As the UK and other parts of the world start to develop a “new normal” in light of Mental Health Awareness Week this month, Charlotte Willis, our regular mental health and wellbeing columnist, explores post-lockdown anxiety.
We’ve been the isolation generation for the past year. We’ve grown plants, read books, and baked banana bread. But not for much longer. A new sense of normality is beginning to unfold before our screentime-induced, short-sighted eyes.
But, I have a feeling that easing restrictions will divide us into two mindsets: Those who are lining up, booking up, and gearing up for post-lockdown activities every night of the week; And those who are hesitant to return to a strangely foreign world of socialising, busyness, and rushing around (what we call post-lockdown anxiety). If you’re a member of the latter, dear reader, I feel you.
Post-lockdown anxiety, although not clinically defined, is a fear and hesitancy induced by thoughts or actions associated with the tasks, new rules, and social expectations from the ending of our social isolation.
Whilst the previous 12 months have been anything but easy, the pressures of adjusting to a vaguely familiar normality can be pretty overwhelming.
Many of us have built our days around smaller, simpler, home-based routines. A far cry from the hustle of days gone by. Whilst I hope these tips may help you along your way to adjustment, as with every mental health condition, if your anxiety feels significantly overwhelming and interferes with your daily life, I encourage you to seek professional guidance from your GP or a charity such as Mind.
Set boundaries & go at your own pace
Whilst your friends might be rushing back to socialise, you need no excuse to take things at your own pace and don’t be afraid to say “no” to social invitations. Now is the time to set your social boundaries. Be honest with your friends and family about how you’re feeling, and help their understanding by explaining your concerns. You might want to suggest alternative ways of socialising which match where you’re at right now or reduce your time spent socialising to prioritise your peace. You owe it to yourself to safeguard your mental wellbeing, and for that, you never have to apologise.
Validate & accept your own concerns
An important aspect of processing your concerns is to validate them, accepting that your worries are a product of an unprecedented change in circumstances beyond your control. To help you along the way, try writing your worries down, unpacking the specifics of your concerns, and rate how much distress each component is causing you. From here, you can think about ways to overcome your worries, and ease yourself into a comfortable new life by setting small goals for social interactions, such as meeting two friends outside for a coffee once a week. Keep a track of how your anxiety changes over time and your experiences to mark your progress.
Rest, recover & reach out
Prioritising self-care and wellbeing is even more important than usual, so make time to recognise signs of stress and concern, resting and recovering wherever you need. Be sure to check in with yourself on a regular basis. How are you sleeping, eating, feeling, and thinking? What can you do today to help yourself out and turn up for yourself? If you note any negative changes, reach out to close ones or healthcare professionals to share your concerns.
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Charlotte is an author, editor and content creator, whose interests and work promote sustainable living, in every sense of the word. Charlotte is a marketer for ethical brands, author of a soon-to-be-published children's book, a regular contributor to the sustainability and plant-based publications, and is studying clinical psychology with the view to revolutionising women's holistic, natural and mental healthcare. Find Charlotte on Instagram: @charlottesophiewrites