Post-Lockdown Anxiety (& How to Manage It)
These last few weeks I have heard over and over, from clients and loved ones, that they have this ‘secret fear’ that they believe is shameful or unacceptable.
They tell me that in some ways they feel more anxious about the lockdown coming to an end and having to face the ‘new normal’ than they do about the lockdown itself.
And I am here to tell you that it is absolutely OK to feel this way. You are not alone. And everything you feel and are experiencing is allowed and simply makes you human.
There are so many reasons that would cause you to feel anxious about the post-lockdown era. We don’t know what the ‘new normal’ will look like, and we are still grieving the loss of our ‘old normal’. We don’t know what will happen with our jobs, with our financial security, when the economy opens up again and emergency measures are reduced.
We don’t know what to think, believe or accept about the future.
Some of us may be struggling immensely with being alone and may be counting down the days to see loved ones again, but others may be finding that the time to themselves, to go inward, to nurture and tend to themselves, to slow down, to reflect, to have some of the pressure of day-to-day errands and social obligations taken off, to be wonderful. And in this case, the thought of losing this stillness, this quiet, can be overwhelming and even terrifying.
Some may be enjoying the time spent at home with their children when they usually barely make it home before bedtime. Others may be breathing more easily knowing the natural environment is coming back to life. Some may be relieved every day not to have to make their usual gruelling commute. All of these moments of fulfilment and optimism can feel under threat when we think about our post-lockdown reality.
It is important to remember that wishing to hold onto these beautiful moments, and being scared of the post-lockdown world, are both completely understandable. And if you are, on some level, secretly hoping that the lockdown continues for a while longer this does not mean you are indirectly wishing pain or suffering on others. It just means you have learnt to find beauty in the crisis, and that you are trying to hold onto that. You are not alone.
And if you are in the other camp, impatiently waiting for the lockdown to end, this is absolutely fine too. There is no right or wrong, there is only what you feel.
Here are a few practical steps you can take to help you face these anxious moments:
1) Do grounding exercises, such as the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, to anchor you in the present
moment if you are spinning out about the future.
2) Keep a record of all the things you miss from your pre-lockdown life, as well as the things you don’t. This can serve as a reminder to help you make small changes to the way you live when things move to a new normal.
3) Write in a journal, either freely or using some of the following prompts:
· What is my anxiety trying to tell or show me?
· What are my fears about post-lockdown life? How might I look at these fears differently?
· What is within my control, and what isn’t? How can I let go of the things which aren’t in my control?
· What could be better than before, in my/our new post-lockdown reality?
4) Find a gratitude practice that suits you. Taking a few moments each day to notice or reflect on the positives in your life can help you feel calm and optimistic about the future. (Disclaimer: being grateful does not mean denying the challenges of your situation – give yourself permission to feel difficult emotions as they arise; you don’t have to feel positive all the time!!)