It may be risky to say but, after three UK lockdowns, it seems like we are on the final stretch. Pubs, restaurants and shops are opening again, and it won’t be long till most of our social lives return to a pre pandemic pace. From what I’ve heard, everyone around me is ecstatic, buzzing to get back to seeing friends, going out for dinner and having parties, everyone seems to be counting down the days- that is everyone except me. Whilst I know I am not alone in this, it feels isolating as it isn’t widely discussed, and after a year of physical isolation, the last thing we all need is to feel mentally isolated. Transitioning back to social contact is going to be hard for some of us, and these feelings are totally valid, so anyone feeling this way, we deserve some help in dealing with these difficult feelings.
First of all- what is post lockdown anxiety? I’m sure it shows up in different ways, but essentially, it is anxiety surrounding the world ‘opening up’ again and feeling scared about social contact on a pre pandemic level. Will I be awkward? Will I be able to hold a conversation? What if I’ve changed and I’m not fun to hang with anymore? If you’re suffering from post-lockdown anxiety, these thoughts are probably all too familiar to you! For some of us, lockdown has become sort of a safe space, where there are no responsibilities, limited social contact and no need to face certain anxiety triggers, especially if you suffer with social anxiety. This is completely ok, but chances are you are going to need to make some life readjustments with everything opening, and it is all about transitioning in the least stressful, anxiety inducing way possible.
- Create your own road map out of lockdown. The government’s roadmap out of lockdown has been broadcast everywhere since it was released, and this can feel like it is placing pressure on you. Take a step back and reflect. You don’t HAVE to be back in a restaurant in May, you don’t HAVE to have a party on the 21st of June. If this feels rushed and you aren’t ready, remove the pressure and create your own roadmap to follow. Maybe you need an extra month until you’re ready to be back in a busy, bustling restaurant. If so, try and plan a date you and a close friend can go and grab lunch, so you have your own date to work towards. The whole point of this is so that you can feel back in control, as a lot of anxiety stems from control. Realise you can do things at your own pace, everyone is different, allow yourself time to adjust to each stage so you can enjoy your first meal out instead of sitting there anxiety ridden, because we all know that would be no fun.
- Start small. This sounds obvious, but sometimes you need someone to tell you it’s ok to start with small steps to help you adjust. Who cares if the rules have just told you you can meet up to 30 people, if you want to keep on meeting one or two, fill up your time with smaller groups. Although it may feel the opposite, you are allowed to go at your own pace.
- Learn how to say no. If you are anxious about getting back out there and concerned about being overwhelmed, then know it is ok to say no to doing things! I feel like this is something we aren’t told enough, so if no one has told you today: IT IS OK TO SAY NO! If you don’t feel like going to that party, don’t! It is not as easy as that at first, but it should be, respect your own boundaries and need to recharge. If you really need to, create an excuse, but my advice would be to try and incorporate the phrase ‘sorry, not today!’ into your vocabulary, chances are people won’t even question you, none of us want to be seen as nosey!
- Make a bucket list! We’ve all heard of summer bucket lists before, lists of all the things you want to do in summer, but what about a post lockdown bucket list! Sounds cheesy yes, but give it a go, let your creativity and excitement flow! Make a list of all the things you want to do once covid is over; go to the cinema, go to brunch with a friend, have a sleepover, literally anything you can think of that sparks joy, write it down! You don’t necessarily have to complete it, although that would be a bonus, the idea is to get you excited about what your life could look like in a few months, and to refocus your brain on the positives of the situation.
Give these a go, I promise it will at least help take your mind off the changes going on around you, but I am sure it will also help decrease your anxiety levels- it did for me! All of that said, if you are really struggling with your anxiety, please speak to a professional, these are just some fun ideas to help reduce your anxiety, not medical advice. If you take anything away from this post it’s this: you can live your life on your own terms, do what you want to do when you want to do it- no one can tell you any different!