While 9 weeks of lockdown has been the cause of mental health issues for some, it seems that the lifting of restrictions is also bringing with it a sense of trepidation and unease.
Some of us are ready and raring to return to our life in the new normal, while others are experiencing a lingering fear of the virus and what infection might mean for them and their families. You might be experiencing a sadness about the loss of things gained during lockdown, more quality time with your family and the slower pace of life for instance.
Questions for many still remain, what is safe? What will happen if I die? What if my husband/wife dies? We take for granted that we can usually go about our everyday lives and nothing will happen to us but Coronavirus has been: stay indoors and don’t see or talk to anyone, you might catch it and it will kill you. This is challenging our usually positive view of the world and for those with anxiety disorders, the fear and emotion part of our brain is working harder to keep us ‘safe’ from all the scary stuff going on outside our front door, making it almost impossible to make rational decisions and get back to ‘normal’.
Human beings are social animals and cope in a crisis by coming together. Our mental health is better when we are at school, work and socially connected. Anxiety leads to avoidance, which in turn heightens the fear and just as we were getting comfortable with this new ‘normal’, the next adjustment phase could also take some getting used to and it’s ok to take your time.
Here are a few tips to help you as we ease out of lockdown and get back to living our lives.
You might find it helpful to talk to others you trust, your friends and family for example. If your kids are going back to school be sure to talk to the teachers about the safety measures they have in place. Your workplace might even let you to continue to work from home if that’s what you have been doing, especially if commuting could pose a risk to your health.
It might take time to get back into the swing of things so start to plan to do the things you love again. Meeting friends and family in their homes, places you want to travel to or your favourite restaurant that you can’t wait to dine in again.
Our daily lives are looking very different to what they did before lockdown. You could start to return to your old routine by going to bed at an earlier time.
Many of us have been finding the current pace of life much easier to deal with, we have been less pressured to attend social gatherings, we have had quality time to spend with our families so it might be worth reflecting on whether we want things to return to how they were before and review your priorities in life. Have a think about what really makes you happy.
Feeling in the know can help anxiety and while it’s important to keep up to date with the news, make sure you’re getting it from reliable sources and not just reading rumours and speculation. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, switch it off completely and have a rest from it for a few days. For up-to-date advice you can trust, see the NHS coronavirus webpage and gov.uk coronavirus webpages.
Make sure you do things to lift your mood such as walking in nature, exercise, the hobby you love to do or just talking to a friend.
As lockdown restrictions gradually begin to lift, remember that it will take a while for life to get back to ‘normal’ and it’s OK if you take longer to adjust than others
As with all things it’s about taking one step at a time. We will need to get used to going outside, mixing with more people and taking part in life again which at first might feel overwhelming. Not expecting too much of ourselves is key as we gradually get used to going back to work, be kind and patient with ourselves as we learn to adjust again. During our lockdown life you might’ve enjoyed a slower pace of life, something that we’re not used to in the 21st century and might never have the chance for this amount of time together again once life returns to ‘normal’.
So if you’re worrying that you’re not going to be able to go back to how you were before or worrying about the effects of returning to things how they were before, remember to show yourself some compassion and be kind to yourself. Just as it took time to re-adjust to the lockdown life, understand that re-adjusting to life after lockdown will take time too.
If you find your mental health is being affected by this at the moment and you would like some support, I am offering online and telephone counselling and will shortly be booking face to face appointments.