Restrictions are set to ease. With it, the hope of weekends with friends, of camping, of being with others, of diving under a wave, of picnics, of weekend brunches, of holding onto normality and never letting go. A pinch of normality seems just around the corner.
Yet for many of us, even these pleasurable and long anticipated activities will require re-adjustment, something that is often difficult for our mental health. We’ve become accustomed to living without them. For many others, the loosening of restrictions brings with it worry or at least uncertainty, especially for those with pre-existing ailments, anxiety or medical vulnerabilities.
In reality, the beginning of the end of lockdown is eerily similar to the start. Adjusting to new expectations, new routines. It will take a while to find our way back.
We won’t see this on social media. News feeds will be filled with pictures of happy reunions, selfie’s in the pub, workplaces full of people. Celebration. This will be real. But it won’t tell the whole story. There will be many other moments and experiences that go uncaptured, not posing the same level of palatability: Feeling nervous before meeting a friend. Worrying about the safety of a cafe. Nervous that you’ve forgotten how to interact with your colleagues Worrying about giving elderly family members COVID.
The most important thing we can do for ourselves in the coming months, is to be kind.
Fear and anxiety are perhaps the most normal responses we might feel as we approach the easing of restrictions. There will be times where it feels daunting to leave our house. It’s important to acknowledge how normal and expected these feelings are. It’s only by gently building up our tolerance of these worries that we can productively re-approach those things that used to be normal.
To keep things simple, I have 5 tips for all of us to think about as restrictions ease (yes, including me!)
- Acknowledge how normal these feelings are
A pandemic is not a normal experience. Lockdown is not normal. But it’s gradually become our ‘normal’ over the last few months. it will take some time to not feel anxious about the world opening up, or schedules and daily activities changing.
- Go at your own pace
It’s ok not to take on all your old habits all at once.
- Don’t view things social decisions as binary
It’s not black and white. You don’t have to choose between going or not going. Why not create a third option? Make a deal with yourself to attend something for a little while, or ask a few of those that are going to catch up later.
- Take moments to celebrate the little victories
Sometimes it’s easy to forget these when they used to be so normal and easy for us to do. Take each venture out of the old normal as a win.
- Be honest with somebody
Share how you’re feeling with a friend. You might find they’re feeling the same way about confronting their world and schedule changing.
Wesley Macintyre (M Prof Psych, Adv Grad Dip Psych, BA Psych) is in the final year of his internship as a provisional psychologist. During his Masters, Wesley completed a placement in a private practice, providing psychotherapy to adults and young people experiencing wide ranging challenges and hurdles in seeking to live a fulfilled life. Wesley is passionate about providing evidence-based practises to help clients overcome these obstacles and restore their hope of living a healthier and happier life. Wesley has experience working with individuals experiencing depression, anxiety, social issues, and autism.