Feeling anxious about lockdown easing? You’re not alone

It’s fair to say that the past year has been tough on everyone. The pandemic has affected us all in one way or another, and the thought of ‘getting back to normal’ is what’s kept most of us going. Looking forward to happier times when we’ll be able to meet friends for lunch and have family for dinner has helped shine a glimmer of light on our darkest days.

But whilst we might be desperate to live life to the full again, actually getting out there and doing it is a completely different thing.

The world has been on hold for over a year now, so it’s natural that we can’t just turn on a switch and suddenly expect to feel the way we did before all this started. Which is why the prospect of getting ‘back to normal’ is making so many of us feel anxious rather than free.

The virus hasn’t gone away, but we can all manage our risk. Wear a mask. Wash and sanitise our hands regularly. Get vaccinated.

If the idea of stopping the pause button is making you feel nervous, you’re not alone. But there are some little shifts in thinking that might make things a little easier for you.

Take things slowly

When the world around you starts to open up again, take it a day at a time. If you haven’t been out much, try going somewhere outdoors. Maybe meet a friend in a park or go for a morning walk when the streets are quiet. Fresh air, walking and sunlight are all great mood boosters. Once you’ve done a few outdoor trips, try going to indoor places when they’re likely to be less busy – mornings and weekdays are when shops are usually quieter. Think of your mask as your armour.

Do something different

Most of us have binged enough TV in the past year to last a lifetime. That’s not to say it’s time to hang up your remote, but you could think about setting yourself little challenges of new things to do. It could be something simple like having a coffee with someone you haven’t seen for a while, travelling a little further afield to walk in a different park, or maybe trying a new activity that pre-lockdown you kept putting off. If you don’t fancy the gym just yet, see if there are any outdoor fitness classes near you. Getting active gets those endorphins going – our natural ‘happy’ buzz.

Focus on now

There’s been a great quote doing the rounds of social media recently, which goes along the lines of not worrying about tomorrow, because you don’t have tomorrow’s strength yet.  Focusing on the present helps stop our minds racing and thinking negative thoughts. Taking just 10 minutes a day to relax and breathe – really breathe – can help ease anxiety. Soothe your soul with calming music, fragrant candles or an indulgent bath. There are some great tips on how to focus on the present at Mindful.orgEmbrace Mindfulness and Frantic World.

Be kind to yourself

Unless you’re one of those highly-disciplined souls, chances are you might have gained some weight in lockdown. And, with the exception of those lucky enough to live with a hair stylist, your lockdown locks aren’t likely to get you chosen for a L’Oréal ad any time soon. We’re all in the same boat. But, here’s the good news: We can change all that. Getting more exercise, eating better, sleeping better doesn’t just make a difference to how we look, but can make a huge difference to how we feel. Stop finding fault with yourself and instead use the new beginning to be a new a new beginning for you too. Self-care is great for self-confidence, so make time to make yourself a priority.

Keep enjoying the good stuff

Although lockdown has been really hard, it’s not been without some positives. The way we’ve had to adapt to working from home means that now employers will have to consider if people truly need to be in a building five days a week, which could help the work-life balance for many. You might have found that during lockdown you enjoyed more family time, took up a new hobby, or connected with people through Zoom more regularly than you did in ‘the real world’. Just because lockdown is ending, doesn’t mean that all the good bits have to go.  

Get talking

You might be anxious about seeing people again after so long. Or, you might have got used to your own company. Talk about how you’re feeling to friends and family. Chances are they might have the same worries as you, so get the chat flowing. Think about friends that previously you might not have seen from one year to the next, and how easy it’s always been to pick-up where you left off.

If you find though, that you’re feeling more anxious and can’t get motivated to do anything, then talk to your GP. Don’t feel that you’re wasting their time. The NHS is here for everyone, and if your mood is consistently low it’s best to reach out for help. This is especially true if you’ve experienced mental health problems in the past.

There’s no right or wrong way to get back to normal – whatever normal means. Just take things at your own pace, make time for yourself and be open about how you’re feeling. It might seem hard getting out there again, but think about everything you’ve managed to deal with in the past year. You can absolutely do this.

If you’ve been feeling cut-off or are anxious about seeing people again, there are brilliant people out there who can offer a friendly ear:

  • Anxiety UK 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm)
  • CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) 0800 58 58 58 (Daily: 5pm to midnight)
  • Mind 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
  • Samaritans 116 123 (Free 24-hour helpline)