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.
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?
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
Build up tolerance
Vary your routines
Talk to your workplace or colleagues
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.