As some countries ease coronavirus restrictions, mental health experts are noticing an emerging phenomenon; anxiety around life after lockdown.
The coronavirus has significantly changed our lives both on a personal and professional level. These days, home is the new office and we’re often in virtual meeting rooms. Like everyone I’ve also been adapting to these changes. We’re seeing the different ways in which people are continuing their work and life in these unusual times.
Life under lockdown
Social butterflies can struggle from the lack of social interaction during the lockdown periode. For others there have also been some positive effects; like their anxiety is triggered less, due to less external impulses. Especially if you are more of an introvert this period of living in your own bubble can be quite comfortable.
As the world opens up anxiety can arise
As the world is opening up, and we are going out and socialising again this can trigger some anxiety. You’ll have to get used to being exposed to more stimuli all over again. Because you’ve been desensitised by living in your protected bubble. Many people are concerned about whether their leaders might be lifting lockdown too early, increasing the rate of infection. Others are worried about going outside and interacting with people increasing the risk of exposure to the virus. Especially if you are in the at risk group of our global population.
Effects of lockdown
To cope with lockdown people create a cocoon of safety, to make the whole experience more tolerable. Ironically that can create problems now things are opening up again. Because people can love their lockdown too much and become anxious about going outside. This effect is also know as cabin fever.
If you are experiencing cabin fever as a result of social distancing or self-quarantine due to the coronavirus. There are ways to combat the anxiety you may be feeling. This won’t necessarily just be affecting people with an existing mental health condition.
After you’ve been inside for a long time, it can feel strange to go outside. Because you can lose your confidence to do things you haven’t had to in a while. For example having face-to-face meetings or using public transport. These situations that might have stressed or worried people even before they were concerned about the risk of infection.
These things might have been difficult in the first place and having to return to them after being lock down for a periode might feel challenging. While some people have been safe in the comfort of their own home, others have faced difficult and upsetting situations. From the medical workers, to people trying to save their businesses from failing, for them these last few weeks have been busy and stressful.
The one common factor we all share is the amount of change we have all gone through, in a short time. As we all know change is a high stress factor in our lives.
When governments come to relax lockdown rules, good leadership will be crucial to helping people feel safe and confident. To help reintegrate people into a post-pandemic world, there needs to be clear communication from leaders. ‘It’s going to be a big adjustment in our mindset and our sense of safety and wellbeing. To feel comfortable with closeness of other human beings without feeling fear of infection. Clear guidelines can help reduce uncertainty and anxiety. Some people say they’re afraid of going outside.
How to deal with this anxiety
Whether you already have anxiety or have experienced it for the first time during the pandemic, there are things you can do to help yourself. There will also be the inevitable readjustment once restrictions are lifted. People can find change quite difficult. Don’t expect yourself to go from 0 to 100 in one day. Plus don’t be hard on yourself if you’re finding it challenging to get back into a routine.
If you experienced difficulty to get into the routine at the start of the lockdown. It stands to reason that you’ll find it difficult to get out of the routine of lockdown as well. As we start to leave our home, be aware this is a physical as well as a mental process. When we go outside, we have all this stimuli hitting us which can lead to a a sensory overload.
I encourage you to be “gentle and kind with yourself” throughout this time.
If you’re struggling with anxiety reach out and get some help – don’t struggle with this alone. Talk to a friend, family member, coach or doctor about what is troubling you. The good news is people are resilient. The anxiety many people feel now will pass. For some people it might take weeks or perhaps months after lifting the lock down restrictions.
Keep things as simple as you can and don’t overwhelm yourself with too many changes all at once. I continue with my routine, to maintain stability as the world around me changes yet again.
To keep a sense of structure, try to create a daily routine. This can include work or house projects, mealtimes, workout time, and even downtime. I swear by my daily routine. In the morning it starts with waking the dogs. I love going to the beach, followed by 30 min. of yoga and 20 min of meditation. In the beginning when I started with the meditation I listened to short-guided meditations. However, now I have the hang of this, I prefer using my own practice.
After two weeks of meditation I noticed that I felt different. I am calmer and more grounded, especially in situations that used to be anxiety provoking. I get experience less triggers. In addition I am a lot happier in my daily life because I feel more present and am more aware of my body. It look me some time to learn to listen to the signals my body is giving me. Today I notice the difference in the day I use sugar in my coffee or not. It gives me this short burst of energy, followed by a crash and super craving.
Having an outline for your day helps you keep track and gives you mini “goals” to hit throughout the day.
My gratitude and journaling practice has made me notice the small things in life. Like for example the wind on my face as I walk on the beach, the smile from a stranger etc… All of this has allows me to feel more love, acceptance and connection to myself.
Imagine a protection shield around you made from light where only positive energy can enter and all else bounces of. Taking a shower after having been in a space with other people or a stressful day can also help. If you have the possibility; taking a walk on the beach does wonders. If this isn’t possible just put your feet in some salt water. Other thing I have come across are earthing trays like the one in the picture below. This can help balance your energy and make you feel more grounded.
It’s ok to say “No”
I used to be on the treadmill I call it. My schedule jam packed, rushing around and this made me feel really anxious. I thought if my days were packed I was a worthwhile human being. I craved that sense of accomplishment. However, it was exhausting! Plus I didn’t enjoy half the things I was doing. I wasn’t feeling productive and realised it was just a tactic to run away from own emotions.
Over time I started to be ok with slowing down, doing less and spending time alone. These days I feel more balanced and am way more productive. The trick is to do things at the most optimal time in the day for you. To learn this you need to feel into it. When do things cost you less energy. Through this process I have discovered that I am more creative in the morning.
I’ve learnt to say, “No” to things I don’t want to do or when it doesn’t fit into my schedule. I call it my energy management if it cost me too much – it needs to be a No. It has been a journey, this didn’t happen overnight.
Check what you allow into your space
During lockdown we have been exposed to a lot of anxiety which was fed to us through news and social media. I have been limiting what I read on social media. Being informed is good but don’t go to far e.g. you don’t need hourly updates.
Remember anxiety also has a purpose. It protects us from danger e.g. if a car is about to hit us. If I experience emotional discomfort I immediately tune into my body and listen to what I’m telling myself. We make up stories in our minds, we make assumptions about others and this all fuels our anxiety. Over the years I have collected a range of tools to interrupt my thinking when it’s not helpful. Imagine this story as a light switch, you can change the story as easily as switching on the light.
Today I use my personal journey and professional experience to support people to overcome anxiety and other stress related issues. If you would like to know more about how I might be able to help you. I offer a free 30 minute consultation call which, you can book in here or contact me here.