Easing of lockdown restrictions – Are you feeling anxious?

Illustration of someone looking anxious

Summer is almost here and lockdown is being lifted, again – I should be overjoyed but why am I anxious?

Throughout the past year, we have all been going through the same storm in different boats. Whether it was full lockdown, half of a lockdown, tier 1/2/5 or 10 (it was hard to keep up!), this year has changed all of our lives massively.

Maybe you found it easy to transition, or maybe you did not find it as easy as others did; either way, another major shift is on the way. For others, this may be the news they’ve been waiting for all year, but for some, it may bring up even more reasons to feel anxious. If you are feeling a bit apprehensive about things, you can rest assured that you’re not the only one.

Many of us are now familiar with working from home and may be apprehensive about returning to the office; some may be anxious about commencing their duties after a year of furlough. There’s also the social aspect of things, particularly because we haven’t seen our family and friends in a long time; you might be inundated with invitations; remember, it’s perfectly acceptable to say no!

Whether the transition in your life is big or small, it will have an effect on your mental health – it is important that you take action to ensure you are looking after yourself through these times. Here are a few small things to consider:

Take things slowly

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. It’s all up to you to set your own limits and take things at your own pace. Remember that everybody is going to be feeling differently, so approach yourself with the same respect and empathy that you will with a loved one.

There is no doubt that you may have noticed a lack of confidence as you have been interacting less with others and spending more time alone during lockdown. It’s important to remember that you do not have to feel guilty for declining invitations if you feel too overwhelmed, your confidence will need some time to build back up.

Small modifications are often easier to handle than large ones, so don’t be afraid to start small. Meet a friend in a small coffee shop or their garden, for example, to get used to the surroundings before moving to larger venues such as restaurants and meeting larger groups of people.

Self-care

It’s critical to take some time and check-in with yourself, evaluate how you’re feeling without judgement, and embrace your emotions as they are. It’s ok not to be ok.

It’s especially important to look after your physical wellbeing if you’re feeling anxious or low. So, remember to eat regularly and stay hydrated, it’s critical to keep a balanced diet to maintain energy levels. Be as active as you can, for example, cleaning your home, dancing to music, going up and down the stairs, online exercise workouts etc. Releasing feel-good endorphins and other natural brain chemicals can enhance your sense of well-being.

Lastly, try and get a good enough sleep! If you can, wake up and go to bed at regular times each day with some tech-free time before going to sleep. If you often have trouble sleeping or often still feel tired after sleeping, talk with your doctor.

Plan ahead

If you are feeling anxious about heading out back into normality, make sure you have a clear plan to help your confidence. For example, choosing specific times during the day when you know it will be quieter can help with anxiety about mixing with large groups of people.

If you want to visit friends and family, perhaps discuss any measures you will follow beforehand to make sure everyone agrees and ease any worries. For example, will you wear masks? Will you keep 2 metres apart?

Reach out for help

Remember, if you’re having trouble, don’t keep it to yourself. Speak to somebody about how you are feeling – chances are, many others are in the same boat as you and would prefer to speak to those who are experiencing similar emotions.

If you’re feeling particularly low and finding it difficult to reach out to loved ones, mental health support services such as the NHS, Samaritans, Head Space, Papyrus and C.A.L.M amongst many others can offer additional support in confidence.

Further tips and resources for managing anxiety and clearing your head can be found via our BeWell@StepOne service. We provide group-based support to as many people as possible across Devon through our online workshops, in-person courses, support groups, activities and learning opportunities.

Though it may seem daunting at first, we hope you’ll be able to enjoy lockdown easing whether that be a long-awaited reunion with family and friends, a trip to your local shops or just taking some comfort in the return of some normality after a very difficult year.

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