How to Manage Your Anxiety as You Exit Lockdown
Be prepared: The end of lockdown might be as hard as the start.
Posted June 25, 2020
For many people, the easing of lockdown is a highly anticipated return to normality, both socially and by returning to work. However, for others, it can be a difficult time. Coming out might be harder than going in.
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 reconnect with life. Fear and anxiety are possibly the most common emotional responses. Many people are concerned about catching Coronavirus and becoming ill, as well as having concerns about passing the infection on to vulnerable loved ones.
As we know, this risk increases through social interaction — hence the call to distance. Such anxiety is completely normal and is compounded by the shaping of the "new normal" with queuing outside shops, one-way systems inside shops, wearing gloves and masks, washing hands frequently, and sanitising everything we touch.
Yet at some point, we must recognise that everything we do contains an element of risk and that we must try to get back to our old lives to some degree, for our own sanity and for that of our own families, as well as for economic reasons. You need to familiarise yourself with these new routines gradually to reduce your fears and anxiety.
Some people may have enjoyed elements of the lockdown. It has allowed them to avoid situations with family, friends, or work which they don’t enjoy and do not want to return to before they have to. Use this time to think about how you do want to manage your work and the people in your life. Decide what is important and what isn’t, and try to achieve a better balance moving forward.
Pace yourself and do not allow other people to persuade you that you should or shouldn’t do something you really do not feel comfortable with. If other members of the family want to see friends, but you don’t feel ready, let them go. When you want to join them, you can do so on another day. But try to make yourself get out a bit more each day so that it becomes normal again. Living reclusively longer term may not improve your mental health. Vary your routines gradually. If a certain shop makes you nervous, try a different one, or go at a time when it’s less busy.
Returning to work
Many workplaces are far more flexible post-lockdown and many may continue to allow you to work from home for all or some of the time. If you are concerned about returning to the workplace or doing particular shifts or activities, speak to your colleagues.
Part of the problem is that guidelines and scientific opinions constantly shift. Try to focus on today and on the positives. Try to look forward and not back. Practising mindfulness can be an especially useful tool to control anxiety.
Many of us will have lost someone close during these past months — or know someone who has lost a loved one — and with social distance, regulations, and attendance at funerals restricted, this has been enormously difficult. As we come out of lockdown, we can seek solace with friends and family in person and support those we know who have been bereaved. We may not be able to hug each other yet, but we can be physically closer to others than we have been for a while.
It is a difficult road ahead, but the most important thing is to try to stay positive and to dip your toe back in as slowly or as quickly as you feel comfortable doing. Hopefully, soon, we can all move on.