Coping With Post Lockdown Anxiety

As the UK starts to ease lockdown restrictions, I’m hearing of more and more people that feel uncomfortable about life returning to normal, myself included. The term post lockdown anxiety was alien to us just 6 months ago, but now there are many people experiencing this fear of going outside and surrounding ourselves with people once again. 

coronavirus crowd illustration with text overlay Coping With Post Lockdown Anxiety

In a recent study, Nuffield Health reported that around 80% of British people working from home now feel lockdown has had a negative impact on their mental health, while 25% said they were finding it difficult to cope emotionally with isolation.

In addition, the Office of National Statistics published a study which showed that 39% of people who are married or in a civil partnership are reporting high levels of anxiety, compared with 19% pre-Coronavirus. This doubling of anxiety levels is likely due to the stress of caring for others while also working from home and potentially home-schooling. 

What is post lockdown anxiety?

Post-lockdown anxiety is the fear and worry that we are going to experience or might already be experiencing about what’s going to happen once certain lockdown restrictions are lifted. This could be anything from being fearful of leaving the house, to being nervous in groups of people.

We quickly adjusted to the ‘new normal’, we felt safe, we felt protected at home and I think the novelty factor of not having to go to work, not having to sit in traffic or on the train had a positive impact on a lot of people. The pace of life was a bit slower, it was a bit more comfortable, maybe there were positives about being at home that we hadn’t really considered initially. But now, the thought of life returning to that fast pace and potentially mixing with more people than we have done in months, is quite scary and daunting for a lot of people.

Why are people worried about changing their routines?

For many of us, the gradual easing of lockdown brings longed-for opportunities (even if at a social distance) – to see friends, play sports, resume contact with family in real life or get back to work in our usual environments. But for many of us, even the happy, much anticipated changes can be difficult for our mental health. And for many others the prospect of coming out of lockdown when the virus is still spreading and still present can be a real worry. This may especially apply to those more vulnerable to the virus and those of us with existing mental health conditions. 

Fear and anxiety are likely to be the most common emotional responses any of us will feel as we approach the end of lockdown. Finding a way to survive lockdown took a lot of our emotional energy and we may have found a place that lets us cope, and we don’t want to leave it behind just yet. 

How do you deal with post lockdown anxiety?

It’s important to acknowledge that these feelings are reasonable, and to expect them. It’s only by building up tolerance gently that we can move through these fears. 
 
If possible, take things at your own pace – but try and challenge yourself to try something different each day or every couple of days. It’s very easy to allow the seclusion that was necessary in lockdown to become deliberate isolation as lockdown ends. Celebrate small wins (and big wins) and try and keep a note of what you are achieving.  

For many people lockdown has been relatively quiet and isolated.  Coming back into shops, traffic, transport, and work might lead to sensory overload – feeling overwhelmed by sights, sounds or smells. Headphones may be a good way to reduce some of this by helping you to focus and creating a distraction with calls, music, podcasts or audiobooks. 

Tips on coping with post lockdown anxiety

Control what can be controlled

There are a lot of things you can’t control at the moment that can cause anxiety – but there are some things you can manage or plan for. Having an action plan for managing things you might find difficult can help.  

Pace yourself

Recognising that you need to go at your own pace is really important. Don’t let others pressure you into doing things you aren’t comfortable with – but try not to let that be an excuse not to push yourself to do smaller things, especially when it comes to reconnecting with friends safely, outside your home, when rules allow and the time is also right for you. It’s important to discuss concerns with those close to you, but also to allow other people space to move at their own pace. 

Build up tolerance

Try doing something that challenges you every day, or every few days. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t go well but keep trying. Keep a note of things you’ve achieved, enjoyed or surprised yourself doing, even if it’s a 5 minute walk around the block is really helpful.

Vary your routines

Try and vary your routines as much as you can so you are seeing different people and going to different places. If one supermarket makes you nervous or is really busy, try another. If a walk at one time of the day is very busy, try mixing walks at busy times with quieter walks. 

Talk to your workplace or colleagues

Many workplaces are allowing more flexible working even it’s essential that you return to the office. If you are finding it hard to get to work, or you’re uncomfortable about returning to your work environment, speak to your manager or a colleague you trust. If you have or have had longer term mental health problems, you may be entitled to reasonable adjustments as a disabled person under the Equality Act. Even if you haven’t disclosed before, if it feels safe to do so now you might be able to benefit from it. 

Bring things that are certain back into focus

Whilst a lot of things are uncertain at the moment, there are also things to be hopeful about. Try to record and appreciate good things as they happen. Try and take opportunities to reset and relax. 

Talk to people you trust

As it always is with mental health, talking is so important. Even if it feels a bit silly. Don’t dismiss your concerns or judge yourself too harshly. You may also be able to find your tribe online, but try and get outside perspectives too. 

Are you experiencing post lockdown anxiety, or do you have family and friends with similar concerns? How are you finding ways to cope with the restrictions being lifted? Let me know in the comments! 

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Comments

  1. Elizabeth Hartley says

    This is a really helpful and insightful post! I am worried about going back to work and the uncertainty that it brings (I work in a cafe so am in contact with loads of people) but I will definitely use your advice and pace myself going back into normal life!

  2. Elin says

    Thank you for sharing these tips, Abi. I’m definitely experiencing post-lockdown anxiety, as someone who’s got a very weak immune system, I haven’t ventured much further than my garden since the beginning of March so the thought of going back out into the world again is definitely anxiety inducing. But I completely agree that taking small steps and going at your own pace is the best thing to do right now, hopefully the anxious flutters won’t be as strong in a couple of months time! Great post as always x

  3. claire says

    I’ve really struggled with this. I returned to work earlier this month and I had huge anxiety around it but it has gone better than I anticipated.

    I am hoping that the same will happen when other stuff returns to normal.

    Brilliant advice here Abigail, thank you for sharing. It is going to be really tough for us all, take care and I hope things work out for us all x

  4. Amy says

    Thank you for sharing this, it really resonated with me. While I’m looking forward to seeing family and friends properly, I’m absolutely terrified of public places now and the idea of going back to work fills me with dread. I haven’t been in a shop/supermarket since before lockdown so I’m working on building myself back up. I’ve been working from home since March and my boss is now talking about coming back into the office and I’m terrified!

    • whatabigailsays says

      It’s all about taking things in small steps I think. If you could maybe try and visit a supermarket or something in a quiet time before going back to the office, that might help?

  5. Beth says

    I was struggling with social anxiety pre-lockdown and was actually in a place where I was getting better at leaving my house and going somewhere without a feeling of anxiety, but now I absolutely dread going back to normal. I’m going to try and take things one step at a time to try and help me get used to the new normal, whilst trying not to push myself too much

  6. Louna says

    I love this post! You have taken the words right out of my mouth. Finding your tribe and being able to talk is soooo important and thats where the power of social media can come in.

    It’s going to take a while for things to feel ok but it’s posts like these that can really help someone. So thank you!

  7. Lauren Kenny says

    This is such an important post! I definitely feel like people need to be more aware of post lockdown anxiety. Thanks for sharing and raising awareness 🙂

  8. Cassie says

    I’m definitely anxious about the start of the school year in about 6 weeks. I have a little girl who does not do well mentally or emotionally without other children around. Remote schooling the last several weeks of school left her quite down. I want so badly for on campus schooling to work this fall, but I am not sure how it will be possible with cases rising in the US. This post was much needed!

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