Lockdown has been easing at a fast past since the beginning of July and I have found myself noticing that getting back out there can actually be a scary prospect for some of us.
So, what can you do to make this transition easier for you:
Be kind to yourself
We have all been through a lot, even if we haven’t been affected directly by the virus and the economic consequences of the lockdown. Our lives have been turned upside down practically overnight and easing the lockdown doesn’t mean that things are going back to normal. We are all learning to adapt to a new way of living.
It’s great to see small businesses being able to reopen and the majority of people embracing the “new normal” but if you don’t share their enthusiasm, it’s ok. And if you feel that you “should” be happy about being able to go out, stop right there. You are the best judge of what feels right for you and how to approach this new chapter.
Acknowledge the way you feel and try and make peace with it. Maybe sit with it and reflect, write about it in a journal to get out all the thoughts that might be going around in your head. Make sure you always do these things from a point of view of kindness towards yourself. This is not an exercise in berating yourself for not being all enthusiastic about going out.
Start where you feel comfortable
Eventually, even if you don’t feel like it at the moment, you are going to get back out there, maybe back to work and children – if you have any – will be going back to school after the summer.
So, start with baby steps. Have a think about what would feel right for you right now: maybe it is going to meet with a friend in their or your garden or going for a walk with them around your local area. You could also go out at a quieter time of the day when there are less people about.
If there is resistance when it comes to actually going out, acknowledge these feelings and express them, either to yourself in writing or out loud, or to the friend you had arranged to meet. The feelings of fear and anxiety that come from getting out of a comfort zone are pretty much universal, so the likelihood is that your friend will be able to relate to the way you feel, even if they have experienced these feelings in a completely different area.
Once you have ventured out, which I’m sure you all will in time, treat yourself for doing it. You deserve it. You have conquered your fear and done it, and that is never easy. So, do something that makes you feel happy and nurtured: bake, read, take a long bath, binge watch something on TV… A little well done to yourself for doing it!
And on the point of treating yourself, I have learnt at my expense years ago that self-care is incredibly important when struggling with anxiety. Often, anxiety comes from not feeling that we are able to handle what life throws at us. By caring for ourselves, we make a point of telling ourselves that we matter, we are valuable. It helps us rediscover our inner strength and also gives a more positive outlook on life.
Practice some mindfulness
Anxiety comes from projecting yourself in a scary future. Your brain is trying to protect you from danger – in sometimes a very unhelpful way.
Practicing mindfulness and bringing your mind to the present moment can provide some relief from the feelings of anxiety.
I know that it is very difficult to practise mindfulness when your mind is full of anxious thoughts so I would suggest that you start by practising at a time when you feel relaxed. The mind needs training, a bit like a muscle, and if you practise mindfulness regularly when you don’t “need” it, you will be able to tap into this in times of need.
A lovely way to practice mindfulness is to focus your awareness fully on a flower or a tree. Take a few moments to look at it as if you had never seen it before. Notice the size, the colours, the textures of whichever object you are focusing on. If your mind starts to wander, bring it back gently to the object of your focus.
Ideally, you’d want to spend a few minutes every day doing this exercise.
The new “normal” can be quite scary. I firmly believe that we will all get used to it in. our own time but if it feels a bit much at the moment, I hope that the suggestions above will help.