Post-Lockdown: How to Protect Your Mental Health
Posted on 17th June 2020 at 16:11
Once the idea of staying home all the time made us anxious, now going out makes us anxious.
Back in March, the idea of staying home as much as possible made many feel very anxious. Now lockdown restrictions are being lifted it should be an optimistic sign of a return to normality, but many are finding it quite the opposite—post lockdown anxiety. Understandably with so many changes, we are feeling confused, worried, anxious, and stressed about reengaging with the outside world. So, what can we do to ease the transition?
What exactly is it? Post lockdown anxiety is worry and stress about adapting to the current and ever-changing new normal. Just like we had to adapt to our lockdown normal, we have had to adjust to this new change in a relatively short space of time.
There may be aspects of post-lockdown that cause more concern than others. For example, you may be returning to work or school, which you are looking forward too, but the thought of public transport or face-to-face meetings raises anxiety levels.
It is also normal for you to lose confidence and focus on things that you haven't done for a long time. An example could be driving or confidence in public/face-to-face speaking.
It can also feel very strange and somewhat wrong to go outside. Compared to your relatively quiet home, being outside can feel like a sensory overload. You need to once again get used to the brightness, the noise of traffic, the smells, and people.
Anxiety or Agoraphobia?
A lot of people are now leaving their homes compared to last month. Many of them are finding their anxiety are levels rising when doing so, some to the point that they do not want to go out. Due to this, some are worried they are developing agoraphobia when, in fact, it is more likely to be post-lockdown anxiety.
The difference between the two is that agoraphobia is a fear of leaving home or entering public spaces for fear that escape will be difficult, and that they will have a panic attack. A fear or uncomfortable feeling of leaving the home post-lockdown due to the risk of catching the infection is very different. Those with agoraphobia do not fear becoming infected; they fear becoming trapped and unable to escape; hence the panic attack element. The latter is anxiety surrounding the current situation.
Feelings of Anxiety About Returning To Normal
It is important to realise that anxiety, in this case, is a normal and rational response. It is our brain's way of alerting to potential danger. In terms of slowly returning to normal, our anxiety is telling us to be a little careful when we leave home as there is still a risk.
Another reason anxiety may seem to be shooting up is that we have made our homes our little safe havens. They have become all that we need from places of work, school, self-care, nurture, and protection. Our homes, at times, have felt like the only safe cocoons in the world, making them even harder to leave.
Preparing for Post-Lockdown Life
1. Give Yourself A Break!
It wasn't that long ago you had to stop and make all those significant adjustments suddenly. You have only just gotten used to them, and now we are being asked to throw them on the pile and return to (almost) where we were before. It's not that easy! All of this is incredibly overwhelming, and it is completely understandable if you feel out of your depth. Recognise how you feel, do not rush into anything, and give yourself a break.
2. Keep it Simple
Just because restrictions are lifting doesn't mean you have to rush and return to how things were before straightaway. If you are being asked to return to work, let that be the one change. Slowly get used to that before implementing any others. You do not need to visit all your friends and family and go to every shop in the first week. Add a new thing at your own pace and gradually reintroduce the things you want back into your life. Maybe there are things you'd rather keep out.
3. Create Certainty
Typically, we feel more anxious when uncertain than we do of negative experiences when they happen. Our brains know how to cope when it is sure of a bad experience. It struggles when we anticipate or create uncertain situations or threats. Studies have shown that the anticipation of pain is far harder to manage than the experience of actual pain.
With this in mind, give your brain a little break and try not to create negative scenarios of events that have not happened. Try starting the day with control. Tell yourself (your brain) the first thing you are going to do-no doubting, no what might happen, tell it. For example, after you wake up tell your brain you are going to get out of bed, make it then go and make yourself a drink. You do not need to play the whole day, just create little moments of certainty that are easy to stick to.
4. Boosted Immune System
Stress can lower the immune system. Add to this the pressures of returning to the "new normal", your immune system might not be functioning at its peak. There are small and easy ways to help it by trying to reduce stress, getting enough restful sleep, and eating a varied healthy diet. Regular exercise that gets you out of breath can boost your immune system too.
5. Set Your Priorities
The lockdown many have led you to reassess your priorities. You may have decided to work less, work from home, access your finances, focus on your family, or improve your health.
Make a list of what you want to achieve and score them in order of importance. Taking the most important, break it down into manageable steps. Making small but positive steps puts you in control and will help regulate your emotions which can also help you feel secure in a time of uncertainty.
If you need help and support in making sure you are keeping on top of your anxiety and life goals, I can help. Hypnotherapy can create tailored session plans to work on achieving your goals. Hypnotherapy puts you in the driving seat to achieve your goals. To find out more contact me on using the contact us button. All new client initial consultations are free of charge.
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