We have all been affected by the events of the past year. However, the ways in which we have been affected have been very different.
Some of us who live alone have gone through periods of isolation, boredom and extreme loneliness, whereas others with children and jobs to juggle have suffered from exhaustion and lack of space for themselves. People have suffered from an increase in health anxiety, with an increase in stress from losing work, and with an increase in arguments amongst partners and family.
On the other side of the coin, many people have noted feeling less pressured, feeling less manic and less out of control with their social engagements. People have enjoyed spending more time at home, in their gardens and in nature. As well as spending more quality time with those they live with.
The majority of us will have experienced a combination of both positive and negative emotions associated with the lockdown. Good days and bad days. And similarly, we will have mixed emotions as we ease back into normality this month, starting with the re-opening of shops, outside dining spaces and hair & beauty studios.
Whether you are excited about the easing of restrictions from next week or are feeling more hesitant, here, I have noted a few ways in which you can try to make the transition a little easier on yourself and those close to you.
Taking things slowly
Just as athletes ease their way back into exercise following a long period of injury and rest, so should we try to ease our way back into normalisation as society begins to open back up.
You may be tempted to head out immediately for multiple shopping sprees, dinners with friends, haircuts and UK mini-breaks, and this is totally fine if it suits you, however, you could end up experiencing various forms of exhaustion and anxiety as a result of moving too fast.
A better solution might be to pace yourself, recognising that we have been through a very strange time emotionally. Build up your tolerance by doing small things every day and make a mental note of what you enjoyed and what didn’t feel so good. Also, don’t be pressured by others inviting you to things – remember you are in control and you can say no.
Recognising the symptoms of anxiety
Feelings of anxiety could be common emotional responses over the coming weeks and months. Even if you don’t usually suffer from anxiety, there may be certain triggers or situations which leave you feeling unsure or uneasy.
It’s important that you acknowledge feelings of anxiety instead of confusing them with other things. Symptoms of anxiety can sometimes be very physical as well as physcological, therefore many of us often confuse these with other forms of illness as a result.
The physical effects of anxiety can include a churning feeling in your stomach, feeling lightheaded or dizzy, tension in your head, neck or back, a faster heartbeat, feeling suddenly hot or out of breath, as well as many others. The symptoms can be scary and unexplained, and therefore, being aware of the triggers that cause them can help us to avoid or deal with things that could make us anxious going forward.
Once you have recognised that you are experiencing anxiety or panic, you are better equipped to deal with the symptoms – either by taking yourself away from a particular situation, practising breathing exercises or resting with a glass of cool water until the sensations begin to pass.
Adopting a respectful & supportive outlook
As we already touched on above, our own situations are completely unique to us. Therefore, it’s a good idea that we try not to judge either ourselves or others harshly based on what we choose to do/not do.
Bear in mind that there is not just an age-specific divide here. People of all ages have suffered through the pandemic and young people, as well as older people, have found things equally as tough.
We are all facing uncertainty, challenge and change – and we have no choice but to move through it as best we can with our own coping mechanisms. But, also supporting those around us as they too navigate their way out of this. We will all make our own different choices and decisions and must respect those of others too.
Supporting kids with the transition
We often think that kids are highly resilient and easy at adapting, and a lot of the time this is true. However, kids of all ages have no doubt been impacted hard by the lockdown and restrictions imposed. The change of routine, missing friends and social contact, staying at home, feeling trapped and not being mentally stimulated enough – are all common issues that kids have been faced with. That teamed with the crazy media hype, scary-looking masked faces in the streets and their favourite shops/cinemas/play areas being closed, and altogether it’s been a pretty daunting time for young ones.
Equally, many younger children especially will have enjoyed this increased time at home with their parents. Enjoying more free time to play and bond with siblings. Therefore, going back to school might have presented new pressures and detachment anxiety here too, which is a natural response.
As a parent or guardian, it’s important now more than ever to make an extra effort to support your children. It’s about doing your best to show them stability and support, and that there is nothing wrong in feeling concerned or unsure. Let them know that they can talk to you when they need to and encourage them to be open and honest about their feelings and emotions. Keeping a diary can be a nice way for kids to reflect on their feelings day-to-day if they would rather write things down than talk out loud.
Coping with uncertainty
Even though the stats seem to show that we are finally getting on top of the virus spread, there is no doubt that some of us still have that “we’ve been here before” mindset.
Coping with uncertainty and the unknown is tough. We want to be able to plan future trips, holidays and celebrations. Over the past year, weddings have been delayed, milestone birthdays have been missed and there is very little clarity over when large groups will be able to connect once again.
The only thing we can do during periods of uncertainty is to focus on the present. Focus on what you have available to you today and in the short term. What choices do you have right now and how do you want to choose to act as a consequence of those choices? There are always things to be hopeful and grateful about, so try to focus on those rather than getting frustrated about things that are out of your control. Mindfulness and meditation will help with this.
Talking about your feelings of uncertainty, fear or worry can also help a great deal. Open up to loved ones about how you feel and keep talking regularly to support each other. Alternatively, Talking Therapy and CBT may also help you to overcome some of the negative emotions caused by the lockdown transition. This type of therapy focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behaviour and offers coping skills for dealing with different scenarios.
If you are thinking about how Talking Therapy could benefit you, then please feel free to give me a call on 07787 831 275 for a free consultation or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will email you back as soon as I can.