As restrictions begin to change you might feel anxious about life after lockdown. Bupa Psychological Health and Safety Specialist Emily Meates shares some tips which may help.
We’ve all coped with life in lockdown in our own way. Some may have struggled – longing for social contact—while others might have felt content cocooned in a COVID-19 enforced bubble.
So what happens when restrictions change?
You might be excited to socialise in person once again, or feel fearful about what will happen once the rules are relaxed.
Meates says having a whole range of feelings is completely understandable.
“Feelings of fear, apprehension, confusion, agitation and anger are all normal responses to an uncertain and rapidly changing situation,” says Meates.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for people all over the world and has truly altered the way we live,” she says. “We have been exposed to something that has threatened our health and safety for quite some time, and that threat has not yet been completely removed.”
“When we recognise this and normalise our feelings, it can be very reassuring.”
Coping with good and bad days
As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop and change, Meates says we are likely to experience ups and downs as we enter into our ‘new normal’.
“Give yourself the space, time and most importantly, permission, to feel whatever you need to feel,” says Meates.
“Be authentic, be open and be honest with yourself and to those around you about what you need to best look after yourself,” she says. “Having foundations in place is a good way to prepare for and navigate the changes.”
“This includes making sure you have your support network in place, which might include family and friends, colleagues, your manager, your local GP, counsellor, psychologist, or support through an Employee Assistance Program.”
Meates says practising self-care regularly and proactively puts you in a great position to build and maintain resilience through another changing period.
Develop a new routine
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, work, parent and socialise, and as we enter into a ‘new normal’ we might like to start a new weekly routine.
Meates says developing a new routine may help prepare us for the next stage of COVID-19 and anticipated changes to our day to day lives.
“We might want to keep certain activities integrated into our week, or ways of living that we started during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she says.
Practice kindness and self care
Meates says being kind to ourselves and practicing regular self-care is essential - particularly during uncertain times.
“Taking care of our bodies and minds helps us to maintain resilience,” she says.
Self-care is a very individual thing, says Meates, so it’s important to think about what it means to you, and communicate your needs to those you love.
It might be ensuring you get enough good quality sleep, have regular ‘down time’, maintain a routine, exercise regularly and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
“Staying connected with those around you (family, friends and or colleagues) is essential through these times for support - so stay connected and keep talking!”
Tackling social anxiety
For those experiencing social anxiety in the lead up to changing restrictions, Meates suggests starting small and taking gradual steps.
“Perhaps catch up with just one person once a week, and slowly build up to socialising more regularly or with larger groups of people,” she says.
“If you feel that your level of social anxiety is interfering with your ability to function each day, it is important that you seek support through your local GP, counsellor or psychologist,” says Meates. “It can help to build strategies to alleviate anxiety and provide support to help you navigate this time in a safe and healthy way.”
And while our social interactions may feel a little awkward at first – remember you’re not alone.
"A lot of people will likely be feeling the same way,” says Meates. “Being really open about our expectations of how to greet one another could be a helpful way to feel a little less uncomfortable – whether it’s an elbow bump, a foot tap or simply saying hello!”
Reach out to others
Meates says it’s important to reach out to those around you, regardless of how you think they might be feeling, to meaningfully check in and show care and support.
If you know someone who is struggling to cope with the level of fast-paced change and uncertainty she suggests:
- Asking good questions like, “How are you coping at the moment?”, “I know things have been changing quite quickly, is there anything I can do to support you?”
- Really listen to what they say, be compassionate and nonjudgmental. They may not need any solutions except for a kind, listening ear!
- Encourage them to practice regular self-care. Perhaps you could explore what they need to feel well and encourage or help them to achieve this.
- You might want to help them consider what they can and cannot control. Focusing on what is in our control can be helpful in times of uncertainty and change.
- Encourage them to seek support, whether it’s talking with you, a helpline like the Coronavirus Support Line 1800 512 348 (Beyond Blue) or seeking support from their local GP.