Lockdown is once again easing across the UK, bringing opportunities to see friends and family, to re-engage in hobbies and, in time, return to long-awaited face-to-face classes and events. But for many of us, even the exciting and much anticipated changes can be challenging for our mental health.
Returning to ‘normal’ and having more freedom actually have a negative impact on how emotionally free some of us feel. As we approach the end of lockdown, uncertainty remains. This is not something that sits comfortably with many of us, and fear and anxiety are common emotional responses. However you’re feeling, it’s important to remember it’s ok to feel how you do.
So, what can we do to face the challenges that the easing of lockdown brings?
- Acknowledge that our feelings are reasonable. Every time we experience change, it is going to feel unusual, unsafe or even scary so it’s understandable - and okay - to feel anxious.
- Be patient and pace ourselves. It may take time to find our way back or to find a ‘new normal’ that works for us. There will be great uncertainty as it will be hard to predict what the course of the rest of the year will look like. Because our situations are unique to us, we must show ourselves compassion and should try not to judge ourselves based on what others are doing. We should go at our own pace whilst not letting that be an excuse not to challenge ourselves when we can. It’s easy to allow the seclusion that was necessary in lockdown to become deliberate isolation as lockdown ends.
- Be understanding of others. We might feel angry or frustrated at others’ behaviours and feel the urge to judge them or to make comments on social media that reflect our own anxiety. It’s important to remember that everyone is different and may be facing an internal battle that we can’t see. We can’t control others’ behaviours, nor should we want to; so, commenting online can be unhelpful both for ourselves and for the people we are directing the comments at.
- Control what can be controlled. There are many things we have no control over that cause us anxiety but there are some things we can plan for so having an action plan for managing the things we can control can help us to deal with the uneasiness that comes with uncertainty.
- Share our feelings with those we trust. Sharing how we feel with others can help us to process how we’re feeling and may even take some of the power out of the worry we’re experiencing. Expressing our feelings can also help to place anxieties that feel very intense or powerful into context. Sharing how we feel can also invite others to do the same and can lead to shared understanding which in turn can help us to feel understood and less alone in our anxieties.
- Take opportunities to reset and relax. Having to adapt to a changing environment can be both physically and emotionally draining so we must regularly practise self care.
- Build up tolerance. It’s only by gently building up tolerance that we can move through our fears. If we try to do something that challenges us on a daily or weekly basis - no matter how small - we are making positive progress.
- Celebrate the wins (no matter how ‘small’). When consumed by anxiety or fear, it can be easy for us to forget or to fail to notice our positive achievements. We should try to keep a note of what we are proud of and to record good things as they happen.
- Focus on the things we have learned and achieved. Many of us have been tested in ways we could have never imagined over the last few months and have found new ways to manage - or even to flourish. This alone is a sign that we are resilient and have the inner tools to deal with the new challenges that have arisen from the easing of lockdown.
There is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed if the thought of rejoining the party after lockdown comes with a feeling of dread. It’s surprising just how many people will share the same anxieties. So acknowledge them; be aware of the uncertainties that others may also be experiencing and, while still nudging ourselves along back into the social world, be patient and kind to others – and to ourselves.
If you are feeling anxious and need to talk, text SHOUT to 85258 for free, confidential support. Shout’s trained volunteers are available 24/7; visit giveusashout.org for more information.