Most of us will feel some fear and worry about returning to life post-lockdown. Not only has the virus had a devastating effect on so many lives, but it has also instilled a fear of being around other people, places and things. With social distancing now the norm and a very clear understanding of just how far two metres is, it’s only natural to feel nervous about going back to a world with less restrictions.
For some, this natural worry will develop into something much more serious, a deep fear or phobia of being around others and leaving the safety of our own home. We may experience a crippling fear that provokes an unrealistic perception of danger or threat. And when phobias become so severe it can greatly affect our day to day functioning and restrict us from carrying out regular activities.
The lasting effects of lockdown may result in more of us suffering from a phobia of going out, coming into contact with people, travelling on public transport and even attending social settings. So, as the Government start to lift lockdown and social restrictions, how can we prepare ourselves for returning to the big and sometimes scary world?
Deep breathing will send a message to our brain to help calm us down and relax, so when practiced regularly can help ease symptoms of anxiety.
Try deep breathing for at least five minutes each day. Find a quiet spot in your home or garden and make sure you are comfortable; you can lie down if you prefer. Start by breathing in slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of five, and then breath out slowly and deeply through your mouth to the count five, or until all the air is exhaled from your lungs. Focus on the breathing and you will start to feel yourself relax.
There are loads of different visualisation exercises you can use to help ease anxiety.
One is the serene beach technique that can be used anytime you feel anxious, uncertain or afraid. Close your eyes and visualise yourself lying on a white sandy beach, with the waves gently breaking in the ocean. Feel the sand on your toes as you relax into your chair. Release any tension in your body and relax your facial muscles whilst breathing deeply in time with the waves. After a few minutes you should feel more relaxed as the anxiety eases.
Mindfulness is the practice of taking time to be in the present moment, reconnect our bodies and be aware of our feelings and emotions. This practice enables us to see the present moment more clearly to reflect more positively on ourselves and our lives.
Find a comfortable place to sit and start your mindfulness session by noticing your body – how it feels sitting on the chair or floor, how your clothes feel against your skin and other environmental factors around you. Focus on your natural breath cycle and recognise as your mind wanders, bringing it back to your breathing. Try to do this for five to ten minutes each day to feel the benefits.
In some cases, such as complex phobias, the anxiety experienced by a fear can’t be managed with self-help techniques. There are two primary types of complex phobias: agoraphobia and social phobia. Lockdown will most likely cause those who suffer from either to experience severe anxiety about restrictions easing.
Agoraphobia refers to a fear of open spaces, crowded places, travelling or using public transport – all of which have been off limits since March 23rd. Even the thought of going to the shops may be too much for some, whilst others will be able to cope with travelling short distances only.
Social phobia is a fear of being in social settings which at its most severe may restrict sufferers from leaving their own home at the thought of being seen in public.
If you have previously been diagnosed with a complex phobia or if this is a new feeling and you would like additional support, My Online Therapy provides a safe space to talk to a highly qualified psychologist, all from the comfort of your own home.