Lockdown is starting to relax, and while it’s likely to take a long time, we’re already seeing some things change back to normal. This sounds good, but it may make you feel anxious too.
We've all been told very clearly that staying home is safe, and that being around others may not be. Our minds listened to that message and may have some trouble letting go of it as the rules are relaxed. That's normal and natural, but it might cause some worrying or anxiety when you first start to change your routines. If it does, we are offering our best tips to help ease the transition.
Accept that worrying might happen
Any big change can cause anxiety, and suddenly going back to social interaction which has been denied for a long time can be especially nerve-wracking, even if you’ve wanted to see people again, just because you’re not used to it anymore. Everyone’s feeling stressed at the same time right now, so be kind to others and to yourself.
Think carefully about your situation
If you’re in a high-risk group (health problems, pregnant, over 70, etc - check the NHS website for details) it’s probably not time to jump straight back into normal daily life the moment shielding ends. A gentle transition might be better.
Take it a step at a time
Don't let fear stop you making any changes, but it's OK to take it slowly when you do reintegrate, especially if you’re anxious about it. You don’t have to be totally ready in an instant, even if you have no health-related reason to worry.
Make the changes you are ready to make. You may not have the option of making the return to work slowly, but other outside activities should be handled carefully, especially if the return to work was sudden. Talk to your colleagues and bosses about how to make the work transition easier.
If the idea of socialising again is really overwhelming, you might find it useful to practise. Try role-playing social scenarios, in person if you live with other people or over Skype or the phone if not. Use this to come up with conversation topics and make the idea of talking to people you haven’t seen in a long time feel less worrying.
When you do take it into real life, go slowly. Make short trips at first. It might help to arrange short meetings with friends out of doors with a set ending time, perhaps with an appointment for something else set afterwards so it doesn’t drag on, and make them longer as you get more comfortable. Don’t jump into doing it every day, either; start out setting aside one day a week, then more as it gets easier.
Maintain protection methods
Keep up your precautions against COVID-19 so you don’t have to worry so much about it. Maintain social distance, keep your hands clean, try to avoid touching your face, and wear a mask on public transport and where you can’t be sure of being able to keep your distance from others. Keep your workspace and home clean too; remember to wipe down doorknobs and clean keyboards and touchscreens.
See our previous articles for ways to promote good mental health. Keep a good diet as far as you can, exercise, and get some sunlight. Stay on top of household chores, and use your favourite methods to relax.
Talk about it
Don’t bottle up your feelings; discuss them with your loved ones and colleagues. They might be able to help you find a solution, and they might need reassurance too.
If necessary, contact a professional; many of them are working online or by phone.
Debbie Waller is a professional hypnotherapist, specialising in stress, anxiety and related issues. She also offers EMDR which is used for trauma, PTSD, phobias and OCD and publishes hypnotherapy-for-ibs.co.uk for those interested in using hypnotherapy to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Debbie owns a multi-accredited hypnotherapy school, Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training and offers further training for qualified therapists via CPD Expert. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words, editor and contributor to the online magazine Hypnotherapy Training & Practitioner, and co-author of The Hypnotherapy Handbook.
For more information on any of these services, phone 01977 678593.
Researcher & drafter: Rachel Waller.