We’ve all been adjusting to living in a world that we have never experienced before. From total freedom of movement and everything that it entailed, to a world that has become much more enclosed.
Google reported a spike in UK search for terms for words such as ‘worried’, ‘scared’ and ‘uncertainty’ the week that British lockdown was announced. And over the past weeks, we’ve been learning to deal with these emotions and how to best adapt to this enforced way of living. So, now as we start to discuss ending lockdown, many of us will be starting to experience those uncertain feelings again as we try to imagine what our new ‘normal’ world will look like.
It’s important to take a moment to acknowledge the speed at which lockdown happened. We had to make adjustments and behavioural changes overnight to make ourselves more resilient. However, the pace at which we had to deal with these changes could have a long term impact on our mental health. For example, people who would have previously described themselves as social butterflies, and who may have been bemoaning the lack of social gatherings during lockdown, may now find themselves suffering from anxiety at the thought of being in enclosed spaces with people they don’t know.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution but there are things we can do to help ourselves deal with change and ease into our new normal world post lockdown – when the time comes.
Take it easy
We don’t need to put pressure on ourselves to immediately adapt to life post lockdown. We’ve found new routines that involve being at home for the majority of the time, so it’s perfectly natural that it will take some time to re-adjust. Be honest with yourself and what you feel comfortable doing. If you’re concerned about being in social situations but your life or job will mean this has to happen, ease into it. Don’t force yourself into a crowded bar or busy office if you’re not ready.
Same but smaller
With social situations, it’s likely that numbers will be reduced to allow for safe, social distancing measures to continue. If you do find yourself being invited to an event or gathering and you are worried about the number of people attending, ask the organiser the capacity of the venue and how many people they expect to attend. This can help to inform your decision whether to go or not, and if you decide to go, then you’ll be prepared for what to expect, helping to ease any anxiety you may have.
The Government will issue guidelines for all employers and workplaces to ensure the safety of you and your colleagues. From staggered returning to work, flexible working hours, desk spacing or even continued working from home measures, there are lots of ways that social distancing will continue when back at work. Speak to your boss to find out what your company is planning and be honest with them by sharing any concerns you may have. Remember, we’re all in this together and you won’t be the only person in your team worrying about returning to work.
Confidence in commuting
Transport and commuting are both reasonable causes for concern. Changing your means, frequency and even time of travel can help to limit the duration of your journeys. The government is looking into improving cycling or walking routes in major cities to help people avoid public transport. If commuting to your place of work is a concern then raise this with your boss too, as they might be able to put in place flexible working hours and patterns to help.
If you find the feelings of worry and anxiety are all too consuming and perhaps causing sleepless nights, loss of appetite, fatigue or other physical symptoms of stress, then online therapy could help. A therapist can help you understand the cause of these feelings and put healthier coping strategies in place.