Feeling anxious about life after lockdown?
Date: 16 June, 2020
Here’s how to try and overcome it:
As various measures start to lift across the world, you may be experiencing mixed emotions. For most of us, lockdown has been disruptive at best. For others, having the opportunity to opt out of all the pressures of the outside world has actually come as a welcome relief. With more time to sleep, read, and reflect, some people with pre-existing mental health conditions are even seeing their moods improve, which is why the idea of lockdown coming to an end is so jarring.
What will life after lockdown look like?
How easy will it be to adjust to?
How can we ensure that we’ll be safe?
Our current ‘new normal’ – which took months to adjust to – is suddenly being upended again. So, when isolation lifts, we’ll be forced to adapt to a ‘new, new normal’, which will create a vast change in many people’s lives, relationships and routines. Having to adapt to our new environment again, where new rules apply and previous conventions no longer seem to work or feel relevant, can exacerbate feelings of isolation and loneliness. And this feeling of ‘not belonging’ or being unable to adapt quickly enough can negatively impact our sense of identity and mental health. No matter how long you’ve been wishing for isolation to end, this new cycle of change and uncertainty will likely trigger anxious feelings in some form or another.
Whether you’ve been feeling anxious about returning to work, sending your children back to school, or simply leaving the house for the first time in weeks, it is important to remember that you’re not alone. The whole world is experiencing this pandemic, together.
Which is why we have decided to share some top tips on how to overcome these negative emotions in anticipation of life after lockdown:
- Focus on what you can control:
Take one day at a time; don’t try and think about what it will be like for the next few months, just focus on today and tomorrow. Accept that there are things you can’t control and many that you can.
You can’t control the lockdown lifting, but you can control how much news you consume and how much time you give to thinking about a post-lockdown life. Focus on positive coping strategies such as exercise, meditation, walking outside and fresh air. Monitor your inner dialogue; are your thoughts helpful or are they contributing to your feelings of anxiety? Anxiety feeds off future fear and speculating, so when we accept the fact that we live life with many unknowns and we accept the feelings that come with that fact, we send signals to our brain that it is safe.
- Practice gratitude:
Another way to assure your brain that you’re safe is to intentionally cultivate gratitude and thankfulness – even for the smallest joys. Write your thoughts in a journal or a digital diary such Headspace.
Both can be incredibly helpful in dealing with internalised pressures; they provide you with an opportunity to make internal experiences tangible while unpacking and shifting your thoughts. Write down five things you’re grateful for this week, or simply something that you enjoyed doing; that took your mind elsewhere, that made you smile. Small consistent entries like these are powerful because they not only ground us in the present moment but give us something to refer back to in future instances when our thoughts become too much.
- Don’t give in to outside pressures:
Perhaps you have felt pressure to use this time to be productive, such as through learning a new language or starting your own business in preparation for post-lockdown. But it is important to note that people often use productivity as a coping mechanism, likely to distract themselves from everything that is going on right now. So, try to avoid the comparison trap. Just because someone else seems to be getting a lot done, doesn’t mean that they’re any happier than you are or that they’re doing ‘lockdown’ right and you’re doing it ‘wrong.’
One way to help relieve heightened levels of anxiety is to plan ahead. It’s worth capturing the things that you’re missing at the moment, such as going out to eat and visiting friends at their homes. Another is to keep an ‘anchor’ – something that remains constant in your daily life, perhaps in the form of small daily goals, such as making a cup of tea in the morning or going for a short walk every afternoon, in order to feel a sense of accomplishment. Having something special during this time will help you look forward to each new day.
- Acknowledge your feelings:
If you’re still struggling with the feeling of needing to ‘do more’, simply acknowledge it. By naming it and giving it space, you take away some of its power. Check in with yourself and how you’re feeling; understand that most of the world will also be feeling the same right now, and that that’s okay.
Reflect on the specific things that are worrying you and think about what it is you need to either feel better or cope. It could be as simple as getting more sleep or reaching out and connecting with a friend or loved one – from a distance, of course. When it comes to our personal lives, it’s also worth reflecting on whether you want things to return to how they were before, or if there’s an opportunity to review our priorities and really think about what makes us happy. This is again something incredibly simple, but it will help anyone suffering with anxiety in the coming weeks.
- Connect with those who uplift you:
One of the best things you can do for your own mental health is to have open conversations with loved ones around you. If you’re worried you might find the transition back to ‘normality’ difficult, talk to others you trust.
Just because we’re physically distancing during this time, doesn’t mean we need to isolate ourselves from our social networks. While we can’t replace the value of face to face interactions, we need to be flexible and think creatively in these circumstances. Can you speak to your neighbours from over a fence? Can you use technology to stay in touch? Take time to talk to friends or family about how you’re feeling but also don’t forget to check in with others; showing kindness to others not only helps them but can also increase your sense of purpose and value, improving your own mental wellbeing.
- Show yourself some compassion:
With no clear end to the pandemic in sight, keeping our spirits up can feel like a full-time job.
Just remember, there is only so much that you can control, and your thoughts are on the top of this list. So, while you may not be able to change the face of the pandemic, you can change your response to it. Continue doing your best and know that that’s more than good enough right now. This too shall pass but we do need to be kinder with ourselves, especially during this phase.
- Seek professional help:
As lockdown restrictions gradually begin to lift, it is going to take a while for life to get back to ‘normal’ – and it’s okay if you take longer to adjust than others. However, if you feel as though you might be struggling, please don’t hesitate to seek professional help.
Mind: How to find a therapist
Samaritans: www.samaritans.org / 116 123 (24 hours)
Citizens Advice: www.citizensadvice.org.uk / 03444 111 444 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)
Guildford Safe Haven: 6-11pm, 365 days a year
If you would like to join in with any of our online Wellbeing Activities, please visit our Client Calendar.
To help ensure our fight for better mental health in the Surrey community continues during this crisis, make a donation to our Coronavirus Emergency Appeal. We are working around the clock to ensure that our hundreds of clients can access support over the phone and via video, but with many funding streams vanishing our financial security is at risk. If you are able to support us in any way, thank you. To make a donation, click here.