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Post-Lockdown Anxiety: How To Protect Your Mental Health In Life After Lockdown
A few months ago, the idea of staying at home and isolating as much as possible made many people feel very anxious. Now many lockdown restrictions are being lifted; it should be an optimistic sign of getting back to normality. But, many people are finding returning to normal increasingly stressful. This is known as post-lockdown anxiety. Understandably, with so many changes, it is entirely reasonable to feel worried, anxious or stressful about reengaging with the wider world. So, what can you do to ease the transition?
What Is Post-Lockdown Anxiety?
Post-lockdown anxiety is a feeling of stress, worry and anxiety about adapting to a new ‘normal’. Ultimately, just like you had to adapt to the change of lockdown, you now have to adjust to a new change in a very short space of time.
There may be many aspects of post-lockdown that could be causing fear or concern. For example, in many countries, the virus is still at large and by returning to ‘normal’ life, you may increase the risk of infection.
For others, post-lockdown anxiety may come from getting used to anxiety-inducing situations such as using busy and cramped public transport, conducting face-to-face business meetings and getting back to a hectic and stressful schedule.
It is also entirely normal for you to lose confidence in things you haven’t had to do during lockdown. For example, it can be daunting to drive if you have not driven for months. You may also lose confidence in work situations such as public speaking or pitching. Perhaps you are nervous about dating again.
Finally, it can be very strange to go outside after lockdown. Compared to a relatively quiet home that you know so well, going outside can be a sensory overload. You have to get used to traffic, people, noise and a whole host of experiences that you don’t have at home.
Am I Agoraphobic?
In lifting lockdown, many people who are now leaving their home more are finding that their anxiety levels are rising. This could be to the point that they don’t want to leave home. Because of this, some people are worried they are developing agoraphobia when it is more likely to be post-lockdown anxiety.
It is essential to differentiate the two. Agoraphobia is a fear of entering public spaces or leaving home for fear that escape will be difficult, and they think they will have a panic attack. However, a fear of leaving the home post-lockdown, or feeling uncomfortable in public spaces because of the risk of infection is very different. If you don’t have a fear of panic attacks in public settings, then it is likely that you are experience anxiety around life after lockdown.
Why Do I Feel So Anxious About Life Returning To Normal?
It is essential to realise that anxiety, in this case, is a totally rational and normal response to have. Anxiety is our brain’s way of alerting us to danger. In terms of lockdown lifting, this anxiety is telling us to be careful when leaving home, as there is still a risk of infection.
Another reason why your anxiety levels may be rising is that you’ve made your home a safe haven.
Throughout lockdown, we have been told to focus on self-care, nurturing ourselves and create a structure to make us love lockdown. However, this cocoon of comfort and reassurance can be hard to leave. Consequently, you may have made such an enjoyable routine and set-up that you don’t want to go outside or for lockdown to be lifted.
How To Prepare For Post-Lockdown Life
1. Give Yourself A Break!
It wasn’t long ago that you had to adapt to a significant change and disruption to your routine. Now you are used to this change, you’re being asked to make another big change. All of this can be incredibly overwhelming. It is completely understandable that you may not be feeling totally happy or comfortable right now. So, recognise and accept how you feel and don’t rush into anything you don’t feel comfortable with.
2. Keep Your New Routine Simple
Just because lockdown is lifting doesn’t mean you have to try and return to your pre-lockdown life straightaway. If you’re being asked to return to your workplace, then let that be the one change to life and get slowly used to this before implementing another change. Remember, you don’t have to visit every shop, meet all your friends and family, and join outside sports all at once. Take one thing at a time and make it a gradual adjustment.
3. Create Certainties
Typically, we feel more anxious about uncertainty than we do of negative experiences when they actually happen. Our brains know how to cope when it is certain of a bad situation. It struggles to cope when we anticipate bad things or create uncertainties or potential threats. Studies have shown this by proving that the anticipation of pain is often harder to manage than the experience of actual pain.
With this in mind, it is vital to give your brain a break from all of the uncertainties that you cannot control. Instead, create certainties that you can control. For example, starting the day with yoga, or even a coffee is a way of telling your brain that you’re in control. You don’t have to plan your whole day. But throughout the day, create little moments of certainty that you can easily stick to.
4. Boost Your Immune System
The stress of post-lockdown anxiety can lower your immune system. When you add this to the pressures of returning to normal life, your immune system will not be functioning at its best. Make sure your immune system is in tip-top shape. You can do this by minimising stress, getting sufficient sleep and eating plenty of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. Cardiovascular exercise that gets the blood pumping can help to boost your immune system too.
5. Set Priorities
Lockdown may have led you to reassess your priorities. Perhaps you don’t want to work as many hours. Maybe are looking for more financial security, if lockdown has been financially difficult. If you want to make healthy changes in your life, then now is the time to do so.
Make a list of what you want to achieve and rank them in order of importance. Then, create steps of how you can achieve your goals in a manageable way, starting with the highest priority. Making changes that put you in control can really help to regulate your emotions. They can help you feel secure in a time of uncertainty.
If you need help making sure you achieve these new goals for the next chapter of your life, then I can help. With virtual therapy, I can create a bespoke plan that is fully tailored to your personal needs and goals. We can then work together on making sure that post-lockdown life puts you in the driving seat and you can achieve the changes you want to see. I’d love to find out more about your goals for post-lockdown life—email [email protected] to book a free 15-minute consultation.