After a year of lockdown on and off we're now preparing ourselves to ease back into 'normality'. The government recently announced a four step "roadmap" to see the country out of lockdown and ultimately, free of COVID-related rules. The earliest that 'all' restrictions could be dropped is 21 June (a Monday), meaning that many people have already marked 25 June (a Friday) as the Big Day of Freedom.
But after the initial excitement of the end of lockdown, many of us may feel anxious; going back to 'old routines' can feel daunting, unusual and make us nervous. Pace of life has changed dramatically for many over the past year, can we pick up where we left?
Throughout the pandemic, we've developed new habits in response to keeping safe with the increased threat of COVID, as well as managing our expectations and emotions when it comes to lack of social contact and pre-COVID opportunities, such as travelling and exploring our interests.
School children and students are now nearly at the end of their second week back at school, colleges and universities. My children had been looking so much forward to going back to school, however, when the announcement came that they could go back, all three of them were surprised to admit they had mixed feelings about going back.
Just as it took us time to find ways of coping during lockdown, we should also expect that it will take time to find our way back, and to reconnect with life. Things may not be the same as they were before.
It is really important to try not to judge ourselves harshly based on what other people are doing. Everybody is facing uncertainty and challenge – and we have no choice but to move through it as best we can with our own coping mechanisms.
Tips on coping with fear and anxiety.
Control what can be controlled
There are a lot of things that can’t be controlled that cause fear and anxiety – but there are some things you can manage or plan for, focus on those. Making an action plan for managing things you might find difficult can also help.
It's important to recognise that you need to go at the right pace for you. Don’t let others bully or pressure you into doing things you don’t want to – but try not to let that be an excuse not to push yourself, especially when it comes to reconnecting with friends safely, outside your home, when rules allow and the time is also right for you. Discuss concerns with those close to you, but also to allow other people space to move at their own pace.
Build up tolerance
Start by preparing yourself already now. Try doing something that challenges you every day, or every few days. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t go well but keep at it. Keep a note of things you’ve achieved, enjoyed or surprised yourself doing.
Make time for Self-care
Self-care is not selfish - it's really important and a way in which we can take care of our own mental, physical and emotional health. So, find time to yourself, do something you enjoy and that makes you feel energised and relaxed - and don't feel guilty about it. It'll help reduce any anxiety and lift your mood.
2. Coping with uncertainty
Focus on the present
Take one day at a time. You can only do your best with what you have today. With regulations changing frequently, and lots of conflicting media discussions, try and keep a focus on the moment. Mindfulness, meditation and exercise are ways of bringing your mind back to the present moment.
Appreciate the good things
Whilst a lot of things are uncertain at the moment, there are also things to be hopeful about. Try to record and appreciate good things as they happen - you could make a Gratitude List each day or each week. Try and take opportunities to reset and relax.
Talk to people you trust
It’s important to acknowledge your feelings and to talk about how you feel. Don’t dismiss your concerns or judge yourself too harshly.
Concerns about picking up our social lives
As we move out of lockdown it’s going to be possible to start picking up our social lives again – albeit with changes for the foreseeable future. Some of us are desperate to do so – but others will be nervous about doing so and going back into pubs and restaurants – or unable to do so because of their situations.
Do what feels right for you
We may have become comfortable in our own space and with our own company in lockdown – it’s been intense in all sorts of ways and we might really have to push ourselves to reconnect with people and overcome initial awkwardness. So, just pace yourself and pick this up in a pace that suits you. Start by seeing people you know really well.
If you are part of a social group doing an activity together, try and plan ways for people who aren’t ready for face to face meetings to still take part.
If we are shielding or in a vulnerable group, it’s likely that as others around us start to emerge from lockdown and start to do things that we miss, we may feel more isolated and less able to resist pressure to reduce lockdow