, or the commute, or you are too used to saying yes to every invite and you don’t want to go back to feeling burnt out all the time. Look at the positives of lockdown and how it may have adjusted your behaviours. Look at how you can bring that behaviour forward to ensure you don’t fall back into old habits, whether it’s your exercise routine, having more time for yourself to rest, or spending more time cooking from scratch.
This is an experience that no one has ever faced before. We are breaking new ground. Anxiety and fear is completely normal, so don’t make yourself more anxious by worrying you’re alone – more people than you even know about may be feeling the same way. Remember to be kind to yourself and others, take it at your own pace, keep the positives from lockdown and look at the positives of the future.